Don’t Cross the Solid Yellow Line, finale: “Why Yes, Those Are Concrete Penguins”

animal statues
I need to make a confession. I told a white lie at the beginning of these posts. I promised not to cheapen this broad topic by narrowly focusing on men’s unwillingness to accept help when lost in transit. But I’ll end by sharing a slightly true story about a normal wife and pathetic husband from the Midwest who hopped in their car one autumn, Saturday morning to visit the Wisconsin Concrete Park near the community of Phillips.

To clarify, the Concrete Park really exists and it’s actually full of concrete. Go online and check it out. The park contains approximately 200 statues made from, you guessed it, concrete. Local artist Fred Smith, a retired lumberjack, created these masterpieces which now grace the rural landscape. Smith owned a tavern and brilliantly imbedded pieces of glass, mirrors and beer bottles into each of his concrete creations. He crafted replicas of Paul Bunyan, his ox Babe, soldiers, miners, Native Americans, cowboys, angels, farmers, deer, moose and other assorted legends, icons and wildlife. There’s no admission into the park, which surprises most tourists since demand for concrete art has reached an all-time crescendo.

Don’t Cross the Solid Yellow Line, part three: “The Roadkill Test”

family car tripI’m continuing my post about the driving portion of the Husband of the Year competition.

The road test presents more difficult challenges than the written component. Last year the contest organizers invested significant dollars to build a true-to-life street course in a remote location away from real traffic and pedestrians. During the simulated situations, contestants drive a mid-size SUV accompanied by a holographic rendition of their wives. Don’t be fooled by her realistic features and the scent of a familiar perfume – they’ve been reproduced from intricate planning by the competition’s contestant research team.

Course obstacles and hazards are either remote-controlled mechanical replicas or projected three-dimensional images. The challenge course resembles the authenticity of a police academy training module where crooks, citizens and fellow officers lurk behind buildings and barriers, waiting to jump out and test the speed and accuracy of a trainee’s judgment.  Your goal? To successfully navigate the inorganic maze by making split-second decisions that, in real life, would preserve peace and harmony inside your family vehicle. Again, I can’t share exact testing scenarios, but I can pose similar situations that should help you prepare.

Scenario #1. You’re driving the speed limit along a simulated country road when your holographic wife screams into your right ear, “Look! There’s a fruit and vegetable stand – let’s buy some tomatoes for the lasagna tonight!” Your vehicle is now parallel to the farmer’s quaint little roadside booth and your odometer reads 69 m.p.h.

Your Response. You could drive a quarter mile or so up the road and look for a turnaround opportunity, or simply tell your wife that you prefer store-bought produce and continue on. Both would be incorrect decisions. Only one viable option exists. With your wife’s shrill voice still ringing inside your eardrum, perform a high-speed power turn like the ones choreographed in blockbuster action films. Because you’ve never trained as a professional stunt driver, there’s a high-probability that your SUV will flip eight or nine times, careen off the country road and jettison upside down into a bovine waste retention pond. If this occurs during the simulation, stay calm while you’re partially submerged in liquid domestic animal feces – they are synthetic.  Nothing is real, except your physical agony. And congratulations, you made the correct decision by executing the power turn. Now limp over to the farmer’s produce stand and be comforted knowing that your wife appreciates quick reflexes.

Scenario #2. You’re waiting at a red light about 30 cars deep. Your spousal replica relaxes in the passenger seat as she adjusts a few eyebrows in the vanity mirror. A red convertible Mustang has been patiently waiting from a side road for an opportunity to merge into the backed-up traffic. The driver is a gorgeous redhead – her flowing hair further illuminated by the car’s metallic paint. She steals eye contact with you. While your instincts tell you that the Mustang’s driver is also a simulation, you can smell the strawberry fragrance lingering from her morning bubble bath.

Your response. Pretty obvious, isn’t it? You tighten the gap between your vehicle and the car in front of you, almost locking bumpers and preventing any possibility that the Mustang can inch its way into traffic. Be nice some other time, starting with a toothless hillbilly in a pickup truck or a frail grandmother peering through the inner circle of her steering wheel.

Scenario #3. You’re sitting in the passenger seat and your bladder expands 40% beyond its capacity. Your fake wife is driving the precise speed limit and you’re 470 miles from your destination.

Your response. Don’t say a word and hold it! Violently contract your bladder muscle even if it causes your big toe to collapse from the pressure. During the relatively young history of our planet, no husband has ever asked his wife to make a rest stop.

Scenario #4. Your pretend wife points at the lovely window shutters on a two-story Cape Cod, keeping one hand on the steering wheel. You notice a pothole ahead, about the size of a professionally dug cemetery grave.

Your response. Stuff a shoe inside your mouth and bite down hard. This quick action will prevent you from severing your tongue when both front tires and the axel plunge inside the hole. The impact, however, will cause your skull and pelvis to violently collide with one another and disintegrate your spinal column. Consider yourself lucky compared to the alternative consequences that typically result from being a front seat driver.

Scenario #5. You’re driving across town to visit relatives and you hear a clanking sound coming from somewhere underneath the car. Your counterfeit wife last drove the vehicle to pick up some groceries at the neighborhood store.

Your response. Immediately run your vehicle through an automated carwash, then demand to talk to the manager and blame his crew for the clanking noise and ruining your quiet ride. Upon inspection, the manager shows you that a grocery cart is wedged between the muffler and the rear axel and he suggests that this foreign object might be causing the disturbing noise. While your wife is listening, call him a moron and vow to never again patronize his business. Continue on to your relatives’ house, but first retrieve the two uncrushed beer cans and the slightly soggy Danish rolls stuck inside the checkered metal frame of the grocery cart. Leave behind the cranky elderly woman pinned inside the mangled cart.

Scenario #6. You’re lost and driving aimlessly in the backcountry of Kentucky. The gas gauge light flashes on empty. Your wife starts giving you advice and complaining about your sense of direction.

Your response. Eat yourself raw, beginning with a hand and finishing with your torso.

(next post: Solid Yellow Line finale: “Why Yes, Those Are Concrete Penguins”)

Don’t Cross the Solid Yellow Line, part two: “True or False Test“

Old car
The most challenging component of the Husband of the Year competition is the driving test. The contest organizers place a lot of emphasis on this skill because the majority of conversations between a husband and wife occur inside a vehicle. And most of these discussions tend to be tumultuous. That’s why the judges heavily weight the driving test.  Fail this section and you’re automatically disqualified from advancing to the finals.

By now you have probably surmised that I aced the driving test. So let me share some pointers that could help you pass this important ordeal, which consists of two components: written exam and realistic road test. First, try answering some of these true-false questions from the written exam. I slightly altered them because every Husband of the Year pledges to protect the competition’s main tenets of knowledge. This portion of the exam is timed, so don’t linger too long on any one question.

1. Wives press the radio scan button more often then husbands. False. I once pressed the scan button 132 times in a four-minute timeframe, searching forward then backwards then AM to FM then repeating the sequence mega-multiple times. During that period, we listened to reggae, blues, country, gospel, acid rock, jazz, big band, classical, a traffic report, an ad for zit creme, a talk show interview on public radio with a guy who wrote a play about a family of skunks trying to assimilate into a new burrow next to a pair of badgers with ADD, and a test of the emergency broadcast system.

2. Wives feel more sorrow than husbands after hitting an animal with the car. True, of course. A moose could fling itself on the hood of a speeding Mercedes doing 75 mph (the car, not the moose), completely demolish the vehicle and impale the husband’s chest with a large antler fragment, and the wife’s first priority would be to hold a forest memorial service for the moose and start a scholarship fund for the mammal’s offspring. A husband would gut the moose and make sausage.

3. Men love their wives more than their favorite car. True, unless a guy owns a silver Aston Martin V12 Vanquish S. The car’s features are exquisite. I know a husband who even made love to one. That’s legal in 39 states.

4. While pumping gas, husbands are more likely to wash and squeegee bugs off windshields than wives. True. I enjoy scraping insect parts off my windshield because it gives me a sense of accomplishment. On the other hand, my wife would drive around for days with a pterodactyl splattered on the glass.

5. Wives are less likely to call a tow truck than husbands. False. I’ll drive 250 miles on four flat tires before phoning a tow truck. My friend’s wife called a towing service when the “seek” button on the radio failed to locate an oldies station.

6. Husbands feel more comfortable eating while driving than wives. True. Driving in a winter blizzard during white-out conditions, without the dome light illuminated, I once cracked a large bucket of Alaskan King crab legs, dipped them in melted butter, ate a Caesar’s salad, prepared bananas Foster and polished off a bottle of Dom Perignon Oenotheque 1973 without spilling a drop.

7. Once police officers pull over a car, they ticket men more often than women. True. There are two good reasons for this discrepancy, separated by cleavage.

8. Wives give husbands more driving advice than husbands give them. True. There’s been a lot of misinformation disseminated trying to explain this disparity. Actual experiences indirectly reveal the facts. As a five-year-old passenger, I witnessed mom criticize my dad for aggressively passing a vehicle on a highway – a John Deere farm tractor pulling a wagonload of hay at approximately 2.5 mph. If we had stayed behind the tractor, I would have grown a completely new set of replacement toenails before arriving at our destination. More recently, when my parents drove me to the airport shortly after my 50th birthday, my mom again chastised dad for recklessly passing another vehicle. He pulled out from behind a DC9 and blew past it on the A-concourse runway at the Charlotte Douglas International Airport. Frustrated that he couldn’t find a cheap parking space in the remote lot, he inadvertently wandered onto the runway and sideswiped the plane while it taxied to the terminal. And the insurance company raised my father’s rates. Those bastards!

(next post: Don’t Cross the Solid Yellow Line, part three: “The Roadkill Test)

Don’t Cross the Solid Yellow Line

“Keep your hands on the wheel! And will you please stop looking over at me while you’re driving – that’s reckless!

“But you look so incredibly handsome in your work uniform – I can’t help staring at your broad shoulders and tight butt. Besides, this big crate is easy to steer,” she bragged, in a tone that let him know she was a little insulted by his nit-picking advice. She decided to sound the horn, which irritated him.

“Will you stop with the damn honking? You’ll wake everybody up. Then they’ll get mad and tip the crew with peanuts! Including me, which means you’ll receive only one diamond earring for your birthday. How does that sound?”

Keeping both hands tightly clasped to the wheel, she glanced over her right shoulder, bare from the low-cut evening gown, and looked starry-eyed at her husband.

“Darling, you rarely let me drive, so this means a lot to me,” she whispered, in her sexiest voice. She then leaned into him and freshly moistened her lips with her long slender tongue, making sure he witnessed the provocative lick. Before she could pucker up, he suddenly and violently jerked away, redirecting his eyes 90 degrees from her lovely face. An inexplicable look of fear blanketed his face.

“Honey, look out!” His manly cry for her attention was too late, as they careened off an iceberg. His coffee sloshed onto his white uniform. He glanced back at his wife, who seemed undaunted by the mishap. She spoke, as if the accident was his fault.

“Oh, lighten up! It’s probably only a scratch. Hey, do you want to raid the midnight buffet leftovers and skinny-dip in the champagne punchbowl?”

My advice in this post could predictably focus on a husband’s reluctance to seek and accept directions when lost while driving. But that would be a cliché. I prefer a higher philosophical road which includes inflammatory rhetoric, pontification, exaggeration and a small amount of fact-based instruction. So let’s begin with some essential historical background to set the stage for my discussion of marital and vehicular bliss.

Henry Ford perfected the automobile. Mr. Ford’s real legacy, though, was his extensive research that garnered our understanding of the following axiom: only a car can satisfy men’s most lustful urges and desires. Hank drew this conclusion by studying ancient Romans and their emotional attachment to chariots. It all started with Emperor Chuck III, who banned horse-drawn vehicles from military service when he began noticing that soldiers purposely avoided gashing open the chests and abdomens of their enemy to prevent blood from spattering on the wooden upholstery, which was not very stain resistant. The ancient Roman Department of Transportation followed suit by banning chariots from coliseum sporting events that involved skewering skinny, shirtless Christians. That occurred around 500 A.D., although a few historians from Venice Community Technical College disagree with that date. After 500 A.D., men drove chariots for more tranquil reasons, such as Sunday family rides to trample residents of peasant villages, quick trips to the market for figs and lion tenderloins, and romantic drives with sweethearts to Argonaut Lane on Mount Vesuvius.

That’s it. Ancient automotive history in a capsule. All civilizations transitioned their vehicles from objects of functionality to objects of affection. Please remember this as you consume my follow-up posts on this subject.

(next post: Don’t Cross the Solid Yellow Line, part two: True or False Test)