Thursday, July 31, 2008


I saw a Hummer driving down the sidewalk a few days ago. Yes, I said the sidewalk.

He was driving his giant silver Hummer between a large condo building and the parkway. By necessity, his left wheels were on the parkway, since his behemoth of a vehicle wouldn’t fit on the sidewalk alone. Everyone on this normally dull and quiet residential street stopped and stared. While we all stopped short of rubbing our eyes roughly with our fists, we did exchange looks with each other after he, eventually, made it off the sidewalk, back onto the street and drove away: Did we all really just witness that?

I don’t know why or where he ventured off the road and onto the sidewalk. Perhaps he only transited from the alley, turning right onto the sidewalk instead of the street because he got lost. Or confused? Or he was in a terrible hurry and the street was busy? I think the most likely reason is he thought, “I drive a Hummer and I can drive it wherever the hell I like, because who’s going to argue with me?”

It’s no secret I don’t like Hummers, unless they’re being driven by our troops. It’s the ones I see in the city here that I’d like to see hit by roadside bombs. People who drive Hummers are selfish. They scream, by virtue of their vehicle choice, “I have a lot of money and I don’t give a crap about the environment or anyone else.” Driving your Hummer down the sidewalk in a residential neighborhood absolutely confirms this attitude. I honestly don’t know why I’m so surprised. It seems it was only a matter of time.

So what’s next? Hummer’s driving over other cars in the drive-through lanes at fast-food restaurants? A Hummer driving through Millenium Park to get a better look at the Bean?

I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring up the joke, "If you don’t like how I drive, stay off the sidewalk." But it chills me to wonder what would have happened if someone’s child had run out the front door of that condo building Unfortunately, I didn’t have the presence of mind to get his license plate number. I don’t know if anyone else managed it. I sure would have liked to see Mr. Hummer get a ticket, but that sort of justice seemingly only happens in Hollywood. I’m sure the second I tried driving my Camry down the sidewalk, a cop would be right there.

Maybe someone out there who drives a Hummer could explain it all to me—the bravado, this irrational sense of entitlement. Perhaps you would tell me you’re expecting Armageddon any day now, what with the economy and the war and the terrorists and all. You might soon need your bulletproof gas-guzzler to get across town in order to loot the grocery store. But why wouldn’t a regular old gas guzzling SUV do? Because you wouldn’t look so grand driving down the sidewalk? I guess I can’t answer that one—having never seen a Lexus 350 making it’s way through the chalk drawings and Baggo sets of Wolcott Street. Watch out! The new phone books are here! Wouldn’t want to run over the petunias on that front porch stoop. Or would you?

It’s weird and sad and not a little bit crazy, and it just makes me go Hummm.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Sasquatch Responsibility

I was clipping my son’s toenails yesterday, a weekly ritual at our house, which is why, as with all things we do routinely, I’d failed to notice something painfully obvious: anyone with feet that big should be able to clip their own toenails.

My boys wear men’s size ten shoes. They are eleven years old. And I don’t mean eleven dog-years. But like puppies, the disproportionately large size of their feet simultaneously terrifies (They’re going to be so tall!) and delights (They’re going to be so tall!) me.

I know their enormous feet didn’t happen overnight. It was only a couple of years ago they hit the milestone of having their shoe size surpass mine. But like anything you see everyday, you fail to notice the changes as they happen, because they happen so incrementally.

We try to increase their responsibilities incrementally as well. Although, sometimes we get the timing wrong. Perhaps they were too young to start cleaning their fish tanks solo. (The watermark on the living room ceiling should disappear with a fresh coat of paint.) The converse is also true.

I forget at what age we started having them clear their plates from the table—it was pretty young. At the time, they’d clear only their plates using both hands. To ask them to balance their drinking glass and a plate would have been asking for trouble. However, they were ten before it occurred to us they’d reached a level of coordination necessary to clear their glassware as well. I mean, duh. How did that one get by us for so long? Which begs the question, what else are we missing?

On Mother’s Day, I had them wash their first load of laundry. I thought it was a terrific Mother’s Day gift. Pink underwear for everyone! They grumbled through the entire process, but they did complete the task after I explained I was not about to spend my Mother’s Day washing dirty gym uniforms because they forgot to bring them home in a timely manner. And isn’t being a mom really about teaching your children to, eventually, become self-sufficient?

I often approach these new milestones with a little speech that begins, “There comes a time in every young man’s life, when he’s old enough to—” Fill-in the blank here: pick up his dirty socks off the floor; get his mother a can of Diet Pepsi from the fridge or file his own Social Security benefits application.

It’s hard to tell sometimes what life-skill challenges they’re ready for. Tasks like doing laundry and fetching a diet Pepsi are one thing—but what about a trip to the store? There’s a grocery within two blocks walking distance and one night, before a dinner party, I asked them to run down and get me some fresh rosemary. My sitter, on her way home for the evening, was mortified. “How can they do that? I will get it!” I simply agreed and let her go, not because I didn’t think my boys capable—there are two of them, the streets that needed crossing are side streets and they’re approaching their black belts in Tai Kwan Do. But there’s this part of me that still isn’t sure. They’d never gone there alone before. We do live in the city. Does my recipe really need fresh rosemary?

There are so many new things they’re capable of now, like helping to carry in groceries or unload the rafts of paper products I buy at Costco. Once, they even single-handedly (well, double-handedly) made brownies. I’m sure there are a lot more ways we could be challenging them. And even though I’m still a little hesitant to send them to the store (unless of course, it’s a culinary emergency) I am certain of this: the very next life-skill they will learn, will be how to clip the nails on those men’s size ten toes.