Friday, May 26, 2006

Where America's Dumbest Drivers Live

A friend in Charlotte sent me this timely link today:
Test scores are in: Northeast still has dumbest

What did I tell you? Washington state has some of the best drivers, and the Washington D.C. area has some of the worst (second only to Rhode Island). The proof is in the pudding.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006


I feel like an alien living in Northern Maryland. The horrible way people treat each other here, I’m ashamed to say I was born in this state. New Yorkers are so much nicer. When Google’s quote of the day came up as follows a couple days ago, it hit the nail on the head:
The fact that man knows right from wrong proves his intellectual superiority to other creatures; but the fact that he can do wrong proves his moral inferiority to any creature that cannot. - Mark Twain
People here are downright mean. They get really ugly with you if they don’t get their way. It’s got to be the most selfish, thoughtless group of people I’ve met. Not only that, but Marylanders are the worst drivers. I’ve been flipped off twice on the road in the past week alone. What did I do to piss someone off, you ask? I’ll tell you what – I was driving just a tad over the speed limit. Yes, I admit it. I was driving safely and, for the most part, legally. Apparently that is not acceptable here. (Makes me miss the polite, slow drivers of Puget Sound.)

One flip-off occurred as I was doing 60 in the middle lane of a 55-zone. A huge semi barreled down on me, and stayed right on my bumper. I couldn’t get in the right lane because my left exit was coming up in 1/2 mile. Couldn’t get in the left lane just yet because of the cars screaming past me there. So this jerk behind the wheel of the semi decided to play chicken with our lives and drive as close as possible to my bumper, at 60mph, in an effort to intimidate me into speeding like he was. How dangerous is that? When I exited, I happened to look to the right, and there was the finger and an ugly stare.

So, Rule #1 (for surviving life in this state): In Maryland, you get punished by your fellow human beings - (dare I call them human) - for not breaking the law. You must break the law in order to live civilly and not get run over.

The next flip-off was Monday morning, as I was happily driving to work on a 30mph road . Good hair day. I turned left at a light, and next thing you know, Fat Guy Driving a Hyundai was on my ass - in a school zone. What’s the hurry? I just kept going and ignored him. I turned right into a merge lane on Waterloo Road, just minding my own business. This is one short merge lane.

Anyway, I was merging left when Fat Guy comes flying around me out of nowhere, trying to squeeze in between me and the car in front of me. I laid on the horn and that fat bastard cut me off! Then, get this - he SLAMS on his brakes just to scare me! I was right behind him. How dangerous is THAT? I had to hit my brakes unexpectedly, and everything in my car went flying. I had a huge sheet cake in the back of the car, for some co-workers’ birthdays. (Originally I had placed the cake on the back seat. But, at the last minute, I got out of my car in my driveway to move the cake to the hatch area “just in case.” Thank goodness.)

We got to the next stop light at the same time (ha ha, fat guy!). I was right behind him taking down his license plate number and dialing 911 on my cell. (Finally, a good use for a cell phone.) He sat there looking in his rear-view mirror, the finger standing tall and unwavering. Talk about road rage. Geez!

Funny thing was – I was on that left exit again this evening, coming home from work, and guess who I saw in my rear-view mirror, barreling down on me as I slowed to turn off? Mr. Fat Guy himself. I’d recognize those chins anywhere. So he lives in my neighborhood. How pleasant.

If it’s not one thing it’s another. Today I had to contact the MD Attorney General’s office Consumer Protection Division because a furniture store owner in historic Ellicott City won’t refund my money for a piece that I ordered on February 26 and was supposed to have by mid-April. Not only did the furniture not arrive until this past Monday, but it’s damaged. I told them I simply don't want it and they need to refund my money. Mr. Chester, the owner of What’s In Store, doesn’t know the law and actually demanded on the phone today that I write down the details of the “implied warranty” law that I’d researched and email it to him. I think not.

And I don’t even want to get into the extremely unprofessional attitude of the woman who is temporarily running the Montjoy HOA until construction is completed in my community. I'll save that for another blog.

I'm not sure how much more anger and ugliness I can take from people here. Dale Carnegie must be rolling over in his grave. Why is everything a fight? I posed that question to my friend Peggy today. I’ll leave you with her thoughts. I couldn’t have said it better myself:

…you are right.......why is everything a fight? People in general are just unhappy I think and therefore it is showing up everywhere. USA is over-worked and we have no leisure time anymore. It's always work.......even just to take care of daily stuff is work.......hassle at the grocery store, Target, getting gas, etc. NOTHING is simple and easy anymore and that is why people are like they are. We need to return to the 50's where when you left work.........they had no way of getting hold of you (because NOBODY published home phones.....except the military of course), no cells, no email, nothing. You worked 8-5. PERIOD. You had a life and leisure time.......ALL gone with email and cell phones.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

The Da Vinci Code

May 20, 2006

I’ve found over the years, (ever since my truck accident in 1985), that having a terrible memory requires a lot of extra work. You have to write everything down, or do something as soon as you think of it. Otherwise, you forget.

This is probably why I rarely sit down – I’m always jumping up, doing something I just remembered I need to do.

There’s one advantage to this problem, however. Seeing a movie based on a book I’ve read is just like reading the book for the first time again, only quicker. I have to disagree with the New York Times assessment that “‘The Da Vinci Code' is a code that takes longer to watch than read.” Last night my friend Rashmi and I used some free movie tickets that I had (leftover from a Microsoft Christmas gift a couple years ago) to see the movie on its opening day in Columbia. We're glad we did.

I was unaware beforehand that my favorite actor from “Das Boot” (J├╝rgen Prochnow) plays Andre Vernet in the movie – so that was a pleasant surprise. Also, the lead female, Sophie Neveu, is played by Audrey Tatou, the adorable actress that who starts in the light-hearted romp of a movie called "Amelie." Of course, I don’t recall Tom Hanks ever making a bad movie—nor Ron Howard, for that matter. “The Da Vinci Code” is definitely worth seeing in the theater.

I won’t say much more than that, for those who haven’t seen the movie yet. And I won't say anything about how the ending compares to the book.

So, my kitties are still battling it out. Madison is getting better, I think. If Martin didn’t hiss at her when she invades his personal space, I don’t think she’d bother him much at all - except maybe in a quest to get him to play with her. ("Martin" and "play" don't belong in the same sentence together.)

Last weekend I gave her a stern warning to be nice to Martin or return to a life of incarceration – and it’s as if she heard me. The next couple of confrontations she had with Martin, she just sat there looking at him from a safe distance of about six feet. She never pounced, and never hissed – good little girl that she is. :)

So we’re still trying.

What is it about cats and catnip? I got some fresh catnip out for Madison last Saturday (right after vacuuming the entire house). She proceeded to sit in it like a kid in a sand box. Her long hair was soon coated in little green flakes, which she managed to leave all over the house. When I came back, there was catnip everywhere.

Man, I wish I was a cat. Humans don't get the pleasure of jumping into, say, a big vat of chocolate. Cats get away with everything.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Kitty Update

May 13, 2006

Man, this kitty business is taking a lot out of me – mostly emotionally! Martin is not a fighter. Even since Miss Madison came on the scene, my sweet adorable Martin has not gone into attack mode. His defense is to retreat. Every time. He’s a lover, not a fighter, I swear!. (Notwithstanding the evil kitty pictured here. . . .)

It all started with normal hissing. Martin is simply warning her that he is king and she shouldn't mess with him. Over the past 5-1/2 weeks, Martin has added this alien deep, throaty growl to his hissing - it's a scary sound I've never heard before; while Miss Madison has decided that pouncing upon poor Martin while he’s cornered is the best response. Ugh! That’s not what I want her to do!

Honestly, I don't think she's being mean. I think the pouncing is all a front. I am pretty sure she just doesn’t know what to do with this big Tom cat that outweighs her by 4.3 pounds. (Originally I thought he was twice her weight, but after their vet visits I found out she’s a lot bigger than I thought – 11.5 pounds – and that Martin had lost a few pounds since New York. He's down to 15.8, his lowest weight yet since I got him. He's my lean, mean, fraidy cat machine.)

The attacking has been tearing me up because Martin seems petrified of Madison. I broke up every fight as soon as she pounced on the innocent Martin. And, event though the nice lady at Howard County Animal Control told me to let them finish a fight, I’ve had a really hard time not protecting Martin – so there’s been no resolving anything!

Unfortunately, Martin was about six months overdue for a medical check-up, so last night I took him to the vet. It turned into a disaster. He was so agitated when they tried to get his blood pressure that he hid in the crevice on the floor behind the examination table and wouldn’t let anyone go near him. He even hissed and bared his teeth at me! I'd never seen him like this before and attributed it to the stress of Madison's advances added to the terror of going to a vet (and a new vet at that). I felt badly for him – as did the doctor.

Finally, I distracted Martin, and the assistant pulled him out by the scruff of the neck. (I read somewhere that cats hate it when you do that to them.) We managed to get him back in his carry bag. . . all but his head. The idea was to calm him down enough to finish the exam. Everyone left the room but me, and I petted his exposed head and tried to soothe him for several minutes. He was so upset. Eventually, he had enough of that crap. He wanted out of that bag and out of that room so badly that he hissed at me – in a gentle, warning sort of way. I pushed him all the way into the bag and zipped it up.

When the doc came back in, I told him that Martin wasn’t going to let him go anywhere near him. So he sent us home at no charge, and we rescheduled for June. I felt terrible for poor Martin. At that moment, I decided that Madison had to go back to the shelter. No matter what, I wasn’t going to let her out of her room last night so Martin could regroup.

But later when I went in to play with her and comb her, she purred and nuzzled her face against mine over and over. So I got all teary-eyed at the thought of sending her back to animal control today. I couldn't bear the idea of incarcerating her again. I'm such a bad mom! I had to leave the room just to stop crying. (Now who's the big baby?)

Today I got up early and got Madison's papers in order. I planned to take her back to Animal Control when they opened at 10:00. But I thought about it some more and decided that I’d probably regret giving her up without trying one last time and actually letting them fight it out at least once, as advised by an expert.

Ugh. So today while Martin was up in his perch I coaxed Madison into the room. She got within about eight feet of him, saw him, and said nothing. He saw her and hissed. She meowed back at him and hissed a little. Then she sat down for a bit and just looked at him, not going a paw closer. Finally she gave up, turned around, and walked away. Progress! For once she didn’t jump him. (I think that’s because he was higher up than she was – which gives him an offensive advantage.) She has spent the rest of the day minding her own business, even though all doors are wide open.

Martin has been in one of his kitty beds behind my TV chair in the corner of the basement. At one point, I couldn't find Madison in the house. I went up and down the stairs calling to her a couple times. Usually she comes when I call. Finally, I saw her walking out of the TV room! But there hadn't been a fight (I would've heard it). That means she was in the same room with him without pestering him. Either that, or she didn't know he was in there, which I find hard to believe.

So we’re trying again. I’ll give it a little more time. Maybe we can break Madison of this habit after all. Martin seems to have recuperated from the vet disaster. In fact, last night , he repeatedly visited me while I was watching TV in the basement. Each time he'd look me right in the eye as if to say, “Do you forgive me?”

My poor baby.

"That's right, Missy. You'd better stay where you are."

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Mean Girl

May 11, 2006

Well, things aren't going so well with the two kitties. My poor sweet Martin. He just wants to mind his own business, (sleep and eat all day - between belly rubs, that is). He does everything he can to avoid Miss Madison. She, on the other hand, is an instigator. She seeks him out in one of his hiding places and deliberately antagonizes him. He sits there growling and hissing at her in a very stern and controlled manner, as if to say, "Don't even think about it, little girl." Sometimes he pretends he's sleeping. He never advances. If in a position to run, he retreats. But if he's backed into a corner, she insists on moving closer and closer to him, (in plain site, no less!), eventually pouncing.

Ugh. Martin's had enough. I feel badly for him being in hiding half the time. After all, this is his home. She's the intruder. And yet he's being indifferent toward her. Actually, I think he's been pretty big about the whole thing. Madison is like the bratty little sister who just doesn't know any better than to antagonize big brother. (I can relate.) As sweet as she is alone with me, she holds no affection for Martin.

So on Tuesday I called animal control and spoke to the woman there who handled my adoption of Madison. She has eight cats at home, so she has experience in this arena. She told me that, now that five weeks have passed, it's time to unleash them upon one another. Open all the doors whenever I'm at home, and let them "resolve their issues." I'm supposed to spray water if they get into a tussle paw-on-paw. So I've let her roam free most of this week - except that I still find myself trying to prevent her attacks on Martin. I've never actually gotten as far as using the water bottle. I must harder to let them work this out themselves.

Martin is so passive. He won't even fight back. He wants nothing to do with that behavior. He's tried verbally warning her, but she is nonchalant. Here she is, stalking and provoking a cat who is 50% bigger and twice as old as she is. I don't get it. Is she brave or just stupid?

Unfortunately, some articles I've read on the Web say that it can take as much as 18 months for cats to begin to get along. I don't think I can stand by as Martin is tortured this way for that long. Although I've become attached to the little "mean girl," as Peggy calls her, my loyalties are to Martin first. So I'm giving her another couple of weeks to get her act together. Then I'll decide if this is worth all the aggravation to poor Martin. It would break my heart to send her back to animal control, but it's killing me more to see Martin pinned in a corner, crouching in fear.

The whole idea was to get him a little playmate. I'm beginning to believe that he was much more content to have the place (and me) all to himself.

Meanwhile, I've never had such bad allergies in my life. The sneezing and itchy nose is driving me nuts. I had to rinse the pollen off my recently cleaned car after work yesterday. Maybe I'm just allergic to Maryland.

I also figured out something else that is strange about where I live now - it's that I miss having big things to look at - whether it be volcanoes, skyscrapers, or even vast bodies of water. Suburban Maryland does not have these marvelous wonders. . . . I give myself another year before I'm outta here and back in a real city. I'll try to last longer. We shall see.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


May 9, 2006

This weekend my parents came up to visit me after a visit with my brother’s family in Virginia. They got here Saturday evening, so it was too late to go anywhere. I planned on showing them a couple of local “sites” on Sunday morning.

So, Sunday around 9:30 we set out for historic Ellicott City – a quaint 1800’s town with lots of antique stores, art shops, and the like. We got to Main Street, and everything was closed. I was so disappointed. So we drove through town, and then headed south to the town of Savage so that we could tour historic Savage Mill. Well, we got there, and they were closed too! A sign said that the mill opens at 11:00am. It wasn’t even 10:15 yet.

Ugh. There just isn’t that much to see here, and the only two ideas I had were closed. Mom and Dad didn’t want to go to Baltimore or D.C. or Annapolis, so I suggested we go to the outlet mall in Hanover. Mom needed a dress for a party, so she liked that idea.

We showed up at the mall at 10:40 and guess what? The mall was closed until 11am! How frustrating. My mom was like, “Is this the Bible belt?” I told her I didn't think so. Heck, I know I'm not THAT far south of the Mason-Dixon line – about 45 miles (as the crow flies). Sheesh!

Wrong I was. My neighbor Nancy told me this morning that Maryland is a Blue Law state. Because the Christians have to be in church on Sunday mornings, they expect the rest of the world to be in church, too. God forbid anyone go shopping when they could be in church!

So much for separation of church and state. My ex-husband used to call Virginia “the communist state.” I guess that goes for Maryland too.

I gotta get back to a real city. This whole fantasy of making my birth state my future home is just that now - a fantasy. Ain't gonna happen. You pay half a mil for a townhouse here - and for that, you think you'd get a mountain view or some exciting places to shop or some serious culture (museums, theater, concerts....). But no-o-o-o-o-o. You get squat. Bupkes. Your half a mil buys you screaming kids riding their scooters through community stop signes and selfish bitchy neighbors who don't care about blocking their neighbors' driveways with their Saabs, Beamers, and Mercedes. I guess rednecks come in all income brackets.

I want my money back.

Needless to say, Mom and Dad and I spent Sunday afternoon and evening with the Deluxe Scrabble board and a bottle of Scotch.