018. Traffic Jam

It’s almost time to go to Costco.  Daughter Gretchen and I do nearly all our grocery shopping there and we do it at warp-speed.

My shopping excursions didn’t used to go so smoothly.

Years ago, when daughter Judy was between 4 and 6 years old, she, my friend Aline, and I used to pile into our old Ford station wagon every Thursday morning and go to the Pike Place Market.  This was before the artist Mark Tobey produced his paintings of the Market that turned it into a tourist mecca.  At the time Aline and I shopped there, it was anything but.

Back then, the Pike Place Market was the place to go if you were a hard-core penny-pinching grocery shopper.  We could find everything in bulk, day-old, marked down, below cost, overripe, cracked, a little bruised, or free.

It was the only place we could buy the brand we called El Cheapo in the #10 cans.  Or oatmeal in 15 lb. bags. Or where we could find bargains like what we carefully referred to as “used candy”.

Used candy was always full of surprises.  It meant that the children might be finding in their Easter baskets an assortment of pumpkins, witches, bats and candy corn.  I don’t think the children were excessively disappointed because they knew full well that the bunnies, marshmallow eggs and jelly beans were on their way. Eventually, they would turn up later in their Christmas stockings. You just have to be patient in a big family.

Getting to the Market was always an adventure.  Aline couldn’t drive a car, and actually, neither could I, but since I had a driver’s license and access to a vehicle, I was the designated driver by default. Aline served as navigator, and little Judy in the back seat acted as our passenger decoy.  Her role was to capture the pity of the policeman with the traffic tickets.  Policemen like and protect toddlers.  And they don’t want to put their mommies in jail.

As long as I could avoid the traffic hazards like one-way streets, hills and parallel parking, getting to the Pike Place Market was usually uneventful. Speeding tickets were never a concern because we never went faster than 10 miles per hour. Freeways hadn’t been invented yet in Seattle but if they had we would have studiously ignored them.

But the left turns – the left turns were our nemesis.  We took great pains to circumvent them but sometimes they couldn’t be avoided.

As the navigator, Aline would yell “Look out!  Turn left. Turn left!”    And I would.  Usually this maneuver was quite successful  but not always.  I would say that on most of our traffic Incident reports, the term “left turn” figured in prominently.

They may not point this out in Driver’s Ed but left turns are much harder to negotiate than right turns.  Even Judy could have made some of our right turns.  But when it comes to a left turn, that’s where you separate the men from the boys, the wheat from the chaff, the skillful from the more-or-less competent.

All we could figure out was that as a lifelong Republican, Aline had had more practice navigating to the right and she just couldn’t get the hang of turning left.  It was a problem that was simply out of our hands.

Once we got to the Market, we had to face the ordeal of parking.

The Pike Place Market is at sea level but the streets leading to it are perpendicular to it. Parking on these mountainous cliffs requires surgical skill that we had every reason to believe we lacked. We eventually worked out an effective solution.

We would drive until we saw an available parking spot on one of the hills.  Then, we sort of “reserved” it by lurching to a stop right next to it in the middle of the street.  After I put on the emergency brake and got out, I’d reach back in and lift Judy out as Aline, on her side, would pull the stroller out.  Then we would all just stand there quietly and wait.

What we were waiting for was for a capable looking gentleman to walk by.  We had a strict rule that it had to be a man.  (Aline and I harbored a very low esteem for women drivers.)  After we had spotted a respectable-looking candidate — usually he had to be wearing a suit, or, at the very least, semi-clean but serviceable overalls and denim shirt — I would call out  “Sir, would you park this car for us?”

Now what could he possibly say?  Judy is wailing, cars are honking, drivers are rolling down their windows, and bystanders are watching in disbelief.  It was like an offer he couldn’t refuse. I am pleased to say that we were never disappointed – not even once.  Chivalry is not dead.  The car always got parked and off we’d go to shop at the Pike Place Market.

But more about that later.    (To be continued sometime.)

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7 Responses to 018. Traffic Jam

  1. Bryce Covey says:

    Wow. That’s amazing. I think I know where I get my ways of doing ridiculous things from. I’ve never heard that story!

    There is only one time I remember riding in the car with you, and I was really little, and I have the memory of sitting small in those big red leather seats and you saying, “I haven’t driven in forever, but Grampa is out and I have my license.” That was the only time I drove with you. I lived to tell the tale. I was the replacement Judy at that point I guess.

  2. Denise Fortune says:

    Oh. My. God.
    It IS genetic.

  3. Joan Fitzpatrick says:

    The highlight of my day is to read your blog, and never fail to laugh at all your made up comments.

    Remember the day we were looking for a certain bakery. Tom , you, me, and Aline. (Tom was driving of course). With all your wonderful directions we ended up in Canada. Tom will never forgive you. We had a very scenic drive though We would never want to give you or Aline a reference as a tourist guide.

  4. Gretchen says:

    I remember the time you drove Elizabeth and I to Fred Meyer to buy Barbies! We went around the same block several times, but eventually we got there and got the Barbies!!

  5. Elizabeth says:

    I remember that Fred Meyer trip, too! Grandpa gave you careful directions before we left, and you promptly got us lost on what I now realize was Lake City Way. At the time I just knew it was just a big scary street, and I think all three of us were a little freaked out. I remember seeing the same billboard go by multiple times as we went in circles. Thank you for your perseverance in getting us to that glorious Barbie aisle! I’m pretty sure that was the day we got the pink Barbie bathroom set with the cute little laundry basket and towel racks and everything. You sure spoiled us with those shopping sprees!

  6. Linda Lewis says:

    About those right turns. A friend’s Dad never turns right. He turns left three times and that always makes it a right turn. Trouble is, his drive way is a right turn. He has a little bit of trouble making it home when he goes out.
    You and Betty White are making yourselves famous. She’d be great in a movie acting out the Unbelievable story of Pat Ford!

  7. Pingback: 151. Today’s Birthday Babies | Going on 80

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