Last month marked our 16th year of marriage. It is an in-between anniversary of sorts, setting no real benchmark, but surely worthy of recognition. Sweet Sixteen? Perhaps, although there will be no elaborate party, no frosted cake.
Instead, I will illuminate the event by musing over the portion of the relationship between man and wife that is lived out side by side behind the windshield, for it offers a skewed, albeit telling, peephole to the larger union. Exasperation waxes and wanes; tiny wars are fought and resolved; chortles exchanged; sights seen. ("Don't those brown salt-bin thingies look like giant road boobs?")
I am obliged to say helpful wifely things such as, "Why don't you take 480? You don't really want to take Brookpark, do you? All those lights? Brookpark will take forever!"
"I just steer the bus," is my husband's usual flat and slightly disgusted response as he veers towards the highway sign. This is a man who picks his battles.
The front seat of the car is an education venue as well. For instance, I've tried to instruct my husband on the virtues of planning routes that utilize the minimum number of left turns: Make every trip a big circle if possible, even if it means adding circuitousness.
"Why don't you just turn left?" he asks.
"Because it's turning left," I say.
"So turn left." "Never turn left when you can turn right," I respond, with thumbs pointed either way in emphasis.
"Uh-huh," he says.
My husband has imparted a few driving tactics upon me as well. His, however, always come with magnificent titles. Running Interference:
Term used to describe a fellow motorist who is driving far in excess of the posted speed limit. An "interference" vehicle secures an undetermined portion of the highway by diverting the attention of any law-enforcement representative that may be standing by ahead.
I first heard this term after expressing dissatisfaction with the speed my husband was traveling on the turnpike.
"Jesus Christ awmighty!" I screamed. He was going 80 (a speed I engage without hesitation, but that, of course, is different). "What's your goddamn hurry?"
"No hurry. We got this guy here," he said, lazily wagging his cigarette at a passing car. "Guy's running interference."
"Running interference?" I said.
"Cop sees this guy coming down the pike at 90? That cop hauls balls after him. What's that cop care what I'm doing?"
It took a moment for this to sink in.
"You're shitting me, right?" I said finally. "The guy could slow down. The guy could exit. Another cop could enter the highway between you and him." My husband ignored me and continued. "And when you see your interference man stopped with a cop, you know you lost your safety net, but even then there's an added benefit. You got one less cop to worry about, at least for the time being."
"The cop who stopped the interference guy?" I said. "What are you talking about? You still have to pass him."
"Doesn't matter," said my husband with satisfaction. "That cop's copupied." Copupied:
Lingual amalgam of cop and occupied; term used to describe a law enforcement representative who is assisting another motorist.
Once again, I offered my critique. "The cop's got a cell phone or radio or something, maybe some massive cop-computer system that he can use to talk to all the cops from here to Shitkanistan!" Once again, my dearly beloved ignored me.
"Copupied," he said. Rainar:
Lingual amalgam of rain and radar; phenomenon by which radar speed detection is nullified by falling precipitation.
"Way I figure is that the cop radar rays shoot out of the radar gun," said my husband. "Right?"
"Right," I said.
"But instead of hitting your car," he said, grinning conspiratorially and lowering his voice, "the cop rays hit the raindrops."
"Uh-huh," I said with the exact same tone he used on my right-turn-only logic. Nort: A more phonetically satisfying variation of north, included in this list as a public service to those who might need clarification when engaging in a directional conversation with the husband of the author.
Husband: "Once we get to Beaumont, you're talking 30, maybe 40 miles nort." Wife: "Nort?"
Wife: "Do not say 'nort.'"
Husband: "What? You asked where the exit was and I told you: 30-some miles nort of Beaumont."
Wife: "It's northhhh, not nort. Nort sounds like a robot villain in a science fiction movie. Say 'north.'"
Husband: "Nort." My husband has since quit smoking, so cigarette wagging no longer accompanies the designation of vehicles that are running interference. I now know him well enough that all he has to do is grin slyly at a passing car and I'll say, "Running interference?" to which he nods affirmation. So the assimilation is underway but not yet complete. Perhaps in another 16 years, I'll say "nort." For today, I must admit that as I maneuver through my endless right turns on a rainy day, I fancy myself under my own invisible umbrella. After all, isn't rainar just another way to say universal copupation?
firstname.lastname@example.org ¥ erin-obrien.blogspot.com