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Archive for August, 2011

Pea soup. That’s what they call fog that’s so thick you can barely see several feet in front of you. It was “pea soup” that greeted me as I stepped outside the Shop-Rite supermarket where I had just completed my part-time evening shift as a grocery clerk.

It was about 9:30 p.m. and darkness had descended, along with the fog. Coincidentally, it would be my first time to drive home on my own. As I mentioned in a previous entry, I’d learned to drive well from my uncle Joe in Houston earlier that year, I had also successfully completed the driver’s education class, and had my official New Jersey driver’s license. So I was fully qualified to make the drive from Shop-Rite to my house alone.

Except I’d never received instruction in how to drive in pea-soup fog.

Earlier that day I had proudly driven to the supermarket, my maiden voyage as a solo driver in the 1957 turquoise and white Ford Crown Victoria we had inherited from my grandfather when he died. Like most young people, I found this first opportunity to drive without an adult riding shotgun a cherished moment. It represented freedom, my emancipation proclamation from being chauffeured (or having to walk) wherever I wanted to go. Shop-Rite was only about three miles, so the distance wasn’t a big deal. But the fog presented an unexpected complication.

This was long before cell phones, so I couldn’t call Dad or Mom for help. Also enshrouded in fog, they couldn’t have given much assistance anyway. So, with the bravado that befits a teenager, I unlocked the Crown Vic, got in the driver’s seat, started the car and headed out of the parking lot. Very, very slowly.

One good thing about extremely heavy fog is most people have enough sense not to drive in it. So oncoming traffic – or even cars headed the same direction as me – did not pose a problem. The only difficulty was seeing where I was going. In fog, headlights don’t function well. The glare bounces off the moisture-saturated air rather than illuminating the distance.

So I crept along, carefully following the white lines in the road as I continued the three-mile journey, driving not more than five miles an hour. I’d traveled the route from the grocery store to my home numerous times, so the combination of memory and familiar landmarks helped a lot in guiding me along the way.

Again, I couldn’t advise Mom and Dad of my progress with a cell phone; they didn’t exist in 1965. They hadn’t even been imagined yet. I was on my own.

To my recollection, I didn’t pass a single car along the homeward route. I guess God knew He better keep other motorists out of my way.

The biggest challenge came when I turned into our subdivision. I knew there would be cars parked along the right side of the road. Parking on the left side was prohibited, I knew, so I did what is usually not advisable: I drove on the left side of the road to make sure I wouldn’t collide with a parked car. And I hoped no one else was out driving around the neighborhood.

I also continued to drive very slowly.

Nearly an hour later, palms sweaty and nerves a bit jangled, I found sanctuary – our familiar gravel driveway. With a sigh of relief, I got out of the car and walked up the front steps into our house. My mom – the most worrying of worry-warts – was probably more relieved that I was. My dad? Well, Mom had sent him out to look for me. He returned home about 15 minutes later, also pleased to know his son had successfully negotiated his first driving challenge.

Even though I really didn’t have the foggiest notion of what I was doing!

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