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Withering Glance: Merging traffic and other madness

  • March 15, 2013 - 3:26 PM

Rick Nelson and Claude Peck dispense unasked-for advice about clothing, etiquette, culture, relationships, grooming and more.

CP: There are two kinds of drivers: those seemingly born to it, who’ll get in the car and motor to Thief River Falls for an afternoon Frisbee toss, and those who fret and sweat about how they will make it to SuperValu and back in a light rain without a heart palpitation. Where do you fall on the continuum?

RN: Probably more toward the latter. There are days when the prospect of getting behind the wheel is enough to send me to the psych ward. You?

CP: I would happily live without a car at all if I could. Like pals of mine in Boston and Seattle. They walk, they bike and, when they need a Prius, they use a mobile app to order one up for an hour or two. No car payment or insurance, no having to learn how to install your own windshield wiper fluid.

RN: I was car-free through most of my 20s and 30s. I relied upon my bike, my feet, Metro Transit and the everlasting kindness and generosity of friends and family. After accumulating countless hours of waiting for the No. 6 bus, I will admit I adjusted to the convenience that comes with car ownership within a few nanoseconds.

CP: I used to enjoy the automobile as a place to smoke a delicious cigarette in peace, but have gone without that particular pleasure now for two decades.

RN: My extracurricular automotive activity is listening to music. Sometimes I sing myself hoarse on my commute, which is why I could never carpool. This week it has been selections from Linda Ronstadt’s seminal “Heart Like a Wheel” album. I need to remember that my aging Saturn sedan is neither opaque nor soundproof.

CP: That qualifies as distracted driving, señor. Given your spotty record, I am begging you to listen only to soothing, non-participatory music, or maybe public radio. Do you really want a rescue crew to hear the original Broadway cast recording of “Merrily We Roll Along” blaring from behind your inflated airbags?

RN: Fine by me, so long as the Jaws of Life are used at Sondheim’s specified tempo. And hey, I have a near-pristine driving record, going right back to my license test, which I passed on the first try on my 16th birthday.

CP: If you say so. My sister recently recounted the decades-enduring trauma of failing her driving test, twice in one day. And she is said to be the best driver among the Peck siblings. My brother would fall at the other end of that scale.

RN: My great-aunts Alice and Marian — that’s how we thought of them, as a single entity, AliceandMarian — were not freeway drivers. I can hear Alice’s voice now, or was it Marian’s? “We just hate that merging traffic,” one of them would say. Given the way Minnesotans drive — selfishly — I totally understand that impulse.

CP: That’s some great-aunt wisdom. You didn’t see Lewis and Clark doing a lot crazy freeway merging.

E-mail: witheringglance@startribune.com

Twitter: @claudepeck and @RickNelsonStrib

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