The Dicta Smith - Unwritten Rules of the Road

Hello, lovers! I haven’t posted in a while and it is my determination to only bring you the best I can out of my feeble brain. Bear with me as I struggle through something well all know and love: Driving.

It was my intention to actually write a book and publish it on this, namely one on Seattle drivers. Who does that anyway? Not I, got no connections! So, I’ll spill my valuable insights on this and look forward what you think of these ideas. 

Back in the early days of flight, a gentleman German pilot, Hauptmann (Captain) Oswald Boelcke, wrote a short discourse on how to stay alive while being a fighting man in an aircraft. The Dicta Boelcke, it turns out, has stayed relevant from its debut in 1916 through today.

In my brain over a couple decades driving in Seattle I have written what I consider the Dicta Smith. The most difficult part about this for me was trying to constrain myself to only a list of ten items because our traffic, what with its retinue of timid, cell phone (self) obsessed drivers leaves a few more slots to be desired. Yes, Boelcke kept his to 8 but he could never envision the soulless Toyota Camry or various models of Subaru.

iu.jpeg

You’ve been stuck here before

You’ll notice it now.

With that I present to you the Dicta Smith. I’d love to hear feedback — particularly if you are an apologist or wish to defend any of the behaviors I find road rage inducing. 

 The Dicta Smith 

1. Use your turn signal every time. Adjust and use your mirrors.

Yes, I crammed two obvious items into one section. Listen, you selfish neutron, you are not the only person on the road. Using a turn signal is to allow other accommodating drivers into our world, namely one in which the idea is to keep traffic moving.  If you have no idea how to adjust your mirrors for driving (no, you don’t) you may find me here to explain it.

2. Drive like you are following yourself and you have somewhere to go. Otherwise keep right.

These are not posted in any particular order of importance because if they would be, I’d put this at number one. If you drive and can’t wrap your head around this idea, it is just time to give up and Uber or take the bus. Your contribution to driving culture, hell getting anywhere, just isn’t enough.

3. Yield your lane to a car overtaking you regardless of speed. You're not a safety officer.

In Washington State the law is to keep right except to pass. If someone is overtaking you in your lane, it is not your job to modulate their speed, be a police officer or administer judgement. It is merely to move to the right preferably as soon as you can. Likewise, if you are merely pacing traffic in the left lane, get the heck to the right so you can get back to FaceTiming. We implore you. I suppose you can feebly turn your brights on after the driver goes by to “prove a point” but frankly we’re not looking in our rear view mirrors because we’re driving forward.

Here is a list of states and their laws regarding Keep Right. If per chance you look up your state and it does not have one — just help move your people ahead about 80 years and practice doing it now. The way some laws in other states are going you may need to GTFO of yours sooner or later anyway.

4. Do not move into a lane to your left (i.e., cut off another car) unless current velocity allows greater velocity going forward.

Another no brainer. After you’ve adjusted your mirrors correctly (see #1) use the brain the Universe provided you. You are born knowing calculus even if you’ve never taken a class. The same thing that allows you to throw a ball and get even remotely close to your intended target is the same instinct you should use when looking to your left and whether to move into that lane. If your Camry can’t hot foot it enough to get up to speed, simply wait for that car to pass before moving over.

You’re not the only car on the road.

5. Honk at people looking down at their cell phones or not paying attention to the road.

Here is where it gets funny because this unwritten rule of road is strictly illegal. With that warning and if you’ve mastered the “love tap” of a car horn by all means shock these people back to the task at hand. Chances are the life you safe may be your own, which on a cosmic scale is worth a few percent more than people who can’t put driving first.

6. If you are first at a green light your only job is to set off as quickly as possible.

This is a rejoinder to #5. There is zero excuse for the first person in line to lose even a tenth of a second to their vanity and cellphone usage. In fact if you’re first in line you must for the sake of the 4th car in line act as if you care that they’re on the road fo the same reason as you: to make it to a destination regardless of whose birthday it is on Facebook at the moment.

7. Eject nothing from your car. This includes all substances - littering is of poor character.

This is another holdfast rule from most everywhere I have driven. If your state has a law that states otherwise, I’d love for you to show it to me because I may detour through there on my next road trip just to say I did. That 60s feeling of just tossing a Coke bottle out the window is so bad it must feel good.

8. One ejecting anything from their vehicle is open immediately to retaliation from vehicles behind.

So here in a second instance I have done you wrong again. Just above you see I told you that this is illegal. Well, according the Dicta Smith you may fire if fired upon. Just be smart about it. Maybe a pink eraser or a wadded up paper ball that won’t damage the cigarette flinging Ford F-350. The point of it all is to let the driver know you caught him and that you do not appreciate ash in the cabin of your clean machine.

To tie it all together: Check your mirror before overtaking, avert your eyes completely from your Galaxy 10, reach for your nonlethal projectable and make your righteous move. Aim for center mass (the hood or the windshield) as they are both built to take much worse than you’re dishing out.

The target driver will be apoplectic that you’d dare to live up to his standards of littering and auto bombing but I think, especially here, if good old Boelcke were here today he just may understand the fight fire with fire method. Of course, he’d prefer that you turn into the enemy but we do not have that third dimension he had in the sky. Playing chicken over a cigarette butt in your car is hardly sport. Also, even if you fail to overtake the attacker you can seek solace in the fact you have kept one less cigarette butt off the ground. They are well known bird killers and we all know only sick children should be shooting those birds with their BB guns.

9. It is never possible to know too much about what is going on around you.

This would be a trick question to anyone after Generation Z. Upon reading this I imagine an agglomeration of millennials reaching straight to their phones to determine how far above sea level they are. No, no, no. It is easier than that! Head up, over the dash and out the windows! Look left, then right, then left again and take a look at who may be crossing the street. Look to see where the Toyota Prius overdrove the stop line and is half blocking a direction and refusing to back up. You’ve now just armed yourself to navigate this intersection!

10. While using a horn in a non-emergency is illegal most places, publicly shaming a poor/inattentive driver is worth the risk.

I was going to tie this in with cell phone shaming but cell phone use is an epidemic that hurts all of us so I gave that a stand alone (remember, just one or two *love taps* to shock those flouting everyone’s time and the law). If you do it correctly they may not even know who exactly honked at them or believe it was just a sound on their hip hop.

Number Ten, however, lends itself to what I call “laying on the horn” type action. Again, this is illegal but still stands as an unwritten rule for a reason. I once traumatized a driver by laying on my horn for a good 3 minutes after she nearly wrecked our cars. Three minutes is just a bit less than Van Halen’s Panama which, come to think of it, is about driving too. At first she was quite flippant but I assure you after 3 minutes of getting on the onramp, merging and driving at 60MPH for another minute this person may very well may be being treated for PTSD still today.

If risking Car Horn Induced Traumatic Stress Disorder (CHITSD) is used properly, there is the smallest of chances that if someone finds they missed their turn, next time they will simply take the next exit, spend 60 seconds and circling back rather than risk swapping paint.

So there we go, fellow motorists. How have you sinned recently? What are you doing to do to change your evil ways? Let us know in the comments or you may email me at adam.c.smith@me.com and maybe I’ll post your thoughts in a followup blog.

As always thanks for reading.

Shame - Fall 1992

Sorry it has been awhile since I've posted, life has gotten pretty busy these last two months.

Today I bring you a story of shame. Believe it or not, kids do stupid things often. This little story is one of those times.

An acquaintance wanted to show me his Camaro so four of us piled into his white 1977. It was a 350, automatic. And so we headed out towards the highway for some evening cruising.
This is not the exact car, but you get the idea

Now, like I said, we were just teenagers and being goofy. What I'm about to relate to you should never be reenacted because today some kook would shoot you.

As we were cruising out on Interstate 5 North towards Seattle, it was past dusk and well into night. The radio is going, we're talking cars and then one of my friends in the back seat found a survival knife at his feet.

Being the kids we were, of course we had to flash it at drivers - in jest of course. Of course someone in another vehicle doesn't hear the laughter or pick up on the goofiness that is going on in our car. The car we were passing had a woman in the car and she took a look at the knife and calmly dipped into her purse.

You've heard the witticism, "don't bring a knife to a gunfight?"

Well, I've lived this witticism and, yeah, don't bring a knife to a gunfight.

Silhouetted against the headlights of other cars on the road, the woman pulled what looked to me as a .38 revolver. What isn't in dispute is that it was a hand gun! As if we had been in tangles with guns before, we all ducked (like it would help) including the driver!
Kinda like this

As the driver ducked his arm kicked the shifter out of drive into neutral! So all his flooring of the throttle was doing nothing for a few seconds until I kicked it back into drive.

The woman had to be laughing now. We laughed - but it was a bunch of nervous laughter knowing that we just had a valuable lesson in driving etiquette. Namely, no need to get aggressive with other random drivers.

So, kids, this is a lesson of what not to do. 

I'm happy to be your mentor for driving scenarios and you can take this one to heart.

You Can't Fly Underground, 1990

If I titled this story what it should be titled it would give away the punchline so, since my life is an open book, I just wanted to be straightforward with you on that one.

As you know my best friend and I both owned fire breathing Pony Cars in high school. We'd take turns driving to school as while 8 cylinders are just right for a fast car, 16 is too many to just drive to school and work so we economized.

Another friend that lived close somehow ended up part of this deal so we had three cars at our disposal so it made no sense to do anything other than accept another 4 cylinders into our carpool.

I cannot recall if his parents bought the car for him or if he was able to just drive it whenever he wanted but, I think, his parents bought him a new 1990 Nissan Sentra. I am pretty sure Sentra means "square face and ass" in Japanese but I don't know Japanese so I can't bet more than $1 on it.

This is not my friends Nissan Sentra, it is a representation. Stop looking at pictures and read.

Well, today was the Nissan's duty to drive us four sophomores to school. Oh, and if you're asking how I know this particular Nissan Sentra is not said Nissan Sentra, it is because said Nissan Sentra is either rusted out, has mildew problems or has enough electrical problems to have driven whoever owned it next insane.

How do I know this?

I know it because I was in the passenger seat. On this day in the Greater Seattle Area it rained above average. Which means it rained "a lot". Plus, kids, todays drive to school took a diversion down a road that we never really drove down. It was a residential area and to this day I cannot remember why we diverted down it.

Picture a long, straight residential road, no speed bumps and oh about 1/4 mile of distance in a 25MPH zone. As my particular friend that was driving was not all that daring a kid (read: more mature than myself) we were doing 25MPH. When what to our wondering eyes did appear but a little bit of water running over the roadway.

As the intrepid Nissan rolled over this water, it became instantly apparent that this road was not "perfectly flat". Soon the water was ½ way up the tires and wheels. We pressed on, a steady 25MPH as our attention turned more and more to what was ahead of us.. in a matter of seconds the Sentra had a bow wave

The not-so-mighty engine started having trouble holding speed and soon the water was over the nose of the hood.. this ship was in peril. My friend in the backseat and I yelled, simultaneously, "FLOOR IT!" and, "DON'T STOP!"

Accelerator to the floor, the Nissans brand new windows, and I'll never forget this, were very clean. I could see a good 3" under water through the side window of this car, if the Sentra were a convertible I'd be up to my nose in rainwater! The car was slowing but we were still moving... if there were fish in this "puddle" I'd have seen them, the windshield and in fact, all the windows were 3" under water!

This was as deep as we got - but knowing that if we stopped now, right here, it'd be catastrophic to not just our morning but to the car. I'm unsure if we could have even gotten the door open.

The car sputtered down to less than 10MPH under full throttle (and we never became afloat as far as I know). The wheels kept turning and the water visible through the window started to recede as if a drain had been unplugged from the street. It wasn't, of course, we just happened to make it to the other side of the pond.

We laughed knowing that we dodged a bullet, as Ralphie in A Christmas Story states: We kids know it is always better to not get caught.

Our friends only comment on this, other than extreme laughter echoing through the cabin of the Sentra was, "don't tell my dad, he'll never let me drive again."

So we never told anyone.

Sticks and Stones My Break My Bones But they Also Can Fix My Chevy

I've posted a couple serious and deeply personal posts lately so I'm going to balance it back out with goofy car stories. This one is actually a "humble brag" post about my mechanical ability and ability to work a situation that isn't necessarily going my way.

In 1992 while driving in my neighborhood, I passed a car with a for sale sign in it and it immediately drilled into my psyche. It was a gunmetal grey 1962 Chevrolet Biscayne 2-Door Post. The "post" referred to the B-billar of the car. Oddly, to me a the time, it was also known as a "sedan" even though it was a two door.


Like this but grey
It had huge front and back bench seats and the seats were sprung, not of foam like modern cars are. The body was straight and it was a 283 V8 with a 3-speed and automatic overdrive, essentially making it a 6-speed. A great drag car!

The $1600 asking price was within reach - if I sold my 1968 Chevrolet 3/4-ton truck. I didn't need a truck, I'm not even sure why I ever bought it. 

I sold it.


Like this but grey.
The Biscayne I purchased the next day was just a joy. It was a 2-owner car, I was the third. The previous owner had installed cruise control, delay wipers, water injection and a 2nd oil filter under the hood. It purred like a kitten. It had the original hub caps on 14" bias-ply tires.

This is my 2nd favorite car I've ever owned. It never broke and I daily drove it for years to work and all over the Northwest.

Well, honestly, one day it broke. I had driven a good friend over to his not unattractive girlfriends home on the other side of the city. We listened to Queensrÿche: "Empire" on the CD player and 7 speaker system I had installed myself - and damn it was great!

The "breakdown" happened, appropriately for a Chevrolet, only after it delivered me to my destination. The clutch pedal went dead - to the floor - and for a few minutes my heart sank to the same place.

I had often bragged that I could fix a Chevrolet with sticks and rocks if necessary. I never had a wish to try it, it was bravado, but this day, this day I swear my only options were sticks and rocks.

I diagnosed the problem while my friend was in his girlfriends house doing who knows what. I found that the clutch pivot spring that mounts from the engine block to the fame, about 8 inches long, had broken the weld at the frame. This essential part was what let the spring "rock" when you engaged the clutch. No weld, no brace, no engaging the clutch.

As I eyed this problem, two factors immediately came to light. 1. I had not brought my tool box. 2. I did not know how to weld and even if I did, I'd need to fabricate a new part. The cherry on top of the shit sundae being that I was not a CNC operator.

The last thing I noticed was that forward of where the weld broke on the frame was the top of the suspension shock absorber. This was a stout mounting and here was where my mind went to work. Eyeballing the distance between where the broken weld was and this literal stud

Without even thinking of my past boasts about sticks and rocks, I began looking for... sticks and rocks. What I finally came up with was a nice piece of granite, a nicely dried 3"x½" stick of maple and the wonder of compressibility, a nice piece of bark off a giant Douglas Fir.

These three simple, natural items placed in the right order allowed the spring of the clutch to press into them. I hopped in the car and gave the clutch a press. I kid you not, it felt exactly as it did when everything was factory. Good pressure, the pedal returned to its normal height off the floor... groovy!

When my friend came out to check on me I had given it who knows how many pumps to see if anything was moving about under the hood - nope! In fact, the bark had already worn in a nice groove for it to rock in. I wasn't exactly 100% sure this would get us home but I had, as Astronauts say, "a high degree of confidence". I didn't ask how his girlfriend was.

My confidence was well placed. We got in the "Biscuit" as many of my friend called the Biscayne (they must not have been familiar with the bay but I'm a geography nut) and we sailed her home. Nary a hitch as Jet City Woman played on the CD player, an odd mix of 1962 and digital audio rolling through King County in style. Men in bland Honda Accords looked at me with our windows down, all smiles and I could read their minds: I wish I had never sold that car.

The most impressive part of my humble brag is that I drove my car like that for a good six or more months before finding someone who could take on the job of fabricating and welding in a new bracket at the great price of $50!

So if you wonder why the only tattoo I have is "1-8-4-3-6-5-7-2" and I bleed Chevy Orange, this is one of the many reasons. I've had many things let me down or not work as advertised or had small prayers not answered but Chevrolet has never stranded me, whether a 30 year old one with hundreds of thousands of miles on the odometer or a modern 2008 or 2013 model.

I still have those sticks and rocks packed away somewhere. So I implore you:

See the U.S.A. in your Jet-Smooth Chevrolet.

The Low Odds, High Desirability Event (Cars & Girls)

Hello, lovers. It is time to get back on the horse, or should I say horseshittery?

This story comes to us from the great state of Washington in the summer of 1990. If you've followed this blog so far you know that this is basically a blog revolving around funny or stupid things I did as a kid. So here we go.

I was 17 years old in 1990. In that year people in cars actually drove them rather than pretending to not look down at their own crotches while looking at their cell phones. By the way people, we CAN see you looking down at your phone even when you're tiring to make it look like your head is looking out the window - but that is another rant for another day.

My F-body Chevrolet (That is a Camaro to you) was never going to be complete without a CB radio in it. So, as a 17 year old in high school, working 40 hours a week and pulling 3.7GPAs I figured dropping $50 on a Uniden 510XL CB from Costco was more than a fair weekend joy. It turns out radio would be a life love of mine - and that I'd find out that looking for love on a CB radio was "all the wrong places."


The "Yellojacket" as my friends called my car.
My 1975 Camaro Rally Sport was one of 1500 Chevrolet made that year. Of course, I wrecked it because it was my first car and I was a boy. I didn't find out that the car was limited numbers until 20 years later when the Internet allowed looking up such banal facts.

Anyway, I think I prepared my whole life just for the day I could drive. I kept close attention to every single place we drove from childhood until that day Washington State handed me my permit.

I could attention seek and post pictures of all these treasured artifacts but you're here to READ so you only get one photo, kid.


Oh, the girl?

Yes, I was driving home from my grandparents place in on the Skagit River up in (heh) Skagit County back home to Renton. The South Skagit Highway is a Washington State best drive. (I almost hate to divulge this because I'm starting to not give up all my "best drives in Washington" for fear they will no longer be "best drives" but full of Subaru Drivers driving 5MPH below on the twisties, causing me to pull over for 20 minutes in order to hope they either drive over the bank into the river or give them time to get off the highway so I may do it properly).

The "low odds" event mentioned in my title is that on this day another Camaro was on South Skagit. It was not driving slow, it was the same generation as mine and it was RED. South Skagit is a two lane road with one in each direction. There are only a few passing points no matter how fast your car is or how masterful a wheel person you are. So, when doing 70MPH and I came up on the tail of this red Camaro, I was more intrigued than frustrated. A fellow petrol head!


This is not the car, you illiterate fool, we didn't have camera phones back then.
As Def Leppard played on my stereo, I slid into 4th gear and kept a "safe and sane" distance from this car and started to take it all in. The red looked original, less masculine (or asinine) than mine did. The person driving it had longish hair... and I kid you not, it had a CB antenna on the trunk. The spirited driving I had been doing up until now was nothing compared the way my heartbeat picked up. I'm not sure if it was just the hope I had to engage in some fun or if I truly expected anyone to actually engage in any fun with me.

I had been driving and riding the South Skagit for ALL of my 17 years and I knew every twist and turn. Which straight away could handle 140MPH and which ones you just motor on through at 35. I knew a left hander was coming up that rolled out into at least a one mile or more straight away that crossed one creek with a small bridge. As the corner loomed, I blipped the throttle of the V8, matching revs and downshifted into 3rd. When she had completed the turn and I was at the apex and could see no oncoming cars, I put the spurs to her. The M-22 transmission whined and the ker-chunk of the four barrel carburetor happened in quick succession. 

My Camaro not so much passed her, but leapt aside her where I peddled the car at 4,000RPM in 3rd to hold station. She looked over and all I did was hold up the microphone of my CB and dangle it so she could "get the message".. and all of this in the blink of an eye, she held up 7 fingers, not just the one finger I was expecting. I finished off 3rd and the pass and banged home 4th gear. The Coconut Little Tree™ hanging from my rear view mirror, heretofore rocking back and forth like a metronome during the maneuver, returned to its normal place. 

With my heart pounding, I dialed in channel 7 on the CB and then.... there she was! We were almost in the same car! For the next 45 minutes from the South Skagit Highway to down Interstate 5 we chatted as if we were having coffee except we were talking about cars, our favorite bands and whether we should stop and meet.

Before the exit was coming up I was already having separation anxiety. I was wary of stopping and she definitely had to be more wary, even as two Camaro owners - of the kid with the mullet and deadly good looks. I was just naive enough to think that "this has happened once now, it shall happen again".

At the exit we waved and laughed and I merged off onto Interstate 405. We kept talking until we were out of range - which was another 10 or more minutes and then our disembodied voices faded off into the ether. 

I never saw that Camaro or person again - and I still wonder where the heck she was driving from and where the heck she was going.

Here's to you, missy! You had reinforced a hopeful young mans belief in romanticism in the most perfect way it could have possibly been conveyed that day.

Spring, 1993, Stone Temple Pilots Show

If you haven't heard of Stone Temple Pilots, that's fine. Just substitute STP for one of the hottest, sweatiest most packed live shows you have ever gone to and it'll all make sense, kids.

I'm not going to get into a debate about STP. I think there are two people: One who dig them and others who think they just aped Seattle Sound. Let's not argue that. Let's just say that if you're GenX you definitely rocked to Plush, Interstate Love Song, Sex Type thing... and many more tunes that are near and dear to my heart.

So, when STP came to the Mercer Arena in 1993, you bet your sweet ass I was gonna be at that Rawk Show! I'm a music snob but I couldn't wait to see frat boys who only knew two songs packed in and getting their lame asses rocked off just to hear Plush while they were high.

Well, turns out, it did't matter who you were that night. We all got our lame asses rocked. 

I had bought a brand new pair of Chuck Taylor high tops, the only size 13s in the city, just for the show. Chubby and Tubby on Rainier (like Sir-Mix-Alot but a rocker) for $24. I was ready to rock. The usual "Goddamned Rockers" piled into my 1979 Sleeper Camaro and cruised downtown to the Mercer Arena for just another night.

This is not the one shoe I had left. It is a representation.

It wasn't just another night. I'm not even sure who opened for STP because everyone was jockeying for front row to see the DeLeon Brothers and Scott Weiland. I was about 2 or 3 people deep and the lights went dark. At first it was quiet and then the crowd started to press. Scott steps to the mic with a megaphone in hand, into the microphone, with his inimitable voice says, "I aaaaaaaaam smelling like a rose......."


I aaaaaaaaaaam!


The lights pop on at the exact same time with red shining down on his red bleached hair and the place feels as if someone just vacuumed packed us all in this place and time to have wallets stolen, asses grabbed, nuts kicked, sweat swapped, and smiles and singing above all.

I am not a small guy, even at age 18. I swear to you, ½ way through the first song someone stepped (I'm sure purely on accident) on my right heel, removing my brand new right Chuck T. I immediately tried to go to ground but the pit was so packed, I was able to raise my knees to my chest! There I was suspended - lifted as if I were a 2 year old... an odd feeling for a "grown man".

Before I can even try to shimmy down the sweaty arms to my beloved, new Chuck T, I see what can only be MY Chuck T being thrown over our heads at the drummer. The person missed, and it sailed over his him. There goes $12! But it isn't just $12 because nobody is selling me one size 13 Chuck T high top. The meter is still running kids - I have my brother's Eddie Bauer watch to lose still - absolutely no idea where that one went... no idea which song, whether the first or last one.

Also, to win the Big Rock Show Trifecta, and only after the show was over and my beer soaked right sock (It was a Nike mid-cut with blue Swoosh™) and badly bruised heel, arch, toes and top of foot.... as I hopped out of Mercer Arena on my left foot - Seattle blessed us with its famed gentle downpour. 


Adam the Goddamned Rocker with my cold friend Mat

Picture Frogger but instead someone who still had to drive all his friends home in his $400 Camaro - which for some reason everyone envied but they never had to get their hands dirty. Denon pull out cranked the tunes, I added up my losses and our ears ringed all the way home. 

I did try to ask politely to get my shoe back after the encore... you can guess what the stage crew said to me.

And I was happy.

They Day Flamin' Amy Died (And I Almost Did Too)

Hello, Lovers. I've had ten emails just in two hours - ridiculous for a post from this rat-trap blog - wanting to know about my near death experience. No, I do not think this is gruesome or prying. Now keep in mind, because I am a Norwegian Viking Warrior, no scars nor blood was shed in my near death experience. In fact, I only woken to permanent, catastrophic pain on September 29, 1999 at 3:15PM on a clear, sunny day in Seattle.

First, one should know that by age 26 still nobody has ever trained you on what to do when a 1990 Kenworth from CTI (complete with second trailer) full of broken cement is out looking for trouble. You yourself don't have to snort cocaine to be effected by it. So if you send email questioning what to do after your spine is inevitably turned to liquid I do know now. Teachable moment.

On that afternoon I was driving home on Highway 167S which is a known gridlock generator full of semi trucks and people driving to Auburn or Puyallup (or the "Paris of Washington" as I like to say). Other trucks on the road are jacked up accidents waiting to happen, built up as if there are no paved roads just 20 miles south of Seattle. My 1979 Dodge short bed was just a plain ol’ pickup. You know, the kind you use for work and not to feel manly about or compensate for a lack of understanding physics.


I don't remember this. Three days after, I shouldn't be walking. Then, I couldn't.

Predictably, after driving 55MPH for about 5 miles the gridlock grew and I came to a stop. My arm was out the window. The stock AM radio was playing “Greatest hits from the 50s, 60s and 70s” and I was listening to chatter from truckers on the CB. C’mon! Great day right?

As I was singing along with Manilow I glanced into the rear view mirror (as all good drivers do every 5 seconds or when coming to a stop). What befell my Rootbeer Brown eyes was a Silver Kenworth dump truck about a mile back coming at me quick. What caught my eye was the second trailer visibly jack knifing. Not good.

Highway 167 South is 3 lanes in its direction. The carpool lane is on the left. The “fast lane” in the middle and the “slow lane” is to the far right - the lanes were in the right place but as usual the drivers were not in their proper lanes. I was in the middle lane and there were no cars behind me.

I can see the driver correct for the jack knifing trailer and then wheel from the center lane into the carpool lane but there is a car right along side him and he veers back towards me and that’s when I knew I was going to take a massive hit. The driver had made the choice to rear end me rather than crush the car beside him into the divider.

I had time to actually consider getting out of my truck and making a dash for the grass and trees on the side of the highway but quickly reasoned that the best protection I had was the Detroit Iron I was already in. I took one more look with my own eyes out the back window. To keep from adding to the change in velocity I was about to experience I threw the truck in neutral, let off the clutch and brake (not unlike Obi Wan lowering his light saber when facing Darth Vader) and heard Manilow sing to me,  "This ones for you," and said, “SHIT!”


SHIT!


By that time, it was lights out. Cocaine Kenworth crunched to within 3 feet of my body/head and had wiped out over 20 cars before I “awoke”. I don’t know how long I was out but there was not one thing in the cab of my truck bolted down that wasn’t thrown lose, including me. The initial hit had my head knocking out the rear window immediately followed by being pushed into the next car in front of me, knocking my big 6’3” 240 pound lifeless body into the steering wheel. The steering wheel bent at 90º and left marks on my cheek bones to this day. Still, no blood or tears came.


Courtesy rear window pop out via head.


This Norwegian oaf was shook out of it first when one Washington State Trooper, one Kent Police officer and one King County Sheriff were gently pulling me out of my truck. I only remember apologizing for being so big. When asked for my address I gave them a mix between my childhood homes and my childhood best friends home, none of them current in more than a decade.

I remember hearing one of them saying, “he’s dead.”

And that is where Adam 2.0 started. The shock of running 6 minute miles and dunking basketballs and lifting cars off people - gone in the blink of an eye. My brain is still sure I can do it, alas, it cannot. Think of every possible physical pleasure you enjoy - diminished by 50% or completely - forever. 26 and life to go, Mr. Smith.

The good side.

I remember coming around and saying, “I’m a hero!” That’s just my style - supposed to be funny in dire straits and I’m glad my brain quickly filed back to a good place despite a severe concussion and spine completely on fire. My body tightly strapped down to a board to prevent further damage, including my head taped down and on the floor of a speeding ambulance I remember my back hurting so bad my hands felt cold. I spent what mental faculties I could focus on by reassuring the medic. I asked him if I was in a General Motors vehicle and what engine was under the hood. He replied that it was inconsequential because the semi had wiped out over 25 cars and there was no traffic between us and the hospital.





The bad side.
Some details for your pleasure. Tailgate at 45º angle.

Use your signals. Give a semi 5 seconds of signal before changing lanes in front of one. Finally, submit to the fact that even if you do all these things and the driver is coked up and jamming gears that he is going to do some urban renewal on your body. 

I suffered three burst discs, L3-L4, L4-L5, and L5-S1. These immediately were the thing that set my spine on fire. The concussion, which was only termed "severe" made my whole body flinch every time I blinked my eyes. Newborn Adam, brave new world.
I don't remember this. (Taken three days after accident)


Seattle Summer, 1990, The Airport

Nothing good ever happens after 1 AM.

Well, that's a credo, if you can have a credo, I live by and is mostly true. At least by my measure. But this night, I recollect from age 17 in Renton, our clocks were probably pushed more to the two or three AM time line. So, I won't name whose idea this was, but we all agreed it had to be done so we are all culpable.

So we hit the road. At that time, driving from Renton to SeaTac Airport may as well have been Mexico. A few of us drove V8s, but regardless, from an "Iron Duke" 2.5L, to a minivan, to a V8 “Pony Car” lets say, gas, as always equaled money.

When you're 17, at least on Benson Hill, you stop playing hide and seek. Even at this age, the dawning of the Internet, better communications, and some boundaries that we could not see, didn't matter a hoot. We had CB radios that could reach out 5 miles, 50 miles 500 miles, 5000 miles. Communication between myself and my friends was not a problem in 1990.

So we decide the airport has to be played. I can't remember which people, how many cars, or the exact date but I do remember we paid for parking.

There's not much traffic after midnight even today. So, say, you were to hop in your car, drive to SeaTac Airport, park and walk inside and have free reign of the whole place you might make that drive today, just for fun!

Back then whether anyone harbored any ill will for my country or not, the airport was a safe place to be. Or so we felt.

Since 17-year-olds don't play hide and seek, we played "manhunt.”

Manhunt was “hide and seek". When you're 17 jacked up on energy, running with friends, and at a giant airport in Seattle, you go all out. Just a few memories are: Being exhausted, hysterical laughter, not being seen by any of the airport employees whether physically or on camera… and while running down one office space going into a giant board room and plucking an ice cold Coca-Cola out of the biggest iced container I've ever seen for pop. As far as I know taking a few cold Cokes from a meeting that was either done or soon to be happening was the only thing we did that could have been of consequence. Let’s call it 1:30AM.

We were just thirsty and it was there. I do recall being chased and chasing friends with so much space in between us, even with youthful speed, that when someone cut down another aisle, you were too far away to really tell whether it was the next one or the second from the next one.

I am serious: not even an "hey kids!” Nothing! For an hour, maybe two we took trams, we ran down concourses, went through offices (because we were either running away from or chasing someone), until we had all given up we're drinking down Coca-Cola's for free.

Well, they weren't exactly free. I think we may have paid 10 bucks each car to park there. I say we got the better end of the deal looking back. Hell, the parking may have even been free. In that case, karmically, I’m still ahead.

This is not a challenge to 17 year olds today, had there've been a TSA back then it's quite likely I’d have a minor Federal record. I've been caught speeding before, nobody is immune to the immutable laws of average. It's just that at that day, at that time and at that place, we owned it.

I'm pretty sure we raced our cars (and the "Speed Tax") all the way through the valley back to Benson Hill.

*Apologies for the typos, they're fixed. I imported this memory off a Commodore 64 and wanted the raw text at first. It is now... proper. - acs

The Dufferin, Summer 1992

Fall 1992, Vancouver, British Columbia.

Myself and three other cohorts went up to Vancouver to support a couple friends of ours who were playing on a soccer team in a competition up there.

We were far from world travelers, but when we reached Vancouver we cruised around looking for a hotel where we might have a base of operations for the weekend. But not after filling up for what we thought was an outlandishly good price of $1.13.... but it was per liter and not gallon... we were 19, C'mon!

Four Jovial, 19-year-old, fresh face boys and one girl piled out of my friends car, a new Volvo sedan that was "The slowest car I had ever ridden in", into a hotel called Hotel Dufferin.

I was the only one with the debit card, so I paid. I wasn't much of a carouser at that time so I stayed in the hotel room while all the rest of them went out and had fun on the town where at our age, we were able to drink. I got a couple Cokes and watched Into the Eagles Nest while they partied.

We were very welcome and eyes seem to follow us everywhere as we all piled into our room and did our thing. I didn't feel we were being watched because anyone knew we were American or acting in any peculiar way.... there was just a lot of interest in us. Later that night, through the bottom of our floor, we could hear what sounded like a dance floor thump thump thumping away. It wasn't rock, it was louder than I was used to and I'm a metal head!

Everything was still copacetic until about three in the morning when one of my friends returned drunk on his feet to our room. Even though he was only two blocks from our hotel he needed a cab to get home. The cab driver laughed, pulled out off the curb and then immediately back to the curb and dropped him off. Easy hit.

It all fell into place when we woke his hung over self the next morning and the first thing he exclaimed was, "we have chose a gay hotel!"

The open arms for us received from other customers when getting a room, the eyes upon us as we walked through the hallways and in and out of the building. I can only imagine what they were thinking of the five kids in one small room! I'm pretty sure we were not in risk of have a piece of our asses taken but it was a time for action - we needed to drive further north to get to our friends match anyway.

We didn't have any run-ins, and we had nothing to gripe about when we left the next day… Except a few laughs at how innocent we were staying at what was obviously a well-known local haunt with tight pants, only men and many mustaches.

I still have the receipt somewhere, as a Momento of the night us five really tight friends (unafraid to swat each others asses and zero fear of our sexuality) packed into a room at a huge gay hotel.


Ah, The Dufferin (Doo-fer-Aaa) silent n. I'd go back, the cable was free.

Summer of '93

Summer, 1993

I had just started a new full time job, freshly out of high school and attending community college. I was hired on at Denny's Chevron on 192nd and Benson Highway in Renton, WA. At this time I'd call myself about "shade tree" as far as hands on mechanics go but an above average understanding in things mechanically related.

My boss was "Wes" and working for him, there was nothin' that couldn't be done. What he lacked in tact and reading ability he made up for in wizard-like mechanic ability. He rebuilt Rochester Quadrajets ™ or Carter Aluminum Four Barrels (AFBs) hell, any carburetor in 45 minutes. If you have never seen, heard of or worked on a carb, look one up: They're complex.

Under Wes' tutelage I became not quite a master mechanic, but became an accomplished mechanic who was instilled with fearlessness that only true gear heads develop, minus taking classes. I went on to be the "Van Man" as vans are a pain in the royal ass to do tune ups on, generally. Their engines require contortions that Wes just wasn't gonna put up with, the lanky 20 year old me grudgingly knew when a van pulled up - Wes' eyes sparkled and he'd smile at me with his missing tooth prominently... I was gonna bleed.

My eye got better at knowing how much to bite off one Sunday. The shop was closed Sundays - I was working so that meant my '62 Chevy 2-DR street racer and classic was in the garage but it didn't need nuthin' done, minus friends and fellow weekend road warriors stopping by to talk shop or ask for a hand.

My 1962 Chevrolet Biscayne 2-Dr and a pal I sold it to.. waaaaaaaah!

And out of the blue, and rare for a Sunday, a guy called in from outta state and was desperate. He needed a new water pump on his Chevy Truck or he was stuck in Washington! Well, he may think he didn't want to be stuck here but I sure as heck wanted to help him get his California butt back to California.

"Shops Closed," I told him. But he was desperate.

He told me it was a V-8 and I thought, "oh hell, I can do that."

So I told him to bring it in and give me three hours. At that time I could swap a V8 water pump in 30-45 minutes if pressed so that'd be no sweat.

He walked in, handed me the keys and off he went!

I was confident. All the tools, great air powered stuff, lifts, disposal, anything you could want!

I pulled the truck in and popped the hood and dove in. Radiator and fans, pullies, etc off. And I see the water pump. It's odd lookin. It's a diesel!!

I had never done more than an oil change on a diesel motor - and a water pump on a diesel Chevy 350 is much more time consuming and involved than a gasoline Chevy V8.

But I was proud and fearless. Yeah, I was sweating now now, between the summer heat and the dawning realization of the task that I just bit off was more than I could chew.. and definitely above my pay grade. Due to my childhood I knew it was on me and there was no internet, no phone line and nobody home to help me.

I was alone at the gas station half way through a job on a Sunday. Real quiet. Only success or humiliation could result.

I got in my car, locked the place up (it was open 24/7), and bombed down to the auto parts store. I think I turned a 13.1 ET as I banged home top gear and the roller rockers on the hood of my 283 with 327 cranked hotted up motor responded to my needs and at the same time soothed me with its silky smooth power.

Long story short is I got it all together, test drove it, and it all ran fine. I only charged the guy what I quoted (about 1/3 a diesel job) and off he went. I lived weeks in some pretty deep anxiety waiting for the long distance phone call that I screwed something up.

And some nights, like tonight, I wonder where the truck is that I most certainly over torqued the bolts and Permatex Blacked™ the water pump back on to and smile. I'd bet $100 he never had another water pump problem. That's the Smith Quality Guarantee™!

This story popped back into my head as roughly two weeks ago I was woke from dead sleep to hear a V8 being broken in about 3AM. It was revved loud and long and there's only one man on the hill I can think of that'd have ability, balls and "I don't give a shit" attitude is Wes. I'd bet $100 it was him. There is a art to mechanics. Yes, it is technical but when you can hear every part moving, time your beast by laying your hands on the distributor - not unlike using the Force instead of the timing light - it is as close merging with a mechanical, non-biological entity that I've experienced. Including Cortana, Siri, or whatever half-assed assistants we're stuck with today.

I smile thinking that. But if it was just any dumb ass that woke me up with breaking a new camshaft in, miles and miles away with extended 5,000 rpm, uncorked exhaust revs, I wanna beat him.

Pulled off a Hail Mary Christmas mechanical miracle before? Tell me about it in the comment box!