RVs On The Blocks (And In The Voting Booths)

In About Schmidt, Jack Nicholson memorably plays a retired mid-level executive who, after his wife’s unexpected death, takes an RV on the road and experiences various adventures — including a hot tub encounter with Kathy Bates.

I thought of the Schmidt character, and the many retirees who are part of the American RV community, when I went to fill the tank this morning and saw that gas prices were above $4 a gallon.  Even filling up my Acura cost just shy of $60.  How much would it cost to top off one of those enormous houses on wheels?  What kind of mileage do those behemoths get?  And if you were a senior living on a fixed income who hoped to spend your retirement touring the countryside and hanging out at KOAs and Good Sam campsites across the fruited plain, how would you feel about the rising gas prices that are making your retirement dreams so much more difficult to afford?

Of course, summer is the peak RV driving season.  Only time will tell how many RVs will be on the road this summer, and how many will be on blocks because of gas prices.  My guess is that any disappointed seniors who are foregoing their tours of America’s highways and byways due to rising gas prices aren’t going to be happy about it — and they are probably pretty likely to vote, too.

Advertisements

A Reason To Take 8th Grade Geometry

We sat huddled in Mrs. Jackman’s 8th grade geometry class at Hastings Junior High, learning the names of differently shaped solids and how to calculate their volumes, discussing the value of pi and the Pythagorean theorem and other equations, all the while wondering when in the hell we would ever use this self-evidently useless information.

Little did we know that Mrs. Jackman’s diligent instruction would have equipped us to nod yes if Louis XIV had asked us to design the extensive, jaw-dropping gardens at the palace at Versailles!  But in fact those gardens — from their layouts, to their perspectives to the far horizon, to the shapes in which shrubs are trimmed, are all about using geometry, geometry, and more geometry.

In my view, the gardens at Versailles are far more interesting and memorable than the palace.  You can only see so much gilt, and take in so many paintings and busts of Louis XIV, and experience so many vaulted ceilings and marble floors, before you experience sensory overload and ultimate disinterest.

But the gardens!  They are full of wonder and surprises. Who would have thought that geometric lines and shapes could be so enjoyable and, in the case of shrubs, even a bit silly and whimsical?

Mrs. Jackman, who considered geometry to be a very serious topic and applied a no-nonsense approach to her teaching, might not have approved, but I chuckled with delight as Richard and I strolled through the gardens and enjoyed the different shapes and patterns that lay around every corner.  The fact is, geometric lines and shapes are pleasing to the eye and to the mind.  The gardens at Versailles are extraordinarily beautiful not just because of the flowers, and fountains, and canals, but because they are laid out in a precise geometric fashion.  The gardens convey the neatness, and order, and patterns that the human brain craves.

My Rules Of The Road

Having done some traveling recently, I’ve been thinking about the rules I would enforce if I were king.  Although there are many, five come readily to mind:

1.  Don’t bring luggage you can’t lift.  Saturday I saw a common sight:  a petite woman struggling with a monster bag on the baggage carousel.  She grabbed the bag, could not lift it off the conveyor, didn’t let go, and plowed into the people next to her until someone helped out.  This will no longer be tolerated!  If you are going to check a bag, do a test at home and confirm that can actually lift it come  baggage claim time.  If it is a carry-on, be sure that you can lift it overhead without it falling and knocking out an innocent fellow passenger.

2.  Respect my baggage claim space.  Nothing bugs me more than finding a place around the baggage claim carousel that provides good sight lines, then having multiple johnny-come-latelys wedge in front of me and block my view so that I can’t see my bag until it appears, in motion, in the tiny gap right in front of me.  To quote Moe Howard of Three Stooges fame, when it comes to baggage claim, “Spread out!”

3.  You must take a long, hot shower before you travel by air.  Let’s be reasonable.  You are going to be in very close proximity to total strangers, so let’s respect their interest in not being assaulted by your unseemly body odors.  I don’t care if you felt that you had to get in a workout right before the flight.  And the penalty for violating this rule would be tripled on a trans-Atlantic flight.

4.  No abrupt stopping is permitted when you are walking through airports.  Unless you are in the gate seating area, recognize that everyone around you is in motion.  If everyone maintains their pace, the traveler rushing to get to their gate can calculate gaps, adjust their gait accordingly, and weave through the traffic.  But if a family walking four across suddenly stops in the middle of traffic, havoc ensues.  Treat the walkway areas like an interstate.  If you must stop, first move off to the side.

5.  Keep your charming kids to yourself.  I like kids, I really do.  I just don’t enjoy misbehaving rug rats in the gate area when I am waiting for my flight after a tiring day.  On Saturday I was plugged into a charging station when a five-year-old came over to examine things in the uncomfortable, up-close-and-personal, touchy way that is common to five-year-olds.  Give me a break!  No one wants some hyped-up kid bugging them or racing around the gate area, shrieking while they play a game.  I can tolerate crying kids — everyone knows that happens to overtired youngsters — but what really gripes my cookies is inattentive parents who don’t make their kids sit down or get up themselves and walk around with a child who has ants in his pants and can’t sit still.