Mr. Charlton Hates Driving

It’s not unusual for a young man to be interested in cars and trucks. Even in the 21st century, boys are still the primary market for hot wheels and Tonka trucks. These boys grow up into men (at least physically) and targeted still with slogans about owning a vehicle. Freedom! Speed! Sex! These things come with a car. So again, it ain’t unusual for guys to be interested in cars, trucks, motorcycles, and that sort of thing. It’s kinda weird if they didn’t.

Mr. Charlton is most certainly a strange duck.

I’ve never been into cars. I only owned a vehicle from the ages of 17 to 19, then promptly got rid of the thing. Part of the reason was the fact that I enjoy walking. Strolling around kept my body lean and fit. Part of the reason was the car is the only place I got angry. Not being in a car was saving my hair from going grey. The biggest reason was I just moved to the city.

I’m a city boy. I was raised in a small town, but at heart, was someone who loved the urban jungle. I loved the density, the towers, the different foods, the people. And the closer you are to the heart of the city, the less it makes sense to own a vehicle. A car’s usefulness decreases drastically as the towers above you rise. What was originally a means of freedom is now a burden. Parking is expensive. The Stop-Go of city driving is hard on a vehicle. You no longer have to get a week’s worth of groceries and stockpile your pantry, you can just stop at the market on the way home. The only reason you would have a vehicle is because you lived in the suburbs, and I’d rather pull teeth than live in the damn suburbs.

Long story short, there hasn’t been a whole lot of times I missed having a car. But that’s when I was living in the city. And right now, Mr. Charlton isn’t living in the city.

Now, if you’re in a small town, you don’t really need a vehicle either. There’s really only one municipality that requires a car. If you live in a large town / small city, then it’s going to be a hassle to get around.

Enter Lethbridge. That’s where I’m living right now. It’s not a bad little city, but it’s a little city. The bus only runs until 6:00pm on Sunday. The town is split in two; The city on the east side of the valley, the university and a bunch of burbs on the west side. And I happen to be lodging on the west side. Getting around is tougher.

If I were single, I’d suck it up and walk or take the bus. Kat has a vehicle though, and she’d (her own words) would rather have me borrow the car and be home sooner. I’ve been driving a lot more than I normally do.

This is bad news, ’cause it’s making me fat.

So I made the plan in my head to use the vehicle a lot less. I had to whip over to Kamloops  a few weekends ago, and Kat was gracious enough to let me borrow Skylar (the name of the car). This ain’t my car, so I needed to take really, really good care of it. But after this, I was done. After this last 1600 kilometer journey, I was parking Skylar and getting my walk on.

It was almost halfway through April, so spring is well on it’s way. Unless, of course, you’re living in Canada. Then we’re getting the last spitting of winter. For the first leg of my journey, I encountered sleet, snow and wind. Nothing I couldn’t handle though.

There was a lot of wind, more than usual. This is important, because halfway to Kamloops, right outside of my hometown of Golden BC, there’s a particularly treacherous span of road. For about 10 kilometers, there’s only a two lane highway, and it twists through a rocky canyon. I’ve driven through here hundreds of times before. Never much paid attention to the signs in the area, mostly the ones saying “Watch for falling rock”. And for the first time in my life, I saw what these signs were warning travelers about. In front of me, the road was getting pounded by rocks the size of baseballs.

These rocks weren’t rolling down a hill, they were falling from heights. Suddenly I had flashbacks of stories about people getting hit by rocks in the canyon. People who’s windshield got destroyed. Some folks even died. This is all passing through my brain, and I now have a decision to make; Do I stop, and risk getting rear ended? Or do I speed up, and go for broke, hoping that with an increased velocity, I avoid getting hit altogether?

Bravely, I did neither.

“DONK!”

That’s the noise the rock made when it hit the side of Skylar. The noise I made was ten minutes of swearing. And I mean, straight up cussing. Some of the best cussing I’ve ever done was right after this tragedy. Then there was sadness, as  the reality sunk in that when I arrived to my destination, I’d have to call Kat and let her know Skylar got hit by a rock from the sky.

Finally, when I showed up to Golden, I was able to assess the damage. Thankfully, there was a slight bit of dirt, but there was no dent. Not even a scratch, really. The rock was all bark, no bite.

Still, with everything said and done, if I had to do it again, I’d hop on the bus or catch a flight. Instead of 18 hours of driving this weekend, I would have simply had 30 hours of reading.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. The joke is that a bus ride is usually way longer than taking your own vehicle.

p.s.s. I’d still rather take the bus.

p.s.s.s. Kat was totally cool, just FYI. She was far more worried about me than her car.

Mr. Charlton Doesn’t Go to Calgary

Crazy thing. I’m supposed to be in Calgary right now. I’m not in Calgary, which may leave people who were expecting me to be in Calgary to ask the question “Mr. Charlton, why the hell are you not in Calgary?” This is a valid question. I wanted to be in Calgary, so very badly, but sometimes you have to go with your gut feeling and bail on a situation when it’s appropriate.

A couple of weeks ago, a good friend of mine (We’ll call her Lisa) invited me out for drinks in Calgary. I don’t live in Calgary. Where I live right now isn’t even that important to the story. What you need to know is my current location isn’t Calgary. Now, there was a very long time where my location was Calgary, because Calgary was my home. I love Calgary, and I have a lot of friends who still call Calgary their residence. I was headed to Calgary to meet some of these people.

Here’s the thing. I have been stressing out these last few days. I took on a lot of projects recently, and I was getting worried about deadlines. They’re manageable, but between the coding I’m helping Kat with, the 3D modeling I’m doing for a friend of mine, plus work, plus the fact I’m still trying to write two thousand words a day, plus the coding I’m doing for myself, well, my time has to be managed properly.

I planned out the entire day. I had some time on the bus to get some stuff done, I had breaks in between meeting friends, I had my day sorted. I would get plenty of time to code, plenty of time to visit, and plenty of time to write. I was going to have a great time.

I didn’t plan on outside circumstances, though, like the bus being an hour and a half late. Where I live wasn’t important to the story before, but I guess it is now. I live in the wind capital of Canada, Lethbridge. I stood out in the cold wind for over an hour and a half. People waiting with me ended up leaving, or calling friends and sitting in their vehicles. Slowly, my day was being eaten up. And I was getting more frustrated by the moment. Plus, it was cold out. I dressed appropriately for someone waiting fifteen minutes, not an hour and forty-five.

You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run

Kenny Rogers, The Gambler

So I bailed. I said, “If the trip is starting out badly, then it’s a good sign to count my losses and chill for the day.” That’s what I’m doing. I’m going to treat myself to a nice lunch, and I’m going to work on some of the things I had planned on getting done.

There’s a lesson here. In our fast-paced world, we’re constantly bombarded with catchy slogans like “Live to Win” and “Bite off more than you can swallow, then chew” and “Gotta hustle every day” and “The man who stands upon the largest pile of skulls can see the furthest”. But sometimes, if you’re gut is telling you to slow down, that something ain’t right, then back off.

I’m not in Calgary, and it might be a good long while before I’m in Calgary again. That’s a shame, because I really do love the city. To all my friends, I’ll be out later than sooner, I’m afraid. In the mean time, you’ll find me right here, on the internet.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. ‘Ain’t’ wasn’t always a word, but it is now. Which is grand, as it makes me seem like I’m full of folksy bumpkin wisdom.

p.s.s. Just CHALKED full of bumpkin wisdom.