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Life Lessons

Seaking of raising kids in Manhattan, one result of that upbringing is that you don't drive very much. Here in the District, you can get by without a car, but it's not ideal. I'm contemplating buying one. In the interim, I took a Zipcar out for a spin to make sure I actually know how to operate such a conveyance. Eventually, I was doing fine. As I first tried to pull out of the lot, though, it was real hard to accelerate and the thing was making all kinds of funny squeaking noises. Fortunately, one of the neighborhood's charming youths yelled at me. "The break, motherfucker! The motherfucking emergency break!" That did the trick. "Thanks," says I. "Stupid motherfucker," says the kid.

UPDATE: Ah, yes, it's called a "break." Thanks, motherfuckers.

UPDATE II: No, fuck, I really am an idiot. It's a "brake" -- that was the whole point. Can't even spell right while I'm correcting my spelling. I blame phonics.

March 13, 2005 | Permalink


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Finally, an area in which I can claim to be more knowledgeable than Matthew Yglesias.

Posted by: scarshapedstar | Mar 13, 2005 10:21:11 PM

Metaphors are a bitch.

Posted by: def | Mar 13, 2005 10:28:16 PM

Growing up in the LA-area, I've no way to comprehend your ignorance. But I did find the same thing when I lived in DC this Summer. You can survive without a car, but it makes a fair number of things markedly inconvenient, particularly all sorts of shopping (hitting the grocery was the low point of my week).

Posted by: Ezra | Mar 13, 2005 10:28:53 PM

I too grew up in Manhattan, and despite living most of the last fifteen years in California still don't know how to drive. That said, it's called a BRAKE, you stupid motherfucker.

Posted by: Allen K. | Mar 13, 2005 10:33:22 PM

That's a charming story. One DCer helping another out.

Posted by: Timothy Klein | Mar 13, 2005 10:35:06 PM

Word. I once drove a good twenty blocks with the parking brake down and couldn't for the life of me figure out why the thing wouldn't get into high gear. Alas, the car belonged to my girlfriend, I was on my way to pick her (and her mom!) up, and promptly tried to explain the burning brake pad smell away by insisting that I ran over some sort of small animal or other. Didn't work, and I blame the urban upbringing entirely.

Posted by: Brad Plumer | Mar 13, 2005 10:39:06 PM

uh, the word is "Brake", ivy-boy. You need to seem like you know what you're talking about to impress us wrench turning types.

Posted by: Angry UnderClass Member | Mar 13, 2005 10:39:50 PM


Posted by: def | Mar 13, 2005 10:54:53 PM

That said, it's called a BRAKE, you stupid motherfucker.

Allen, you stupid motherfucker. You stole my line!

Posted by: Kathy | Mar 13, 2005 10:57:21 PM

Well, Matt, since you've got some sort of automotive deathwish, please make sure that your traffic fatalities take out as many GOP Senators from Democratic-governor states as possible. We're counting on you.

Posted by: bobo brooks | Mar 13, 2005 11:02:22 PM

Jesus fucking christ, the guy doesn't know what a brake is and has never seen a fucking tree. And he thinks he's qualified to be a policy wonk.

Posted by: jerry | Mar 13, 2005 11:06:28 PM

That motherfucking kid isn't a liberal and/or doesn't read blogs.How dare he not to be encroached by Mat's celebrity?

Now that's a stupid motherfucker.


Posted by: Nick Kaufman | Mar 13, 2005 11:13:06 PM

May I also observe that as is usual with these liberal policy wonk types, there's a pretty elaborate theory that explains away personal failure with social circumstance and path dependency.

How typical.


Posted by: Nick Kaufman | Mar 13, 2005 11:16:34 PM

You might want to try Flexcar.

It was founded in Seattle (by a friend of mine) and so is probably the best. Plus, I suspect, each car comes with a latte.

Posted by: David Sucher | Mar 13, 2005 11:22:22 PM

Hay, it's the kid who yelled "break," not Matt. Matt knows it's a brake; he writes for Tech Central Station.

Posted by: Bob Munck | Mar 13, 2005 11:24:23 PM

Just promise you won't drive for 400 miles in front of me with your left blinker on.

Posted by: Horace | Mar 14, 2005 12:33:37 AM

And I assume you meant "speaking," not "seaking." Also, any reason you don't use spell check?

Posted by: Andrew Ackerman | Mar 14, 2005 1:11:39 AM

Matt -

Since you seem to have been blessed by finding a career that suits you early in life, may I make a suggestion? Take a summer off, maybe this one since it's off cycle, buy a cheap car that gets good mileage, and drive across the country? West Virginia is a beautiful state, about an hour and half outside DC, yet you've never been there? Take a road trip - you'll enjoy it, and you're writing will be better for it.

Your naivete is still charming, but in a few years, it will merely be obnoxious.

You may also want to consider working for or covering a campaign on the ground in the 2006 cycle. Punditry informed by experience is rare, though also much more difficult.

Posted by: Dave M | Mar 14, 2005 1:33:20 AM

Just promise you won't drive for 400 miles in front of me with your left blinker on.

There's this technique called "passing" that you should probably try out -- it's especially easy to employ on people who leave their left blinker on for 400 miles.

Posted by: Phillip J. Birmingham | Mar 14, 2005 2:34:48 AM

"Take a road trip - you'll enjoy it, and you're writing will be better for it."

Maybe. Lived in the center of the country my whole life, nothing to see here, move along. To the extent that there is significant intrinsic variation in people & places, you pick up very little of it in a day or a week, it takes months of living in a location. Except perhaps for talented travelers. And traveling can be a skill & art. But MY isn't going to understand Missouri by passing thru in three days.

On the other hand a 2-week or month road trip can teach you...the Road. A concept of space, of isolation. Ain't nothing, and surprises me how many people have never put 2000 miles on a car for the sake of moving.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Mar 14, 2005 4:52:44 AM

Cars are babe magnets, so be sure to keep some condoms in the glove box (the compartment that holds the registration.)

Posted by: poputonian | Mar 14, 2005 6:41:58 AM

Cars are babe magnets

Not the kind that this "Zipcar" establishment rents out, that's for sure.

Posted by: Kurt Montandon | Mar 14, 2005 7:11:45 AM

Hey Matt the kids in the hood are rude but they did introduce some kool stuff like brake dancing.

Posted by: Robert Waldmann | Mar 14, 2005 7:52:51 AM

"the kids in the hood are rude but they did introduce some kool stuff like brake dancing . . ."

. . . which has really caught on, all across the country. I spent 40 miles stuck beind an elderly brake dancer on a Michigan country road the other day . . .

Posted by: rea | Mar 14, 2005 8:30:59 AM

On a lot of cars, if you drive with the parking brake on it will eventually give up the ghost and stop bothering you. Of course, then you won't have a parking brake until you get it readjusted.

As for doing a road trip with a cheap car, you'll get much the same results by buying a one-way bus ticket to Podunkville and trying to figure out how to get home again.

To see the country, take the train to Seattle (two days will be enough there), then down to SF, then back through Salt Lake, Denver and Chicago (for gods sake get a sleeper). This is a lot more interesting than driving, a lot safer, and probably cheaper for anyone who doesn't know much about driving.

Posted by: serial catowner | Mar 14, 2005 8:31:37 AM

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