Tuesday, July 27, 2010


God, it was hot. The peaches in the paper bag on the front seat, bought beside the road somewhere, had lost juice and flavor and become mealy and uninteresting. In the absence of air conditioning -- not standard in the summer of 1971, especially in older cars, which this was -- the three of us draped ourselves out the open windows. The air was as desiccated as anything else on that August day north of San Francisco; but at least it was moving. Then, on a barely-two-lane road through the hills, traffic ground to a halt and we sat in the sun and toasted.

We advanced a few yards -- uphill with the dropoff on our right -- halted, advanced again, halted again, over and over. Clearly, something was obstructing one side of the road ahead. Observing the pattern of stops and starts and the traffic coming the other way, and thinking about it as is my way (not that there was much else to do), I concluded that the obstruction was probably on our side of the road. When I said as much to the two guys in the car, I was greeted with a chorus of "Oh, you're so negative, you're always looking at the worst side of things."

It was too hot to argue. In that time and place a woman who ventured to point out anything to one man, let alone two, could expect to be put firmly in her place by tactics having nothing to do with the merits of her position (in my experience, the East Coast was better in that respect; but that's another story). I mentally shrugged my shoulders and, reflecting that the guys probably knew more about traffic patterns than I did, receded and went back to enjoying the heat.

In due course we rounded a corner and passed the obstruction: A huge logging truck bearing two or three redwood trunks had failed to negotiate a curve and, half on the road and half off (California never heard of guard rails), was firmly blocking our side of the road.

Nobody said anything about it. The guys probably didn't even remember the mini-conversation of half an hour or so previously, and reminding them would just have annoyed them. But I made a large mental note to the effect that when men make those "Oh, I don't think so" remarks in that conversation-stopping tone, they don't necessarily know anything I don't know.