Wednesday, March 30, 2005

The Progressing Modes of Transportation

(published in the Wed., Mar. 30 '05 edition of the Bull's Eye, Vol. 1, No. 23)
By: L.A. Kohl
March 15, 2005

When I look at the vehicle parked beyond my front porch, I have to laugh at how I’ve “evolved” in that regards. I grew up with a father who, according to my mom, is a “car-aholic”. He often traded vehicles once every year or two, and he loved to spend time on the weekend washing and/or waxing the car. It was usually a nice kind of car that started with a "C," ones like Cougar, Camaro, or Corvette (that one came AFTER I left home!)

Thus, when I became a teen and started thinking about the kind of car I would soon want to own, I was convinced that an early 1960’s vintage Mustang was just the thing for me. (Such a rebel - a non-C classic for me.)

Now is when I have to laugh, because not only did the Mustang never materialize...I’ve never even owned anything with less than four doors, unless you count my husband’s pick-ups. Funnier still, can you guess what current mode of transportation is parked out front? It’s a 15 passenger van...about as far removed from my teenage dreams as you can get. However, it is the essence of practicality, and in a large family that over rules almost all other motives.

It didn’t happen over night, so I’ve been able to acclimate myself to it gradually. It started with the four door cars, then to a mid size SUV. Next it was a couple of different full size conversion vans, then a full size SUV. But, even that would not seat nine, and thus began the search for just the right vehicle for our less than normal family. An 11 or 12 passenger van might have worked, if we never wanted to do a big grocery shopping or pack suitcases in it. Otherwise, the back seat needed removed to make room for “stuff”, and then you’re back to an eight passenger vehicle. No good.
So, we resigned ourselves to the fact that in America, about the only other option was a 15 passenger van, unless we wanted to start shopping for school buses. And when you’re going to get that practical, you might as well go all out. We got vinyl everywhere on the inside – seats, floor, everything. That way, we reasoned, when it needed a good cleaning, we could just hose the thing down, inside and out.

When you take the back seat out, you can fit half a grocery store in there, or use it like a small size truck. Take the back TWO seats out, and a husband can use it like a “good ‘ol boy” sized truck, while also lugging around the kids. (My hubby has gotten the thing stuck three times in the last three weeks trying to use it thus...too bad they don’t make 4x4, 15 passengers.) Put all the seats in, and you can haul the church youth group around, or your own kids plus all their friends. Going on a long trip to visit family? No problem. Even when adding in the grandparents, there is still room for all 11 of us, plus luggage, plus a make-shift cot.

I guess as my family gradually changed, so did my ideals and dreams.
But here is a passing thought – take ALL the seats out, and there might be room for a 1964 Mustang inside. (Like that’s really going to happen? Not as long as I’ve got all these other priceless treasures around here that need hauling around!)

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Life from a Toddler's Point of View

(published in the Wed., Mar 23 '05 edition of the "Bull's Eye", Vol. 1, No. 22)
By: L.A. Kohl
March 5, 2005

I’ve been doing this parenting thing for over seventeen years now. It isn’t getting easier...but sometimes I think it’s becoming more fun.

Don’t get me wrong, the first few years of parenthood were definitely enjoyable. I just think that I, like most new parents, was too uptight about some things. Now I’m realizing that these little ones are going to grow up, no matter what I do or don’t let’s enjoy the process!

One thing I really enjoy is a young child’s way of looking at things. They have such an uncomplicated, simple view of their world. And to them, everything should have a simple solution.

Our three-year-old has come up with her share of solutions lately. One Sunday as we were getting ready to leave for church, our five-year-old was upset that the jacket she was trying to get on was now too little for her. The three-year-old had an immediate answer for her.

“Don’t worry. When the jacket grows up, then you’ll be able to fit it.”

That kind of logic is exactly what I mean. There just aren’t very many unsolvable problems for a preschooler. And when there is a problem, the “KISS” rule seems to apply...Keep It Simple, Stupid!
Another preschooler solution surfaced just a few days later.

Since we have a boy now, we recently decided it was time to buy some hair clippers. Our boy has very little hair, but it was getting kind of shaggy in the back, so one evening we decided to try out the new clippers. It took both of us – Nate had to hold his head still, while I quickly did the little buzz job. Our three-year-old stood there watching the whole thing, and afterwards said that she wanted her hair cut, too. We told her no, it was bed time, and she didn’t need a hair cut anyway.

She must have fallen asleep thinking about it, because the next morning, she once again declared that she wanted a hair cut. I tried to explain to her that she didn’t need a hair cut.

With big, sad, puppy dog eyes she looked up at me and said, “But my hair is long like a girl. I don’t want to be a girl; I want to be a boy, so you need to cut my hair.”

We “older and wiser” adults know that life doesn’t work that way – clothing doesn’t grow with you, and haircuts don’t change who you are. But, I think we also know that sometimes we adults make things a lot more complicated than they really need to be. So, next time a problem arises, maybe we should all sit back for a moment and try to think like a three-year-old. It might not solve our problem – but it may help us take a little more light-hearted approach to it!

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

A Word of Caution

By: L.A. Kohl
January 28, 2005
(published in the Wed., Mar 16 2005 edition of the Bullseye, Vol. 1 No. 21)

I’m hesitant to write this article, because I am definitely no expert – least of all, on teenagers. But I feel like I would really like to say a little something to them and their parents, not as an expert, but just as a mom.

Don’t worry – I’m not going to start “preaching” about some moral topic, although I might like to. This is a topic that keeps re-surfacing, and I find it distressing – not so much for myself as yet, but for other parents. I’m talking about teenage drivers.

It all started almost two years ago, when our eldest became one of those teen drivers. She attended a small, private school in Columbia three days a week, and it amazed me how often she would come home from school and say, “Well, so-in-so wrecked their car yesterday.” She’s in public school this year, and the scenario is still the same, and all too frequent. (Unfortunately, she was one of the ones who had a wreck this year.)

As I thought about it, I couldn’t help wondering what changed over the years. When I was a teenager, I could have counted on one hand the number of my peers who had been in a wreck. (One of those was my best friend, who ran into a grocery store of all things – but that’s another story!) I know a big part of the difference is access to their own vehicle. I could also count on one hand the number of kids in my class who had their own automobile as a sixteen or seventeen-year-old. Nowadays, it’s rare to find a teenager who doesn’t have their own “set of wheels," or one of their parents extra ones.

I’m not against teenagers being able to drive. I just think we (I’m talking to myself as well) as parents, need to continually stress to them that it is a HUGE responsibility. A car can be a wonderful means of sure beats a bicycle when you want to get to Columbia. But, the flip side of it is that it can also be an instrument of death, if misused. When I was a pre-teen, a brother of a guy in our neighborhood thought he needed to speed around the car in front of him, even though it was on a curve in the road. No big deal, right? We’re all in a hurry sometimes, and do things a little recklessly, don’t we? Well, the next moment he ran head on, at high speed, into a semi that was coming around that curve. The rescue workers had to literally walk around picking up the body parts of the car and the two guys in it. Not a pretty picture, to put it mildly.

Teens - it might feel cool to drive a vehicle and be in control of where you’re going. Makes you feel all grown up, doesn’t it? It may be fun to drive fast and carefree...but something as insignificant as a loose patch of gravel can instantly change the fun into disaster. When it comes to driving – erring on the side of caution will almost always be in your best interest.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

The Great Taxi Hi-Jack, Conclusion

By: L.A. Kohl
February 17, 2005
(Published in the Wed., Mar 9 2005 edition of the "Bull's Eye", Vol. 1, #20)

The guys with the map, in the back seat of the taxi, finally figured out what the nearest town was...Muzaffarnagar. When they called to let us know, the information was not met with enthusiasm. Shaloam, an EMI staff person who was a native Indian, said that of all the cities he’d ever been to in India, Muzaffarnagar was the worst – the one he’d never want to be stranded in, especially after dark. Not what we all wanted to hear, especially the Americans in a hi-jacked taxi. But the next few series of events were just affirmation of my belief that worrying really is a waste of time.

It “just so happened” that there was a friend, Oopie, visiting Shaloam that night. After explaining the situation to Oopie, he mentioned that he knew a pastor in Muzaffarnagar. We quickly told the guys on the phone – who were hoping for some kind of advice on what to do – to call back when they got to Muzaffarnagar and hopefully we could give them a phone number for a pastor there. Shaloam began pulling out phone directories.

Meanwhile, Nate, Tim and Shawn were getting closer to Muzaffarnagar, and the taxi driver had fallen into a drugged sleep. They began debating what to do. Should they just leave him and his taxi, and go find other transportation? But what if the guy killed himself or someone else when he took over the wheel again? Maybe they should take him to the local police? But they were the ones who had hi-jacked a taxi, and depending on the perspective of the police, the guys could easily wind up in jail over such a thing. They decided to just pull over as soon as they got to Muzaffarnagar, and see what God might do.

A lone man “happened” to be walking along the road when they pulled off. There was little chance that he could understand or help them with their problem, but they decided to try anyway. As providence would have it, the man not only spoke English, but spoke it fluently. After hearing their story, he became irate – not at the Americans, but at the taxi driver, who was standing there dazed. He chewed the taxi driver out in Hindi, and then for the benefit of the guys, translated what he had just said into English! This man then insisted that Nate follow him to the police station, with the taxi driver, and let the police handle it. While Tim and Shawn called us to get the pastor’s phone number – my husband hesitantly followed this man to the police station. Alas, the policeman on duty spoke no English, and the taxi driver began to quickly plead his case. But the local had stuck around, and came to Nate’s defense. In the end, the pastor showed up and the policeman took the taxi driver’s keys. Probably had the guy sleep it off in jail – like Otis in the Andy Griffith show!

The pastor was very gracious. He not only allowed Nate, Shawn and Tim to sleep at his home that night, but also had his personal bodyguard drive them back to Mussoorie the next morning. (You see what kind of city it was, when a pastor has his own bodyguard!)

All’s well that ends well, I suppose – but it made for a few tense hours, and lots of laughs over the following days. During our two month stay, it was hands down the most frightening “view” from our Mussoorie front porch.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

The Great Taxi Hi-Jack, Part II

By: L.A. Kohl
Jan. 13, 2005

(published in the Wed., Mar 2 edition of the "Bull's Eye", Vol. 1, #19) One of our interns liked to say that India was the land where adventure FOUND you. If you remember from last week’s article, it had just found my husband big time.

The road their taxi was traveling on was a fairly typical Indian “highway”. Please don’t picture the new, four lane Hwy. 63 when I use the word highway. Think more of old Hwy. 63. The really old one, the one that only pieces and sections of now exist. The one with huge cracks and potholes, that lies mostly west of new Hwy. 63. Now, picture a highway similar to that, with huge diesel buses barreling along at 60 MPH, various taxis and minivans with blaring horns, bullock carts lumbering along at 2 MPH, pedestrians, rickety bicycles, rickshaws...maybe even an occasional work elephant. Of course all those later highway travelers have no lights, and it was now dark. And here we have three Americans in a taxi that wants to try driving on the wrong side of the road, and driving backwards. Driving in India is dangerous when you do it what this taxi driver was doing was life-threatening. Tim, a twenty-something year old, later said that it was the scariest thing he’d ever experienced, and Tim travels places like Pakistan with nothing but his backpack and a “Lonely Planet” guidebook. Now maybe you can begin to grasp the severity of the situation a little more.

But how do you get a taxi from its spacey, Hindi speaking driver? They decided they had to convince him they were extremely displeased with his service, and they were going to find some other way home (problem was, they were in the middle of nowhere, in the dark, with possible criminals following close behind hoping to plunder them...not really any other options.) Once they got him off the road, they wanted him to open the trunk so they could get out their gear. When the driver put his keys in the trunk and opened it, Nate carefully reached up and snatched the keys out of the lid, while Tim and Shawn distracted the guy. So now all of a sudden they decided maybe they didn’t want to get their bags out after all...maybe they’d keep going. The confused driver shut the lid, and reached for his keys, only to find them gone. He started crawling around in the dark looking for them, while the three Americans hopped back in the taxi, with Nate in the driver’s seat and with the keys.

Ooo, was that guy ticked when he realized what had happened. He got in the passenger side slurring lots of choice Hindi words, and physically trying to get the keys back while Nate’s trying to get started down the road. It was not an easy task, as I’ve already mentioned the road conditions. On top of that he’s trying to see thru a crackly looking windshield, driving on the wrong side of the road for an American, and he’s got a delirious taxi driver kicking and swearing at him. The guys in the back were trying to help, but they were also trying to read a map and figure out where in the world they were, and where in the world they were trying to go, and trying to call us to figure out what we thought they should do...guess we’ll find out next week!