Zen and the art of driving stick

It was 1940 and Oldsmobile introduced the “Hydra-Matic,” the first automatic transmission. They sold something like 200,000 units and it was that same year the very first case of road rage was documented.

Driving automatic

Drivers of these new-fangled automatics began to suffer a disconnect between themselves and their vehicle because they found they had too much time to seethe over every single road incident and perceived wrong.

Drivers of stick, of course, were more zen-like, tranquil in their oneness with their automobile. They were absorbed in the moment, hands, feet, and mind all focused on the very act of driving, and didn’t have time to waste on frivolous external stressors.

That first incident of road rage occurred on Route 66 somewhere between Holbrook, Arizona and Williams, Arizona. 

Pepper McHilheney,  a spitball pitcher returning from a loss that had raised his ERA to an astronomical 37.3, was driving in his brand new black Olds Hydra-Matic, fuming about being tossed out of the game because he beaned the ump with a fastball after said ump had called the 90th ball that inning, when along came Biff Melonmeister, a traveling anvil salesman out of Davenport, Iowa, driving a similarly equipped Olds, but in cream, who was worrying that if he didn’t find a blacksmith soon who needed a new anvil how was he going to make his next car payment, when he inattentively cut off Pepper.

Pepper, of course, beeped and shouted, “Get your head out of you ass!” while making obscene gestures with his free right hand that, had he been driving stick, would have been otherwise occupied.

Biff, seeing the gestures, returned several of his own, because he too had a free right hand.

Soon the two were racing side-by-side down Route 66 cursing and throwing hand gestures at each other until tragically for both Olds involved, they went off the road and crashed into some shrubbery.

The two drivers extricated themselves from the bushes, gave each other the finger again, and fisticuffs ensued.

Meanwhile, Irving Potash, driving his trusty old 3-speed stick on the column two-tone Nash, went by and said, “Dudes, chill.” He then responsibly returned all his attention to driving and made it to his destination safely, on time, and with a smile on his face, proving the adage: a stick in hand is worth two birds in the bush.

There are many more anecdotes about the superiority of stick drivers to automatic, but a recent survey by the prestigious Institutus Ferretatus proves it best.

According to their study, drivers of automatics have a higher incidence of heart disease, hypertension, headaches, and are more likely to die of a heart attack, stroke, or road rage incident. Additionally, they are more hostile and impulsive compared to their stick driving counterparts.

Stick drivers on the other hand, live longer, have significantly lower stress levels, are much happier, and of course, are much more fun to be around.

Stick drivers today are known as “the seven percenters” because only about 7% of Americans drive stick. These seven percenters generally lead healthier and happier lives than the other 93% of drivers.

So next time you’re in the market for a car, consider the stick. Your heart will thank you.
#savethestick

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Who really is the worst president evah?

“Obama is the worst president since WWII!” That’s the takeaway from a recently released poll, which, I’m sure, Fox News has been covering gleefully non-stop.

But lets think about that. Earlier today I showed you why you should dismiss this particular poll. Now, let’s consider each president and judge them on their merits, shall we?

Harry S Truman. Here was a man who not only couldn’t afford a middle name, for most of his life he couldn’t even afford a period after the S! That’s right. He had to borrow one from the editors of the Chicago Style Manual. And just try to forget that he dropped not just one, but two atomic bombs upon fellow human beings as the only solution to ending the war. Years later, he was overheard saying, “It never occurred to me to just say, ‘Please.'”

Dwight D. Eisenhower. Great general, bland president. I mean, does anyone have any impression of him beyond the slogan, “I like Ike”? I’m stiflingly yawns just thinking about him. Seriously though, he created the Interstate Highway System, NASA, and despite Al Gore’s claims otherwise, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which led to the Internet. And even though he created the communist domino theory that was used as justification for entering Viet Nam, he redeemed himself by being opposed to Joseph McCarthy and his communist witch hunts.

John F. Kennedy. A war hero (who hasn’t seen the movie “PT109” starring Cliff Roberton). He had a gorgeous wife and still got to sleep with Marilyn Monroe. He was the only President to win a Pulitzer, until President Obama. He created the Peace Corps. He challenged America to put a man on the moon and we did it. He brought a youthful style and vigor to the Presidency that was definately missing from the Eisenhower years. We call his presidency Camelot, for God’s sake. JFK was everything except bulletproof. He was so charismatic the nation still mourns him a half century later.

Lyndon Johnson. The only reason JFK picked him as a running mate was to win Texas. Had he given serious consideration to “a heartbeat away” JFK would have picked someone intelligent. Only two things come to mind when people think about Johnson, if they bother to think about him at all, and that’s how he would lift his basset hounds up by their ears and how he constantly showed his appendectomy scar while saying, “Not as cool as a bullet in the head, but its all I got.”

Richard M. Nixon. The “I am not a crook” crook. Highlights of his presidency include opening communications to China and saying, “Sock it to me?” on “Rowen and Martin’s Laugh-In.” The lowlights include Watergate, 18 missing minutes of tape, and having a running mate in Spiro T. Agnew who was an even bigger crook than he was. Nixon single-handedly destroyed the nation’s faith and trust in it’s government in general and.the office of the President in particular.

Gerald R. Ford. If not for Chevy Chase falling down all the time, we never would have even noticed someone had replaced Nixon. People would say, “Who is Chevy Chase imitating?” “The President.” “No. That’s nothing like Nixon.” “Nixon resigned. He’s no longer President.” “Dude! That’s far out.” Ford’s legacy is his “WIN!” program, which stood for “Whip Inflation Now!” It was a program designed on the wish theory, that if we all wished hard enough, the economy would improve. America did wish hard enough and Ford failed to win reelection.

Jimmy Carter. Carter was a surprise victor in the 1976 election. America wanted a Washington outsider, so they elected an unknown peanut farmer. What they got was a rerun of “The Beverly Hillbillies,” featuring the zany antics of Carter’s drunk brother, which included marketing “Billy Beer,” while the President himself fended off attacks from a killer rabbit while lusting in his heart. And on a serious note, lets not forget the Iran Hostage Crisis and the rescue attempt that went horribly wrong with helicopters crashing and burning in the desert, which was no surprise since Carter had slashed the military budget and everything was held together with bubblegum and bailing wire.

Ronald Reagan. The Great Communicator to some, the Teflon President to everyone else because it seemed no matter what stupid shit spewed out of his mouth, none of it stuck to him. Here is a brief list of the bullshit that happened on his watch: Iran/Contra. Catsup named a vegetable. Nancy running things via astrology. Referring to the Soviet Union as the evil empire and the infamous announcement, “We begin bombing in 5 minutes.” The Invasion of Granada, so strategically important to America. Trying to outspend the USSR in defense, including billions wasted on a pipe dream known as Star Wars. Tripling the Federal Deficit in the process. Nearly 11% unemployment. Giving amnesty to 3 million undocumented immigrants (you decide if that’s a plus or minus). Funding Islamist mujahidin fighters in Afghanistan in a shadow war against the Soviet Union, and in the process creating the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden. Cutting the taxes on the rich from 70% to 28%, which forced him to raise taxes on the Middle Class 11 times to make up for it. Raiding the Social Security Trust Fund and leaving a note that said, “IOU $2.7 trillion, Love Ronnie.”

George Herbert Walker Bush. He was President? Seriously, who remembers this? He got us into the first Gulf War to save our free access to Kuwaiti oil, but it was measured in days, not months or years. If one thing can be said, Bush knew when to pull out (just not always soon enough as we’ll see when we get to the 43rd President.) What defined his presidency was the promise “Read my lips, no new taxes” which became a joke when he broke it.

William Jefferson Clinton. He tried his best to be like JFK, but Hillary was no Jackie-O and Monica Lewinski was no Monroe. He did outdo JFK’s sexual conquests in one regard: Clinton was the only president to ever raise taxes retroactively, thereby screwing the entire nation. Crime decreased every year of his Presidency, while the number of federal prisoners doubled. He inherited the largest budget deficit in American history and turned it around leaving a $127 billion surplus. Came up with “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” And redefined the definition for sexual relations.

Richard “I’m a Dick” Cheney. Um. Oh. Sorry. I guess he never officially held the office of president, did he? Nevermind.

George W. Bush. C’mon! Obama came in worst ever when this man-child was in the running? Bush II was an international embarrassment. He was a drunken frat boy who couldn’t even swallow a pretzel without choking. He even barfed on the Prime Minister of Japan. There were no WMDs. He bankrupted us fighting two wars we had no business in, one simply begun to finish what his Daddy couldn’t. If someone went to Hollywood and proposed a movie about an utter buffoon rising to hold the most powerful office in America, no one would have taken a chance on it because it was so unbelievable. But we all lived through it! Dozens of comedians became famous doing Bush II and not one of them had to write any skits, they just had to be him; they’d laugh like him, act like him, talk like him, and quote him, and audiences laughed hysterically. They had to, laughing kept everyone from crying at the realization that the joke was really on America because our leader was one big international punch-line. OK, emotions aside, the Bush II legacy is: He took more vacations than any other president in history. Used torture to interrogate prisoners. Wiretapped millions of Americans without warrants. Outsourced the war to contractors who weren’t bound to follow Iraqi or American military laws. Failed to act on an Aug. 6, 2001 White House intelligence briefing called, “Bin Laden determined to strike in the U.S.” The price of oil quadrupled under his watch. He was a Draft dodger. He took Clinton’s budget surplus and spent it like a drunken sailor, leaving Obama a $1.2 trillion hole. Poverty increased by 26.1%.

Barack H. Obama. A President whose entire presidency, even his life’s history, is nothing but lies and fabrications promulgated by right wing spin doctors, bigots, and conspiracy nuts. The opposition blames him for everything that goes wrong anywhere in the world and discredits him for anything that goes right. An obstructionist House blocked any and all legislation, including jobs bills that would actually help Americans get back to work, in a deliberate attempt to make President Obama look bad. He gets blamed for an economic collapse that was caused by his predecessor’s idiotic policies and he gets blamed because the recovery isn’t happening fast enough (again getting blamed by the Republicans as they cause obstruction to anything that might fuel the recovery). So honestly, how can the man even be judged when he hasn’t been given a fair shake? When he’s had these kinds of odds against him? When an entire political party fully admits their sole goal is to ensure Obama fails?

So now that we know their track records, which president should actually be considered the worst, or best, in the last 69 years? If you were honest in keeping score, the ones at the very top would be Eisenhower and Kennedy. The ones at the very bottom would be Nixon, Reagan, and George Dubya Bush. Obama, at this point, should come out in the middle somewhere. Probably closer to the top than the bottom, but seriously, it is far too early to be making judgments upon his legacy. History will remember him for the Affordable Care Act, eliminating Osama Bin Laden, repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” creating new fuel economy standards, and investing more than any other administration in renewable technologies, while battling against unprecedented personal attacks fueled by ignorance, racism, and bigotry.

And there you have it, a brief history of American Presidents since World War II.

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