Summertime and the living is easy

by Jeff Sykes

I guess it must be tied to the school calendar, that ritual of procedure some never grow out of, but what’s the deal with people lamenting the end of summer in late July?

For starters, summer hasn’t been official but for six weeks now and there are a good six and a half weeks left until it’s all said and done on Sept. 21. I never liked school much, and as soon as I could leave that mindset behind, I did so. Thus, I’m always caught miffed when the lament begins.

I happened to marry a girl who went on to become a college teacher. (Note to self: you must have really loved that girl to marry her, knowing she was going to become an English professor, ugh!.) As such, the academic calendar pretty much supplants the Julian calendar we’ve all come to know and love. Since her work begins pretty much the second week of August, we too could fall prey to the “summer is over” mindset, but thus far have refused to do so.

What this means, however, is that there is about a two-week gap between the time my wife returns to work and the time my soon-to-be fifth grader has to start school. Luckily for him, that means he gets shipped off to the grandparents in the far reaches of western North Carolina.

But what that means for me, is that summer really does end in early August. I was caught short a few weeks ago and wanted to do something really special for him to round out the summer. With our calendars not lending themselves to another family trip, I decided I would bite the bullet and go ahead and buy him a major gift he has been wanting.

It was fun to lead him along on the errand. I told him I was going to the store to buy something related to football, a game he has no interest in, and he willingly came along to the store. In reality, though, we were going to buy him a game system that he’s wanted for more than two years. He’s worked extremely hard to overcome certain challenges life has put in his way, and he’s adhered to a daily routine I set out for him at the beginning of the summer. It was extremely rewarding to be able to buy him the game system and see the joy on his face, the way he peeked in to the bag in the car to see if it was real, and the patience he displayed as we set the system up at home.

He didn’t even get mad when we had to charge the gamepad that comes with the system for about two hours before he could play it.

That was more patience than I’ve seen a lot of adults display lately.

Speaking of patience, someone remind me not to take Gate City Boulevard into town anytime soon. With so much construction related to the long-anticipated streetscape of the former High Point Road between I-40 and the Greensboro Coliseum, it’s a maze of lane closures and merges that make a bad drive horrendous. I had just gotten a flow down for navigating High Point Road from Holden to Aycock. Stay in the far left lane on the outskirts, if you can brave the cars darting at you from the left. The middle lane often makes for good time, but can get bogged down around Veasley Street. So many get trapped there trying to merge right for the I-40 exits, so that left lane near Darryl’s is a must if you are heading into town.

But pay attention! That left lane becomes a turn only lane after the underpass at Meadowview Road. Try to get over to the right after I-40 to avoid that backup, but watch for the cars pulling out from the exit ramp. Whew! Now calculate middle or right lane as you head up toward the coliseum.

It’s here that I’m often caught between the slow car in front of me and the guy riding my bumper. I once had a tailgater all the way up the hill as I rode in the inside lane. He would go to pass me on the right, only to get caught by a turning car. I would pass him again. He would fall in behind me, attempt to pass on the right, only to get caught again.

I think I was on a leisurely drive to get to Jack’s Corner, and I must have become amused by the man’s increasing rage. He caught sight of me shaking my head at him and flipped me the finger as his tiny, lime-green Fiat finally passed me in open traffic on the right.

My drive home on US 29 is often a similar, but longer experience. With the construction near Hicone Road and that awful Sheetz on a crest with blind traffic pulling out in front of tractor trailers doing 70 miles per hour just south of Bryan Park, I tend to mind my p’s and q’s in the left lane until I reach open road and clear sailing, save for the random Virginian doing 50 in the fast lane.

I try to adhere to my new, non-confrontational lifestyle and stay focused on the reasons I commute 45 minutes to work each way. It helps when I’ve had the Grateful Dead’s “One from the Vault” album in my cd player since late June.

“Paradise waits, on the crest of a wave, her angels in flames.” !