My Life in St. Catharines, Now With Pictures!

The main drag of my hometown

The main drag of my hometown, circa 2010

So, in case you’ve missed the previous post, I’m beginning a series today on class, and the living conditions in the places I’ve inhabited throughout my life. The prompt is this:

 Every city and town contains people of different classes: rich, poor, and somewhere in between. What’s it like where you live? If it’s difficult for you to discern and describe the different types of classes in your locale, describe what it was like where you grew up — was it swimming pools and movie stars, industrial and working class, somewhere in between or something completely different?

 I suppose this prompt jumped out at me because the place I grew up has some very stark class issues that I noticed more and more as I grew.

 My hometown is called St. Catharines, and for the majority of you who aren’t from Southern Ontario, it’s a small city about thirty minutes from the US border. Currently, I think it’s got a population of about 150 000, and that’s about middle range for a town in our area. St. Catharines borders on Lake Ontario, which is the size of some small seas. I think being on the lake my whole life has made me feel most at home by the water. There’s also a canal system that runs through the town, which lets large freighters get to the St. Lawrence river, and from there, to the Atlantic. When I was a kid I used to sit on the cliffs by the lake in Port Dalhousie, the district that I’m from, and watch the freighters sit in the lake, waiting to pass through the locks. We have some of the most amazing fruit growing land in the whole world, and you really can’t beat the local food.

 The town has its newsworthy points, both good and bad. For the good, we are the hometown of Rush drumming legend Neil Peart. Rush even wrote a song about Port Dalhousie, that I adore. For the bad, in the nineties, serial killer Paul Bernardo murdered two girls here, in a series of shocking crimes that reached news outlets all over North America. My after-school sitter lived around the corner from his house, during the time the crimes were going on. I’ve never seen public panic like that before or since. It left a mark on me well into my adult life, as I’m sure it did for many others in our community. Let it be duly noted, however, that he migrated in from Scarborough.

 So, what was it like to grow up in St. Catharines? Well, I lived in the North end, by the lake, in a beautiful old farm house that had lost its farm. My folks had gotten lucky and gotten a deal on it just before the prices went up and the millionaires started moving in. It is a beautiful, peaceful place, just on the edge of the grey area between St. Catharines and the nearby farming communities. When I went to sleep at night, if the wind was blowing the right way, I could hear the howl of engines from the highway. It’s a very eerie sound when it has filtered across a couple of kilometres of field, but to this day I still find it rather comforting.

 My childhood was relatively carefree, although I was pretty nerdy and got teased a lot. I always seemed to gravitate to other misfits like myself… what I didn’t realize then was that a lot of the time, the other kids I hung out with got teased not because they were all that weird (I definitely was) but because they were kinda poor and didn’t have the stuff other kids had, like the snappy clothes and newest games. I had all that stuff… I was just clueless and didn’t see what it mattered. I wasn’t really brought up like that. I was taught to see what I had in common with people, rather than to try and find things I had over them. I found the other snooty suburban kids really confusing as I got older, and often didn’t really get why I didn’t fit in. In fact, I ran into one of my former teachers later in life, and he agreed… it was a really snobby school, and really cruel to anybody that wasn’t ‘with it’. I feel proud that I was one of the ones he liked.

 When I reached eleven or twelve, I was identified (diagnosed?) as exceptional, and went part-time to a school for gifted kids. I learned a lot of cool things, like how to use a mixing board, do woodworking projects, and get banned from field trips for being an hour late for check-in. It was there that I was first encouraged to pursue animation. I found the transition to high school really jarring, because for the first time, I was forced to get out of my bubble of perfect people from the suburbs and deal with people from the other parts of town. It was then that I realized that most of St. Catharines is not like the North end. In those few years, I learned that my hometown had teeth. My high school, a last resort for teen moms and kids with drugs found in their lockers, was a half-empty, crumbling abomination from the 1960’s with sediment in the water lines and whole wings blocked off in disrepair. I hung out with the only ten or twelve people in the school not involved in drugs, and a good portion of them had personality disorders of some sort. Until I moved away, I thought all high schools were like this.

 Beleaguered and more than a little scared, I threw myself into my studies, dreaming of a day when I would be able to use my mind and talents to get a great job and pull myself out of the company of juvenile idiots. I worked hard to get through high school, and got into my university program of choice. University was much the same. Scared of being like the people I saw pissing their lives away in high school, I kept my head down, and kept to my books. I’d already seen the poverty that the majority of people there lived in, and I didn’t want that to be me. I found a lot of acceptance at Brock, though, and I started to get into my groove with my town, and learn more about the things that made it great.

My favorite bookstore in the world, since torn down to make way for the new arts centre. RIP Novel Idea.

My favorite bookstore in the world, since torn down to make way for the new arts centre. RIP Novel Idea.

The best book I ever purchased ironically. I just couldn't get over that it was so old that they referenced "The Home Video Games" like "The Twitter" or "The Disco Music".

The best book I ever purchased ironically. I just couldn’t get over that it was so old that they referenced “The Home Video Games” like “The Twitter” or “The Disco Music”.

Throughout those years, I could often be found on weekends lurking in the stacks at one of our many great used bookstores, ferreting out classic fantasy and science fiction, old cookbooks, and stuff to help me learn more Japanese. I went down to the beach at Port Dalhousie and just watched the ducks and gulls. I even saw the occasional turtle, but his whereabouts must remain a closely-guarded secret. Robin and I fell in love on the pier. We regularly poked through the racks at Out of the Past downtown looking for goth finds, and put on the funny hats in the mirror, just ’cause. In the spring, my favourite activity is still to go out to the regatta park in Port Dalhousie and follow the baby geese around.

 Unfortunately, like all golden eras, my time in university came to an end. The magic I had discovered in my town disappeared, as I realized that I had no way of finding any kind of job that would sustain me, let alone allow me to use my talents in any satisfying way. I applied everywhere in the area that I could, but I couldn’t even get a call-back as a typist. The few people I talked to that could help me treated me like I wasn’t worth their notice because I wasn’t from Toronto. The few good jobs in St. Catharines, I realized, didn’t go to locals. Locals were assumed to be inexperienced and incompetent. My town imported its managers, and exploited its natives. I spent a very hard year working two part-time retail jobs before I realized that I would have to escape to the city to find any kind of meaningful work.

 When I realized that I needed something more than St. Catharines could provide, I began planning. I took a scholarship, and saved every penny that I could. When that wasn’t enough, I sold a third of my stuff, including my guitar, which I’ve touched on in other posts. I fled for the city, and (almost) never looked back. Since then, they’ve torn down my favourite bookstore, and most of old Port Dalhousie by the pier, to make way for gentrified ‘improvement’ projects, some of which I see the need for, others of which I never will. But the fact remains that I think they looked in the wrong places to root out the problems St. Catharines has. It’s the holes in the wall that gave it character.

 Next week: Oakville and Toronto, and the struggle to fit in.

The Obligatory Cat Pic… and My New Post Series

One of the things I wanted to bring people with this blog is a little taste of Canada, because my country, and its people, are two of the most formative aspects of my work, and my life. So, when I stumbled on this blog prompt, I was inspired to write a series this week about it. Here it is. Thanks, WordPress!

 Every city and town contains people of different classes: rich, poor, and somewhere in between. What’s it like where you live? If it’s difficult for you to discern and describe the different types of classes in your locale, describe what it was like where you grew up — was it swimming pools and movie stars, industrial and working class, somewhere in between or something completely different?

 Over the next few posts, I will be talking about the range of experiences I’ve had with class, with personal stories from the three places I’ve lived in my life, all drastically different in terms of class experience and yet part of the same region. Then, if he’ll indulge me, I may get my husband in here to talk about his experiences living in Alberta, because different parts of the country produce wildly different life experiences.

In the meantime, here is a picture of my cat. She is fluffy and cute. Her name is Ilse.

ilse

 I am going to go catch up on my sleep, so that I may entertain you anew on the morrow. 

I Didn’t Do It… But I Might Have.

This is part two of a series I started on Thursday about character development, and how my characters both are and aren’t myself and people that I know. If you want to read part one, it’s here.

 For a quick recap, on Thursday I wrote about the oddities that ensue when writers draw characters from real life experience. I concluded that, personally, I don’t believe that writers can ever produce a character that isn’t drawn from their own experiences and biases, in large part because that’s ultimately the only well we have to draw from when creating stories. I then went on to impart a story of how one of my villains came to be, and the real-life circumstances he was drawn from.

 As therapeutic as turning my frustrations with a former crush into a villain may have been, I have had far more powerful experiences with some of my protagonists. Three protagonists in particular stand out in my mind as having helped me work through major life changes.

 The first is Nemra, from my second published short story, Beyond Nemra. At the time I wrote this story, I was in the process of letting go of my relationship with my first real love, and falling in love with the man who eventually became my husband. My relationship with my ex boyfriend had been very difficult at the end, devoid of affection, and full of secrets. I found at the end, that he was telling things to friends of ours that I should have been told, and was only ever told after the fact. He wanted to railroad me into marriage by trying to convince me that I wasn’t getting any younger (at 23, ha) and yet he clearly didn’t feel any affection for me anymore. I was scared to break it off because we lived together and had joined our resources, but eventually, after many tries to reconcile and make him open up again, I realized that it was over.

 After I broke up with him, I was left with a lot of resentment and unanswered questions as to why he went cold on me. I started dating again, but I still had a lot of grief and rage bottled up inside over what I saw as him ruining a good thing. I felt, often, like I had a fire caged up in my chest, trying to explode outward, I was so filled with emotion. My new love for Robin and my old resentment of my ex warred with each other for dominance within me. Then, in my quiet moments on the way back from a writers’ retreat that summer, my feelings took human form in Nemra, the girl with a fiery enchantment trapped inside her that she will either release, or die.

 Despondent after being abandoned by her wizard lover, Nemra swallows one of his talismans and throws herself into the world as an adventurer for hire, hoping to die quickly by the sword, or slowly by the enchantment trapped within her. Then, she meets Kerimar, a man who convinces her, through a series of trials, that she may yet love again. Nemra releases the talisman just as she and Kerimar are surrounded by enemies, and the enchantment flies up out of her mouth into the clouds, and comes back down as burning blue hail that fells their enemies and leaves the two of them free to love again. Writing this story exorcised the last of my resentment toward my ex, and allowed me to love again, too.

 The next character that helped me work through a lot of life stuff is Ravoth Yonfarion. Ravoth, unfortunately, will never see print, because he is part of a license novel that I wrote that will never see the light of day. I can’t talk much about what the project was about, but I can still tell this character’s individual tale without getting into too much hot soup. Ravoth is nearly immortal, and very, very old, but he can only survive by receiving immortality treatments from his best friend, a terrible dictator whose former ideals have sunken into a lust for power and order at any cost. When Ravoth learns that something he and his friend created long ago that could unite the land and bring peace and understanding has not died, but merely lain dormant waiting for a time to grow, he must choose whether he will kill his creation and live, or take a stand for his ideals, protect his creation, and die.

 When I wrote Ravoth, I had just left my home and come to animation school. I was older than just about everyone around me, because it had taken me time to gather the courage and maturity I needed to take a stand and own my love for art. I felt lonely, and like I’d been fighting for years just to make it as far as I had, and still I had a long fight ahead of me. Ravoth, the old soldier alive beyond his years and homesick for a time long gone, comforted me with the thought that no matter how long you’ve spent going down the wrong path, it’s never too late to tap into your inner fire. I still love him, and wish others could have ‘met’ him too.

 The third, and most recent character on this list is Denny, short for Felicia Dennigan. Denny is a strong, independent woman struggling to survive without much support from her family, in a decayed Ontario where the dead have started rising from the grave and tormenting the living after dark. Denny lives outside the zone affected by the monsters, but she is quickly drawn into a wilderness adventure of epic proportions when she discovers that her missing father is one of them. She faces many dangers along her journey, but the hardest challenge for her by far is learning to trust others.

 At the time I wrote Denny, I was very lonely. Many of the friends I’d had for years were dropping away from me, one by one, and people at school gave me a wide berth, for reasons I’m still not sure of. I spent most of my days feeling isolated and a bit abandoned, all while having to achieve high marks and spend a lot of time on schoolwork. Denny helped me work through the things I was doing to push people away, and the trust issues I had that contributed to my loneliness. As I wrote her, I started to see the same traits in myself, and learn how to push back against them. I used my new-found realizations to find community outside of school, and became much happier and less isolated.

 And now, it’s time for the question of the week:

 Has a fictional character ever helped you work through something big in your life? I’d love to hear the story. Comment, or better yet, blog it!

And you were there… and you were there…

I recently finished the first draft of my latest novel.

Over time, I’ve developed a trusted circle of first readers who look at my drafts and tell me what is and isn’t working for them. Their comments have varied wildly from novel to novel, based on their personal biases, but there is one comment that I always seem to get from one or more of my first readers for every book. It goes like this:

 “Character X really reminded me of you.” or, the variant, “I know who Character Y is supposed to be!” (Referring, of course, to someone we both know)

 Oddly enough, I’ve even had people who, on finding out my occupation, explicitly request not to end up in my books. The good news is, I’m not a tabloid reporter, and (most) of my friends aren’t celebrities, so no worries that I’m going to go out and write a thinly veiled expose on my gaming buddy’s tragic fast food addiction. However, I both do and don’t put people I know, myself included, into my books, and whether or not I can control it is another issue altogether.

 After all, no matter how epic the plot, or how far-out the world-building may be, a story has to come from somewhere. People have differing philosophies on the topic of where ideas come from, but personally, I believe that all art is either a reflection of the artist’s time, place and social milieu, or a reaction against those things. In either case, the art itself is still a reflection of the artist’s personality and experiences. Even if I were to write a character that is the opposite of everything I do and believe, that character would still be a reflection of my personality, because they would be a product of my own biases when writing my opposite. So, I can never really outrun my basic personality, experiences and biases, and neither can anyone else. I can only imagine what the other side might look like, and naturally, my imaginings are coloured by the way my brain works.

 If we accept that this theory is true, and even the characters in my books that don’t look or act like me are a product of my personality and experiences, then all of my characters are in some way a reflection of me. By this same theory, they are all not exactly me either. They’re more like a convenient patchwork of people and things I’ve experienced that suits the story, and over time they tend to develop a life of their own.

 There are, however, a few notable exceptions, times when either I have ripped a character almost wholesale out of the pages of my life and pasted it in my work, or I have used a character to help me work through something that was really bothering me. Those exceptions, I think, are worth writing about.

 The first one is Wardan, the antagonist… oh, hell, let’s call him what he is. He’s the villain of my first novel, Flood Waters Rising. Wardan got his start in the crazy, hormone-soaked days of my first couple of years in college, when I had a crush on a guy who was not my boyfriend. We hung out all the time, and played tabletop games together, and I thought he was a really great guy. I was starting to wonder if, perhaps, he might be a better match for me than the guy I was with, and I was thinking of making the switch. And then, another one of our mutual friends died very suddenly in a freak accident.

 In the aftermath of our friend’s death, I reached out to this guy to offer my condolences, because they had been close. I simply said, ‘Sorry to hear about his passing’. With the coldest, most matter-of-fact expression I had ever seen, he informed me that he was a scientist, and that he didn’t believe that someone’s body ceasing to function was any reason to get upset. After that, we drifted apart rather quickly, but my hurt and confusion over his callous behaviour remained. I felt betrayed, and foolish for having feelings for him. Furthermore, I felt afraid that someone I had been so close with could have had such shocking lack of empathy and that I didn’t notice at all.

 Over time, my hurt and confusion morphed into a drive to say something about my experience, to comment on what happens when people get so caught up in the idea of science and logic that they forget about the human element in their lives. I created a gifted young biologist whose ability to bring others back to life causes him to see life and the suffering of others as cheap toys for his amusement. I began writing Wardan into my novel, and he became the perfect counterbalance to my protagonist, Sithon, who has the capability to be vicious and destroy others, but fights against it with all his might.

 That’s all for now, but this thread is going to be continued on Sunday, with the characters that have helped me develop the most as a person.

Thoughts On The Occupational Hazards of Art

In the last half year or so, my church has been doing something a little different with worship services on certain Sundays. Instead of having a longer service, we sing a little, say our prayers, and then split off into small groups and do a variety of activities. This week, we had a slide show about human rights concerns in Russia, an informal hymn sing, and a craft workshop where we made votive holders. Here is mine:

download

 We had a variety of materials available to us, but I tend to gravitate toward natural shapes, so I decided to make a flower arrangement. Other people made paper bag lanterns, and banged-tin designs, and all manner of really lovely things… but I noticed something. First of all, this kind of activity did not come naturally to most of them. Finding colours and textures that went well together seemed difficult for a lot of people, and when they saw mine (which I had put together rather quickly), many people remarked that they didn’t know how I came up with my ideas.

 All friendly flattery aside, our craft project got me thinking about art, and the people who make it. Sure, I’ve been through art school, and I’ve spent a lot of time honing my skills, but I’ve always been able to look at an assortment of items, spread out on a table, or an assortment of facts and figures, spread out over time, and arrange them into something that has beauty and meaning to people. It’s as natural as breathing to me.

 Taking disparate facts and constructing narratives and meaning from them is one of the most fundamental aspects of human psychology, and everyone does it. I think that the fact that art relies on these universal mental processes is what leads to the devaluation of artistic work. After all, if everyone can produce meaning this way at a basic level, then, the thinking goes, why pay a professional to do it?

 To those people, I would argue that the answer to why artists are necessary is not a matter of have/have not, but a matter of degree. Artists take that meaning-making process and ramp it up, to the point that, at their best, they create things that entire societies can find meaning in for generations. Everybody makes connections and constructs narratives about life, but I would argue that the career artist lives those narratives. They take the raw material of life and build things with it that sweep them away in the process. When I was young, and I had written my very first novel, I would check in on my characters as people read, asking how they were as if they were real, because to me, they are.

 And herein, also, lies the primary occupational hazard of the artist. The old stereotype of the addicted, emotionally volatile artist is just that, a stereotype, however, there is no denying that a large portion of artists wear their emotions on their sleeve. I believe that this is because the strengths and the weaknesses of the ‘artistic temperament’ are derived from the same characteristics. When the stories and the meaning that you create are the most powerful thing in your life, the stories that you create about yourself are paramount. Craft one bad story about yourself, and you’ve got a major roadblock. Hit a rough patch in your life where the bad stories, the ill omens seem to be swarming in at you from all angles, growing all around you like poison thorns on time lapse, and you’ve got creative block, depression, addiction…

 These are the occupational hazards of the artist, as I see them. Your mileage may vary.

 Coming up this week: More on the creative process, and protagonists! Like antagonists, only without the ants.

The Music Is Back

This week, I went out for dinner with my folks. As we scarfed down some seriously delicious Italian food, our discussion drifted to stuff we might like to buy in the future. I mentioned that my next big purchase, when I got my financial feet under me again, was going to be a pawn shop electric guitar. My Dad then said that the Hubs and I could borrow his electric guitar and bass, along with his practice amp.

 This may seem like a small exchange, but it marks a huge, if gradual, change in my life.

 For the past five years, my life has been nothing but school. Some people say that, but I really mean it. I went directly from a one-year intensive Master’s Degree program into one of the most scary-hard art programs in the world. Now, before you think I’m getting whiny, let me clarify: I know what I signed up for. However, one of the things I’ve discovered after running this journey to its end is that you can never truly predict what something will do to you, how it will change you, despite having consented fully to it at the outset.

 One of the things that living and breathing school and work for five years did to me was take away my joy. I became mean, because I saw the people in front of me as obstacles to efficiency and success. I stopped cultivating hobbies, of which I previously had many, because I didn’t see the point. I would start a video game, or a knitting project, or commit to a performance project, and then work and school would inevitably keep me from following through. I had a feeling of never living up to expectations and failing, all the time, because I could never make school and work balance with everything else in my life. Both schoolwork and the rest of my life suffered.

 And yet, if you’d asked me at the time, I would have told you I was getting meaner, more restless, and less capable, and I never would have been able to tell you why. The slow leach of joy from my life happened so gradually, I never even noticed that it was a problem. I just knew I was miserable. It’s taken me nearly a year to sort all of this out, and it’s still unravelling. The saddest part about all of it is that if your were to ask me, even now, I would still say that it was unavoidable. I had to do this kind of schooling to get where I was going. It was a sacrifice I made knowing what its potential effect could be, because the alternatives were so much worse.

 Things started to turn around when I moved, got a steady job, and a car. I started listening to the radio again as I drove, liking the rush it gave me, a rush I hadn’t felt in years. After a while, I started singing along. Singing along made me yearn for a guitar so that I could perform again. I had sold my guitar when I needed money to go to school. I’m slowly coming around, starting to want things for myself again, just for the fun of them. My vocal coaches used to tell me that I had a hard time emoting during performance. I think I just needed to go through the wringer a bit, to really live, to appreciate the act of expression through music. Soon, I’m going to play that guitar, and I’m going to sing with joy.

 So, that brings me to Liz’s Question of the Week (TM):

What in your life costs you no money, but brings you joy? Would you ever let it go for a larger gain?

 Answer in the comments, or better yet, use it as a blog prompt, and I’ll answer on your blog!

 …And, if you’re ever in Hamilton, you owe it to yourself to check out Chicago Style Pizza. Just do it, but show up early. They don’t take reservations.

Bumper Ballet, Or, The Day That No One Ran Into Me

So, I just got a car this last month. I’m 28.

Due to a number of factors, one of which being rampant unemployment in the town where I spent the first 23 years of my life, and another being the fact that I stayed in University longer than most people I know, I’m only just getting on the bandwagon and taking the wheel. I’ve been able to drive for quite a while, but until recently, I was never afforded the luxury of driving on a regular basis. Now that I’m on the road a lot more, I’ve observed more of the social elements of driving, and I’m finding them fascinating.

Let me start by saying that learning to drive was not easy for me. For one thing, I’m short. I have a hard time seeing over the dashboard and down the hood in some cars, and I have to be pretty darned close to the steering wheel to reach the pedals. I’ve actually had to learn to find a happy medium with this so that I’m a minimum distance away from the steering wheel, otherwise the airbag would kill me in an accident.

I’m also a pretty cautious person. Some people might label me neurotic, but I think that’s a bit harsh. I’m simply the kind of person who wants to think long and hard about decisions, and ascertain whether or not a situation is safe before entering into it. Southern Ontario has some of the most congested and dangerous highways in North America, and so, driving above a certain speed on the freeway with nut bars weaving in and out of traffic at 30km over the speed limit was not an easy sell for me.

The first time I was left alone with the car, my awkwardness got me into a pretty sticky situation. I was going to school in Oakville at the time, and my husband was house-sitting in St. Catharines, which is about an hour away on the freeway, for those of you not from the area. In the entire month that he was gone, I had one evening to drive down and see him. Petrified, and feeling a bit nuts to be embarking on such a journey, I set out on the back roads, about a 2 1/2 to 3 hour trip. Everything was going as well as could be expected, until I reached a literal fork in the road.

There is a place in the road at Burlington, about a half hour out from where I was living at the time, that  if you want to turn South, you have to essentially use a freeway exit, and then veer off onto the service road before entering the highway proper. I got confused, and went the wrong way, and so I pulled into a driveway to call a relative for directions. Everything was fine until I went to pull out again… and that was when the fun started.

You see, I hadn’t taken into account that the driveway I had pulled into was on an upward slant. And so, when I went to back out into the opposite lane of traffic, I went too fast, got vapor locked and ended up stalled out, backwards, facing the oncoming traffic. At this point, I decided the car was less important than my life, and bailed out.

I was very lucky that traffic was moving slowly enough, and people were observant enough that they simply veered around my car instead of crashing into it. After about thirty seconds, the car kicked back into gear and began creeping forward at about 5km an hour. Toward a tree. I jumped back in, somehow got it back into the driveway, and spent the next ten minutes hyperventilating. I can’t even imagine what the people on that road must have been thinking.

And before you ask, yes, I’ve always had the magical ability to complicate any situation into absurdity by finding the most unlikely thing that could possibly go wrong. It’s a gift, thank you for noticing.

However, when it comes to driving, with practice I eventually pushed through and found the proper energy flow to deal with it. In fact, I find driving kind of a rush now… I managed to connect it to my lust for problem solving, and from then on, I was hooked. I moved on to get my full license, and I also moved on to freeway driving. When I did, I saw something new and fascinating that I’d never really connected with before.

I thought I knew all there was to know about freeway driving from observation. But after I started driving on them, I realized that when I used to observe freeways like the QEW and the 406 as a passenger, I was unconnected to the vast social ballet that is performed every single day on our roads. I was seeing the jerks weaving in and out of traffic, but I wasn’t seeing the hundreds of good, alert, prepared drivers staying aware of them and staying out of the way. I was feeling the lurch of high-speed travel, but not the rush of being part of an un-choreographed, 100km-an-hour dance, a flock of migrating metal birds.

Think of all the thousands, the tens of thousands of people who use our roads every day, and the unique challenges they face, either physically, or from the outside environment and other drivers, and then think of how many accidents actually happen on those roads. Lately, whenever I’ve caught myself thinking dark thoughts about humanity, or feeling abandoned when I most need help, I remember that day when I was facing backwards in traffic and inching toward a tree, and nobody ran into me. I remember how many bad drivers actually live to drive badly another day, because of the care of others around them, and I feel a little better.