Early Slippage

Should I be reassured or frightened that I was worried about getting dementia five years ago? In searching for blog material, I found this essay, written September 11, 2013, for my Wednesday writing group. Warning: it’s a little tedious unless you like to read about traffic in West Los Angeles.

I had slippage during my summer vacation. A shift mentally and physically. I’m forgetting more and having more trouble with directions, judging space and distance. I’m getting weaker and slower. I lose my balance more. I’m slipping.

I’m a little depressed too, maybe because of the slippage. I can’t remember which came first, which caused which—the slippage or the depression. I may be able to un-depress, but I don’t think I can un-slip.

I cope by over-managing, strategizing. I over-punctuate. I’m the only person I know who uses colons and semicolons in emails. I study my calendar several times a day as if it were a Bible and I were a new Christian. I make lists. I mapquest. I don’t use Siri yet; she annoys me.

When I drive to a tennis club for an away match, even if I’ve been there before, I write the address and street turns on a sticky note and stick it on my purse. I write the directions in large letters so I can see them without my reading glasses.

I don’t have to write the directions from Manhattan Beach to my Wednesday writing group yet, but it frightens me to drive on the freeway now. With my new electric car, I can drive in the car pool lane. The problem is that I have to cross five lanes of traffic to the left to get to the car pool lane before the airport exits, where traffic slows for 15 or 20 minutes.

Then I have to get out of the car pool lane at the right time, again crossing five lanes of traffic to the right to get to the Washington Street exit. Confident young bastards without dementia cross quickly in front of me all the time, but I study my rearview and side mirrors for so long, looking for a two- or three-car opening, that I lose my opportunity to cross and then have to take real chances, setting off a cacophony of horn honking. I don’t trust my judgment about space.

If I get to the far right lane too late and miss the Washington exit, I have to go north of Washington and come back south. I can’t find my destination coming from the north, only from the south. It’s as if the street disappears coming from the north because it’s not a through street and because of all those Washington streets and avenues and places.

I planned a strategy this morning. You can’t enter or exit the car pool lane willy-nilly anywhere you want to, only when the double yellow lines are broken. I had noticed that the signs above the freeway announcing the car pool lane correspond with where the yellow lines are broken. I decided I would memorize the last exit before Washington that will give me enough time to cross the five lanes to the right.   The last exit is Jefferson Street. I must write Jefferson on a sticky note and stick it on my writing group notebook, I thought.

I meant to see if enough exits between Jefferson and Washington allowed me sufficient time to make the death-defying cross to the right. But my mind wandered. I was distracted by the Blue Collar radio station on Sirius, which I get free for a year with my new Nisson Leaf. Dr. Frugal turns that station off when he drives the car, and I turn it back on. Larry the Cable Guy told a good story about having explosive diarrhea in what he called the crippled stall where he liked having the rails for leverage.

Or maybe I was distracted because I was rehearsing what I wanted to write this morning. I do that on Wednesday mornings driving to the group. So I still don’t know if I have enough exits between Jefferson and Washington to avoid risking death or crippling. Maybe I will take the beach route next week.

When I rehearsed what I would write this morning, it was about slippage in tennis. I wish I had written about that. I think it would have been more interesting than freeway traffic because tennis would have had people in it.

I just asked the group leader how long we would have to write and if we all would read, but she looked at me as if I had asked her how many exits were between Jefferson and Washington. I needed to know so I could plan the scope of my story. Maybe I could have still worked in tennis. Now our time is up and I’ve overshot my exits again. I’ve written a boring story about lanes and exits.

Current 2018 update: I now have a Map App on my I Phone. On the rare occasions I take the freeway, I avoid the car pool lane and drive in the slower lanes.


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