Sunday, November 14, 2010

General News Clip - Reader's Pet Peeves "Honk, Honk! Watch It, Ok?"

Honk, honk! Watch It, OK?: Reader's pet peeves
Greensboro News & Record (NC)-November 14, 2010
Edition: Greensboro Edtion Variation
Section: General News
Page: A15


        Dalton Malloy peers out from under his shaggy brown hair, his hands gripping the wheel at 10 and 2, as he prepares to turn right onto Spencer Dixon Road. Toward downtown. At rush hour.

        Here are some of things that are going through the head of this Northern Guilford High School freshman: following distance, space cushion, stopping distance.

        In the backseat, Will Birchfield anxiously waits for his turn behind the wheel.

        Pretty heavy stuff for two 14-year-olds.

        Luckily, the co-pilot for the journey is a little more seasoned at this driving thing.

        After 354,000 miles of teaching driver's education for the N.C. Driving School, Charles Davenport Sr. has seen some of the worst habits on the road, mostly from drivers other than his students.

        If you asked folks around here what their driving pet peeves are - and we did - you would be inundated with responses: Tailgating. Speeding. And did we mention the lack of turn signals?

        Davenport was just one of the readers who answered our query, lamenting the state of our local driving situation with his response:

        "Just because your left hand is occupied holding that cell phone to your ear does not mean you are exempt from signaling your turns. Moron!"

        And before his three-hour lesson with Dalton and Will was over, he saw several other doozies from licensed drivers who could have learned a thing or two from his class.

        Davenport's mighty hand is ready to grab the wheel of the 2-ton projectile at a moment's notice. Just in case.

        His foot hovers above the passenger-side dual safety brake pedal, ready to stop the white Ford Taurus with the triangular white-and-blue sign on top.

        But it isn't really the teenagers that worry Davenport. After all, he's the one teaching them good habits.

        It's those other guys.

        Davenport may be starting off at a bit of a disadvantage, says Greensboro police officer J.B. Price. The traffic safety unit pro says that as human beings, we are visual learners and simply mimic what we see.

        "The problem is the students are learning the bad habits of their parents," Price says.

        If their parents think it's OK to go 10 miles over the speed limit, then the new drivers will think so, too.

        Dalton continues south toward downtown, eagerly awaiting each direction from his Zen-like instructor, who points out changing speed limits, road signs and pedestrians along the shoulder like points of interest on a guided tour.

        The conversation turns to following distances and stopping at traffic lights.

        Remember, Davenport says, "If you can't see the tires of the car in front of you, you are too close."

        Traffic gets heavier as they continue south toward Moses Cone Hospital. Davenport has been looking in the rear view mirror, watching the fast approach of a black car. Soon, it is a little too close to their car for comfort - yet another pet peeve.

        "Tailgating. Don't get me started on that. If I have to slam on my brakes due to an emergency and you are 6 feet off my rear bumper, guess who is at fault when you crash into my car? Moron!"

        Speeding and following too closely are the most common driving errors, Price says. In fact, they cause 60 percent of crashes.

        "For whatever reason, people don't have a concept of reaction time," he says.

        Soon afterward, a red truck with a Virginia license plate cuts in front of the clearly marked driver's education car. Davenport helps Dalton alert the driver that he erred by applying firm pressure to the horn.

        Davenport says his car is a magnet for "idiot driving" because people make unsafe maneuvers to try to avoid it.

        His voice is firm but reassuring as he reminds his students to keep their speed constant and check their blind spots as they are changing lanes, one of the hardest things to teach new drivers, he says.

        Davenport stretches out in the Taurus, feeling a little more comfortable in this "office" than he has in his two previous mobile classrooms.

        When you are 6 feet, 5 inches tall, 60,000 miles in a Ford Escort can feel a little cramped. Another of his cars, a Ford Focus, was finally retired after 178,000 student miles. So far, this little beauty is up to 116,000.

        He's hoping for a Lamborghini next time. With the triangular sign perched right on top.

        As Dalton pulls up to a red light behind a police car, Will, who has been sitting silently in the back seat, offers this sage advice: "Don't hit that car."

        Traffic is getting heavier, so it's time for a break at Yum Yum near UNCG. Then it will be Will's turn to drive.

        He gulps after scooting the seat up, fastening his seatbelt and checking his mirrors. He eases the gearshift down and prepares to back out of the parking space near a busy garage with lots of pedestrians.

        Dalton, now serving as an actual backseat driver, helps by telling Will when it's clear.

        Will approaches a shiny silver Mercedes with a little more speed than Davenport might like.

        "If you're gonna hit a car, hit a cheap one," Davenport says.

        Soon, it's time to tackle some tough downtown hazards: railroad tracks, right-hand turns (eight floors of them in the Bellemeade Street parking deck), and traffic circles.

        If General Greene could talk, he would have some stories to tell about the traffic violations he's seen from his perch on the Greene Street circle.

        Yet another peeve.

        "There are some really bad drivers in this area and we seem to get more bad drivers every day."

        But are drivers in Greensboro any worse than anywhere else?

        Price's theory is that everyone thinks everyone else out there is an idiot. "We just develop poor habits, inattention and have an arrogance of our experience," he says.

        The sun starts to set, and it's time to head back to school.

        The posted speed limit on the two-lane road within the city limits is still 35 mph. Dalton is maintaining his speed.

        A truck approaches in a passing zone, and tears past the car.

        It was in a legal place to do so, but that driver was certainly exceeding a safe speed when he passed, Davenport says, sighing.

        "The absolute, total disregard for the speed limit in Greensboro. It is not unusual to be passed in a 35 mph zone by vehicles traveling 50+ mph."

        Today's lesson is over.

        One more on-road session (three-point turns and backing in a straight line are on the agenda), and Will and Dalton, who have since turned 15, were cleared to go to the DMV on their birthdays.

        Davenport thinks they will be good drivers.

        They'll just have to look out for everyone else.

 Contact Janet Brindle Reddick at 373-7370 or

  Editor's note: Will got his provisional permit on Nov. 4.

Copyright (c) 2010 Greensboro News & Record

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Getting the hang of it

OK. So I've got two real, live posts up on the paper's Web site. Why is it that I feel like for some reason that it is more legit and nerve-wracking because it is there? It's not like people are going to FLOCK to that blog either - historically the paper's blogs have not been a real hotbed of readership.

But I feel a lot more exposed putting it out there than putting this out here. I guess this is just a little more anonymous. I mean, I don't have it blocked. (I DO have my facebook and twitter blocked, so that's a little more private.)

Anyway, I SWEAR I WILL post my trip report from Hilton Head soon. I wrote down a rough synopsis with Jay when I got back from Jersey on Monday night. So as soon as I post my school assignment this week, I'll start it. :)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I did it!

OK. I finally did it. And this is a little bizarre. Now I'm putting up a blog post on my personal blog about starting a blog for work. And then it's going to post on Facebook so that people can come to my personal blog, but there will be a link to my blog at work. I think eventually, our brains will actually ooze out of our heads.

If you go to the site and give me hits, I might not get laid off this year. Please and thank you. :)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


So the IT folks have created the logo for Scenic Route, and the copy is finalized for the title.

Looks like I'll really be launching it on the paper's Web site sometime next week! I'm really excited, but also a little nervous. What if nobody reads it? What if people read it, and they think it is super lame?

Also, if I am doing it as part of my job, am I going to resent having to do it?

I guess I'll just have to wait and see. For now, I have a list of ideas to write about to get me started, and lots of stories from AP that I can post in case I can't come up with anything. So that's comforting. :)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

One down, one to go

So I just sent my final project for one of my classes this semester, which means I'll finally be able to catch my breath as my second class gears up. Terrorism is over. Sustainable living is next. (Yes, I WAS taking a diverse class load this semester).

This one is over in late April. Then one class over the summer and one in the fall, and I'm done!

So, now that I'm down to one class, I'll be able to start work on the travel blog for work, which should be operational soon. AND, I'll be able to write a mini trip report from our fabulous trip to Hilton Head, which may be the strangest place I've ever been.

Pretty, yes. But it's just so elite and so private, I can't imagine living there. I guess that's the draw for a lot of people. But I can't imagine living somewhere where there is a $5 gate fee for people to come into your neighborhood. Seriously?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Hilton Head awaits

Before we go on our Hilton Head getaway, I have lots of school work, laundry, packing, etc. to do. And I have absolutely NO planning done for this vacation. Which is a very odd experience for me. Usually, I have some kind of itinerary in my head. So I figure I'll be a little more like an average tourist, and we'll go where the days take us.

We leave Sunday and come back Thursday. But we're super excited to be staying at one of the properties included in our Disney Vacation Club. But in the meantime, wish me luck while I'm cracking the books. I hope to write about our trip when I get back to get in the habit for the travel blog.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


I have committed to an actual blog-writing project for work. This means I will actually have to write on a regular basis instead of just reading other peoples blogs and making snarky comments or clicking "like."


The good news is, it's something that I actually am interested in, and pitched - a travel blog. So now I can get paid for something I enjoy. Isn't that what people say you should do?

It's gonna be called "Scenic Route" and it'll be linked to through the paper's web site, in a couple of weeks. Gulp. Ideas from those of you who do this are are appreciated. Thanks!

Friday, January 29, 2010

General News: Jesse Jackson remembers Greensboro sit-ins

Greensboro News & Record (NC)

January 29, 2010

Edition: Special Section 15

        The civil rights movement wasn't born in Greensboro. And it didn't end here.

        "But the student movement in Greensboro lit the flame," the Rev. Jesse Jackson said. "Once the flame was lit, it caught fire. It unleashed a dynamic."

        Jackson was a freshman at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign when four N.C. A&T students walked into F.W. Woolworth on Elm Street and sat down at the lunch counter on Feb. 1, 1960. He transferred to A&T that fall and became a part of the community fighting for civil rights.

        "Greensboro set the pace for the movement," he said.

        By the time he was a senior, Jackson was student body president, and he was a leader during the second wave of civil rights protests in Greensboro, fighting for desegregation of theaters and cafeterias.

        During one march in June 1963, Jackson said, he remembers leading a group of hundreds of people up Market Street. The state police were there, and they had their dogs with them. He said that as he looked one of the dogs in the eyes, he felt no fear.

        "It was my own quest for dignity and a quest for history," Jackson recalled. That was the season he truly emerged as a leader, he said.

        "I came out of Greensboro," he said. "It was my launching pad. All that I subsequently became in the movement came out of the lessons I learned in Greensboro."

        Each event and every person involved in the civil rights movement built on one another, Jackson said. Remembering the work as a whole is the importance of the International Civil Rights Center & Museum.

        "Feb. 1 is a landmark. The Woolworth's became a defining symbol of our struggle for us and for students around the world," he said. "But Greensboro is also within the context of a larger movement."

        The message traveled from Montgomery to Greensboro to Birmingham to Selma.

        Jackson recalls an incident in October 1959 involving baseball great Jackie Robinson. Robinson was in Greenville, S.C., speaking to the NAACP, and he went to the Greenville airport with the Rev. and Mrs. James Hall for his flight home.

        Mrs. Hall sat down in the whites- only waiting room and was told by a police officer to leave. She refused and was joined by her husband and Robinson, who also refused to leave.

        Robinson's involvement got the public's attention, and on Jan. 1, 1960, local leaders organized a march on the airport.

        That happened before the protest at Woolworth, Jackson said, but "there was something special, almost mystical, about the Greensboro sit-ins. They cleared the fog, and the wind blew, and the whole South was aglow."

        As Jackson looks back 50 years later, he can reflect on the accomplishments for which he marched.

        The winter before the sit-ins, he was unable to have timely access to books at the public library for a report he was writing for college. That summer, he was jailed for trying to use the same public library.

        "When I transferred to A&T, I already had felt the insult of segregation and the liberating power of going to jail for dignity," he said.

        In January 2009, 49 years after the sit-ins, a black president was inaugurated.

        Jackson plans to be here to mark the opening of the museum and to celebrate.

        "We changed the world," Jackson said. "The movement never stopped. We kept removing walls and building bridges. We democratized democracy."

       Copyright (c) 2010 Greensboro News & Record