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Ninja Driving Skills

Jun 22nd, 2012 | By | Category: Nick Kemper's Blog

Yesterday I went in for my weekly acupuncture visit, which I am becoming very addicted to, oddly enough. I have needle-phobia to a high extent — to the point that I went in for a recent doctor visit and respectfully declined to have my blood drawn for a cholesterol check. I was only there to get a referral for the acupuncture for my insurance, and to meet my new doctor. The nurse seemed shocked when I said “no thanks.”

“You’re declining the test?”


It made me think about how we all just go along with whatever we’re told to do in those cold, little exam rooms.

Anyway, I don’t like needles. When my wife got an epidural during childbirth and they had her sit up and lean forward against me while they inserted a dagger-like needle into her spine, I almost fainted and I couldn’t even see the needle. Now that is the power of visualization. They made me sit on the floor until I could compose myself.

So it seems a little odd that I enjoy acupuncture. I went in originally for neck pain, and it does help for that, but more, it helps me with stress and energy and just an overall feeling of health and well being. I highly recommend it. Yesterday I almost fell asleep lying face-down, needles in my neck, shoulders, back, hands, legs and feet, with electrical pulses being pumped into a few of the needles, and a heat lamp a few inches over my upper back. It was serene.

It was always a challenge, when I drove a tow truck every day, to stay in good shape. Driving is not a job that lends itself well to physical fitness. I remember joining a health club, and the health club rep interviewed me to design a program for me. He asked my about my job and I told him what I did, embellishing it as much as possible. You know — getting out of the truck, strapping the car, throwing the dollies, getting back in the truck, etc.

“So,” he said, “sedentary.”

Sedentary?! Sometimes I breathed hard and even sweated, when it was busy. The nerve. Sedentary.

Eating healthy is also a challenge when you’re a driver. You can bring your lunch, but you throw it behind the seat and someone drops a lug wrench on it, or your Tupperware leaks. If you bring something to be warmed up and you can’t make it to the office microwave, cold pork chops sometimes just don’t hit the spot.

So you end up going to the drive-through a lot. If I were going to dine out while I was working, back before I had kids, when I had money of my own, I preferred gourmet take-out like Escape From New York Pizza, or Lovejoy Deli sandwiches, or Yakitori Bento. That required time, however, and getting out of the truck so I often settled for Wendy’s or Burger King or Carl’s Jr. Last night I was driving my eight-year-old home from baseball practice and changing CDs: taking one out of the CD player, finding a CD case on the floor behind the passenger-seat, looking at the CDs in the door pocket, putting another CD in, and he asked, “Dad, how did you get so ninja, doing all that stuff when you’re driving?” Now, I’ve spent the better part of my life fumbling around in the dark, both figuratively and literally, but I’d have to attribute this skill set to my years in the tow truck, driving, eating, talking on the radio, reading the pager, changing the radio station, running the in-cab controls, holding a cup of coffee, writing up an invoice, and checking out the girls on the sidewalk simultaneously. The real trick is when you drop your pen, and it slides all the way across the bench seat and drops over next to the passenger door, and you have to unbuckle, slide over, use your left hand to steer and your left foot to work the pedals, reach way over and snag that pen without stopping, slowing down or crashing into something.

And it’s real tricky when you have a Suburban on the hook. Now, I am in no way suggesting you do this. I cannot bear any legal, ethical or philosophical responsibility for you not being as ninja as I am. Heck, I have driven a tow truck from outside the cab — not intentionally, but it worked out that way, and no deaths resulted.

Eating is really the true test of your ninja-driving skills. You don’t want to eat too fast — it’s bad for you — and you can’t savor the flavor of the chemicals fast-food companies inject into their food for you. Too slow is just as bad — cold french fries can kill the mood of an entire work shift. You don’t want to get grease on the steering wheel, window switch, door handle, seat, stereo knobs or rearview mirror. My recommendation is to eat only with the right hand, and use only the left hand for everything else, at least until the right hand can be properly de-greased. This can be tough if you’re driving a stick, but it can be done. Also, you want the burger and fries laid out on the flattened paper sack that it came in. This is why I don’t eat Taco Bell. I don’t need no stinking plastic bag sliding around on the seat. Flatten out that sack, place the burger on the downhill end, either in its box with the top open or on the open wrapper. Lay the fries container on its side, pointing uphill, so that the burger box keeps it from sliding down. Then, the coup de grace is getting the ketchup down onto the sack, touching the leading edge of the fries, so when you grab a fry blind, you can sweep it through the ketchup, with a long, thin layering that prevents dripping as you pull it out of the box. It’s best to get the ketchup down before you leave the parking lot, but emptying the packets in motion can be done with the right combination of dexterity and frame of mind. Waste disposal involves simply picking up the sack, with the garbage on it, wadding it into a ball and tossing it onto the passenger-side floor to forget about it when you finish your shift.

For the more advanced Ninja, you can reduce the grease transfer from the burger to your hand by balancing it on the tips of your thumb and first three fingers. As you bite, you rotate the hand to grip the burger ever-so-lightly, just enough to be able to break off the mouthful without disturbing the integrity of the burger assembly, then return the hand to underneath the burger with the aforementioned fingertip method. This keeps the grease on the burger and then into your stomach where it belongs.

You can sign up for my online Ninja courses, which include:

• Peeling a Banana (related subject: Discarding the Peel)

• Removing the Plastic Lid of your Full Coffee to Blow on it

• Pudding

• Pistachios (prerequisite Course: Sunflower Seeds and Related Nut Products)

• Unrolling your Burrito to apply Hot Sauce

• The Dropped Pickle: Recovery Techniques

• Found Food (Lab Course additional)

• Where to Hang your Donut

• Advanced Bowl of Cereal

And, outside of the Food realm:

• The Glove Box

• Visor: Not Just for Blocking the Sun

• Clothes Changing

• Left My Invoice Book Behind the Seat, but Too Lazy to Stop to Retrieve It

• Flashlight Battery Installation

• Soda Can Toss into the Recovery Chain Bucket

Have a safe and profitable week.

Nick Kemper