USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘driving’
Folk speech
Humor

Ukrainian Driving Joke

Informant is a 19 year old college student who grew up to the age of 11 in a small village outside Kiev, Ukraine. He speaks in a mild Ukranian accent and currently attends Rutgers University. This is a joke he tells which according to him “only makes sense if you grew up in Ukraine.”

“In other countries, the sober driver goes in a straight line and when you drive drunk you swerve. In Ukraine, the drunk man goes straight and the sober man swerves!….. Get it? Because of all the potholes.”

Although I didn’t get the joke at first, I do like it. I assume the joke is a bit of an exaggeration, but already I have some idea about the quality of infrastructure in his birth town. Informant says he got the joke from his dad, who is sitting in the other room and does not speak English. Although my informant was not very old when he left Ukraine, he says he was old enough to remember “sights and sounds” from when he was younger.

general

Driving rule in Jamaica

TK is my dad. Before moving to the United States his previous job required him to travel a lot. Luckily he enjoys traveling.

 

This past winter break the whole family gathered in New York and for New Years went on a family vacation to Jamaica. On the flight my dad and uncle shared their stories of their previous visits to Jamaica. On TK’s last visit to Jamaica he was in Kingston and one of the taxi drivers told his an interesting saying about driving in Jamaica.

 

“He told me that when it comes to driving in Jamaica there is one major rule you need to know if you plan on driving. “The left side is the right side, and the right side is suicide.””

 

As in the UK, traffic on Jamaica travels on the left in right hand drive vehicles. So if you drove on the right side, which is the wrong side haha, you will most likely have a car crash; thus being the suicide side. When we landed in Montego Bay the driver to the hotel resort told us the same saying. So obviously it is a popular saying there and how wouldn’t it be it rhymes, it’s catchy, funny and true.

Legends
Narrative

Rest Stop Stalker

Background:

My informant is a twenty-one year old USC student; she’s studying human biology and is currently applying to medical school. She was born in Macedonia, and immigrated to the Long Beach, CA with her mother and stepfather at the age of five. Her father still lives and works as a doctor in Macedonia, and my informant visits each summer. She speaks the language fluently.

Performance:

“So my boyfriend spends a lot of time on Reddit, and sometimes he’ll send me the weird shit he finds; like memes, videos, etc. One of his favorite things to do when he’s bored is read, like, ghost stories and scary stories and that kind of thing. He sent me this really scary one a few months back that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about. I don’t remember it, like, word for word, but I’ll send you the link. It’s — it’ll bug you out.”

(I ask her to tell me what she remembers of the story)

“Okay, so it’s about this guy who works in the city but lives like, hours and hours away in another state so he drives home every weekend and stays in the city for work. So one time, he was driving back into the city and had to stop and pee. So he’s in the bathroom and he sees, um, this like drawing thing, a super profane drawing with a note that said something like ‘I want to fuck you’ or ‘I want your cock’ or something, and it was in super neat handwriting and well-spelled — basically, like, not your typical graffiti in a rest-stop bathroom. It was also dated so the guy knew that whoever did the drawing had done it like, that day a few hours before. The guy leaves and gets in the car, which had a University of Michigan sticker on it, or something. So he keeps driving and has to pee again and stops at another rest stop. He’s peeing and he sees another piece of graffiti but this time it’s a super intense picture of someone who’s literally been ripped apart…like, um, guts everywhere and stuff…and the notes in the same handwriting as the last one said like ‘I want to eat your intestines’ and like ‘I want to fuck your corpse’ and really gruesome shit. The date/time on the wall were only from an hour or so ago. The guy’s freaked the fuck out, so he gets in the car but when he passes the next rest stop he’s curious so he gets out and goes into the bathroom and finds a huge message written in shit on the wall that says like ‘almost there, Michigan! You’re so close!’ like whoever wrote it knew that the guy would stop and knew exactly who he was and was taunting him…so the guy runs out of the bathroom and to his car and he hears like muffled laughter coming from in the bushes. On the last stretch of the trip he sees a car pulled over on the side of the road and a guy standing in front of it with brown stains all over him…as the guy passes the guy on the side of the road yells ‘FUCK YOU MICHIGAN!’ and starts laughing hysterically….there was something wrong with his face, like his eyes were wrong or he had too many teeth…something about him that just wasn’t quite…human, maybe? So like whatever it was that was like stalking him the whole time was just trying to torment him for no real reason…just because he could. Or it could, I guess (laughter).”

Thoughts:

Neither me nor my informant could find the link to the original story on reddit, but did find the story on another website: (http://adequateman.deadspin.com/a-rest-stop-stalker-and-more-of-your-real-life-horror-1738356933). While looking through Reddit, however, I was stunned by the sheer volume of collected folklore on the site. There are thousands and thousands of ghost stories and legends that are shared and discussed between users. It doesn’t surprise me in the slightest that, when bored, someone would go through and look for engaging piece of folklore on Reddit. This story is terrifying because it’s incredibly contemporary; it features rest stops, road trips, and time-stamped stalking. The story is geographically non-specific. This is a world we’ve seen and could recognize; we can imagine his terror and picture ourselves as victims of the same stalker. And most importantly, we can believe that this may have really happened to someone at some time in some area of the country. It’s a terrifying Urban Legend.

general

Using Car Horns in Indonesia

The informant is a 26-year old web developer who has spent much time traveling for work.


 

What was driving in Indonesia like?

BF: Indonesia was excellent. I never drove, I was always in a taxi. The funny thing is… everyone honks on the roads. Here it’s offensive or rude or abrasive–but everyone is doing it all the time in Indonesia. Sounds like New York City, with all the horns.

Were the roads different in any other way?

BF: Yeah, driving was also really tough because the cards weren’t as good and the roads were relatively shoddy. I guess that’s why everyone honks so much more. It’s funny how it’s not a gesture of rudeness there, but just the way people drive.

 


 

Video demonstrating the extreme use of car horns in Indonesia

general

Whippoorwill Road

I collected this folklore from my friend who grew up in New Jersey, in Monmouth County. She told a story about a road near her county (she believed the road was either in Middletown or Navesink)

“In my town in New Jersey, well not my town, but my county essentially, there’s a street that we call Whippoorwill, I believe on a map it would come up as Cooper Road, but it’s called Whippoorwill. And it’s a dirt road behind a lot of farm type areas, a lot of small horse farms and stuff, but it’s also off a major highway which is kind of strange…

So, teenagers have a tradition of driving down Whippoorwill at night and the rumor is that weird things always happen when you drive there. People will drive down it, and it’s narrow enough that it’s almost a one-way, so a really common thing that people say happens is that you’ll park, just to look around or to scare the crap out of whoever’s in the car with you, and you’ll sit there and people say that cars will come and facing you will turn on and off their lights and do creepy things and then turn around and disappear.

Other people have said that the reason people used to get creeped out by the road is because through the woods that surround you on Whippoorwill, if you walked through you would end up at a house that used to be a Ku Klux Klan meeting house. Don’t know if that’s actually true…but people would claim they saw scary things or people in hoods or scary looking people or maybe like a fire in a distance and it was assumed that you were possibly stumbling upon a KKK meeting, which is obviously a very frightening thing to stumble upon.

I’ve driven down it multiple times with multiple different people and it’s usually that whoever’s driving the car is usually the one in control and they park, shut off their lights to scare whoever else is in the car, I’ve seen people get out and run through the woods to scare the people in the car and things like that.”

Q: How do you decide to go down that road?

“It’s kind of one of those things where you know, you’re like 17, 18, you just got your license and you want to drive but you don’t have anywhere to go, so it’s like nighttime and there’s no parties or anything, so you say, oh let’s drive down Whippoorwill. So someone in the car is obviously going to protest and say please, no, don’t take me there and then you have to take them there to scare them”

There a few different types of folklore happening in this piece. First, the behavior of the teenages driving down the road seems like a folk ritual or folk game, since there are certain kinds of things that are supposed to happen on the road, and those things are passed between the different teenagers who take each other there. The belief about the KKK meeting house is a kind of legend, since it might be true, but it would be difficult to verify or prove it.

 

Childhood
general
Narrative
Tales /märchen

The Ghost Road Less Traveled

Context: It was late one rainy Tuesday night in early November when I first approached my roommate of 3 months [the Informant] to tell me a ghost story. Like most questions proposed to my roommate, when I asked him if he knew any good stories or spirit encounters, I was met with an immediate enthusiasm for the task at hand. The Informant clearly had something he wished to present to me. Wasting very little time at all, my Informant swooped up one of the desk chairs, lowered the lights, and began sharing with me his personal ghost story. As I recorded his audio and movement, the only light in the room came from the soft glow of the LCD display on my video camera and the desk lamp which sat behind the Informant for dramatic effect. The sounds of rain  tapping against the roof and windows of the New Residence Hall could be faintly heard in the distance. What follows is the story as it was presented to me:

Interview Verbatim:

Me: “Start, whenever you are ready.”

Informant: “So, this is a personal story of mine. I was driving to a friend’s house at night, really late. I had all my windows down and uh… and uh… this was like at the point, I think this was like last year because this was the point in my life, where my eyes, my vision was getting worse and so uh… I was not driving with glasses, but uh… I was very close to my grandparent’s house, and I’ve had weird experiences in their house, as well, cause their house is like legitimately haunted. Like they even say it was, they’ve known it from like little kids, like they’d see weird shit in their windows, like people’s faces (looking out) when they were like outside, and apparently they’d bought it like near or like on top of an old Indian burial ground or land, and so that was not ah… not ah… a thrilling point for me. So I’m like literally, I’m like not even a minute like to their house is here ( he holds up a hand to represent the house)  and I’m on the road to go to it, here (holds up another hand to represent his car). So I just see like a, like this fucking thing just like run across the street, while I’m like driving, in my headlights and I’m like ‘Oh fuck!’ and I brake cause I thought, I’m almost certain at this point that it’s a deer, and I hear like a scream and I’m just like, ‘What the fuck is happening?!’ cause I hear like something hit the car, and I hear this like… literally, I thought it was like a baby dear or it sounded to me like a little child had screamed cause it was like, (gets out of chair to make ghost noise) ‘Mmmmeeeeaaaaa!!!’, so I was just like, ‘What the hell was that?!’ (begins to laugh) Hahaha! I freak out because I’m like ‘Did I just kill a deer?’, and I just like get out of the car and there is like literally nothing there. There’s no dent in my car, no trail of any sort, there’s no deer running around, and I’m just like… and I’m just like…’What is happening!’ (holds hands on his head)

Me: “What do you think it was? What you saw, I mean.”

Informant: “I think it was like the ghost of a little Indian child, now that I think about it, because when I think about like the imagery, I didn’t see like a deer. I kind of saw like this blur, like run and it had like a scream which scared the crap out of me, and then I heard a thud, so I thought I hit something and so it freaked me out.”

Me: “Do you think that it had anything to do with you being on top of the Indian burial site or near to the site?”

Informant: “Oh absolutely, without a doubt. I’ve had so many weird experiences on that road.”

Me: “Where is this road?”

Informant: “A place called Fair Oaks, in Texas. And Fair Oaks has been there for like a long time too, so there’s a lot of old land out there. So I wouldn’t be surprised about all the shit that goes on out there.”

Analysis: After hearing this story and reviewing it, I’m not really sure what to make of it. All the pieces are in place in order to create a very frightening experience, but the “skeptic” within me points to this being a simple misidentification. The fact that the Informant prefaced the story by addressing his loss of eyesight seems to indicate that this may just have been a large bird or unknown creature making its way across the road which was not seen clearly. What is, however, very interesting is the sound that supposedly accompanied the apparition, as it crossed the road and the thud he experienced from within the car. This may have possibly been a direct result of him applying the brakes very quickly and having his car jolt to a sudden stop, but it does add some credibility to the encounter. The fact that this encounter directly correlates to the former site of an Indian burial ground also seems to give this experience some validity. The Informant appeared to be shaken from this event and believes this to be evidence of the paranormal.

Folk speech
general
Humor

Nautical play on words

Jennifer has been a close friend of my mother’s since childhood and has always been an aunt-like figure in my life. Multiple members of her family have at one point babysat for me as I was growing up and our joint families have often celebrated holidays together. Currently a 55 year old, Christian white (though with Native American Indian heritage on her biological father’s side) woman who works in Escrow in Glendale, CA, she grew up in La Crescenta, CA.

Jennifer also, essentially, grew up on boats. Her family owned a boat, a beach house in Newport Beach area, and a place in Avalon, on Catalina Island, and she frequently spent time on the boat and going to and from Catalina during the summer. Her father also had a fishing charter boat on which he would take out people that wanted to go fishing, and, she said, “my mother would have been involved with boats for forty years.”

She related to me a sort of joke, or pun, that her mother used to make while on the road, driving, that makes a play on nautical vernacular:

“Oh, what’s in the road? A head?”

This is a pun on the phrase “Oh, what’s in the road ahead?” an expression that comes from looking out the window of the car, down the road, and wondering what lies up ahead. However, as a member of a  nautical family, at least in this usage, she’s not referring to a physiological human head, but rather the “head” from a boat, or the toilet. Thus, as Jennifer says about her mother, “By pausing when she does [between the “a” and the “head” of “ahead”], it sounds like there’s a toilet up ahead, in the road.” Jennifer relates that this joke is very typical of her mother, “Things like that, I grew up with, where she [my mother] would constantly…basically, be quizzing us and having fun with words, and seeing how you can change it, change the meaning by simply pausing or stretching a vowel.”

Customs

Driving under a yellow light

Informant Bio

My informant was born and raised in the small town of Hanford, California. She describes it as a town so small that everyone knows each others’ business. The industry there is largely rural, and my informant belongs to a wealthy family that owns a successful mill. She spent much of her time as a teenager with her friends driving around the country roads because there was nothing much else to do.

A Driving Gesture

My informant was driving us to an event when I saw her kiss her ring finger. I asked her why she did it and she told me that she does it every time she drive under a yellow light. We had talked in my Forms of Folklore class about the practice of hitting the ceiling of the car when you drive through an intersection, and that there are variations that make this a game (to see who hits the ceiling first). When I told my informant this, she told me that its different in her town.

My informant explained to me that she had a friend in high school who kissed the ring on her ring finger every time she drove through an intersection. Though she never knew why her friend did this, my informant suspected, based on her personality, that she preferred kissing her hand to hitting the roof of her car because it would be easier on her hand. Sadly, this girl was killed in a car accident in town when she tried to beat a yellow light. Ever since her death my informant, and many of the young people in town who knew the girl, have taken up the practice of kissing their ring finger when they drive through an intersection when the street light is yellow.

This variation on the common gesture acts as a severe reminder to the people of Hanford of the poor girl’s memory. I believe that the practice may have once inspired some guilt in those who would speed up to beat a yellow light instead of slowing down; guilt over not being more cautious. However several years later I cannot say that I’ve noticed that my informant has driven any more cautiously. It has become a reflex action for her. Underlying it however is the grief for the loss of a friend, and when traveling in a car with someone else who kisses their hand in Hanford, those who knew her share their loss.

[geolocation]