Tremors in the Universe: Slower traffic, keep right

Bob Baittie is the author of Tremors in the Universe and a Vernon Hills resident.
Bob Baittie is the author of the blog "Tremors in the Universe" and a guest blogger for the Pioneer Press | Provided

My name is Robert Baittie. I am a neighbor and a resident of Vernon Hills. Two years ago at the age of 52 I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. What started as a personal setback has turned into a much stronger push forward to fight against this disease and make everyday count. I am very fortunate to be working with a wonderful team from the Northwestern Medical Faculty Foundation and the Michael J. Fox Foundation and I am doing fantastic. I am enrolled in the Parkinson’s Progression Marker Initiative (PPMI) with the MJF Foundation in an effort to help expedite research and knowledge towards finding a cure. Tremors in the Universe is my blog documenting my personal journey of discovery with Spirituality and Parkinson’s. Follow me on Twitter

June 1, 2014

I’m not a shopper. I’m a buyer.

Come to think of it, I’ve never been a shopper. I hate shopping. My wife loves shopping and my daughters do too. But not me.

I went one time to a Forever 21 store with my daughters and wife and I quickly found out why they named the store what they did. It’s because when women enter this store, all time stands still. They lose all sense of time. If the woman happens to be 21 when she walks in, she could be in there forever and still come out 21. And who wouldn’t need forever to go through all the clothes in that place. It’s like turning an alcoholic loose in a liquor store the size of a football stadium.

For me, if something catches my eye, that’s it. I want it. There’s no need for me to compare it, try it on, ask my friends how they think it makes me look, determine whether or not I like it better in red or black, and certainly no need to run all around town to see if I can save 5 percent. Nope, I just believe in buying. It’s instinctual, it’s intuitive, and it’s quick. Instant gratification.

Like the day I bought my last car.

It was just about 10 years ago.

Now on most work days I normally don’t take a lunch break. I’ve found over the years that when I’m in the flow of my work, it’s more disruptive to stop to eat than it is to just keep working. But on that particular day I did. At the time I had another designer on staff and I vividly recall saying to her, “I’m going to take a lunch break today.” at which point she looked at me with a surprised look, before I continued on and said, “I think I’m going to buy a car.”

And that’s exactly what I did.

A midnight blue G35 Infiniti Coupe with ivory leather interior. 6-speed, manual transmission with low profile sport racing slick tires with GPS navigation, and power everything.

It was love at first sight and its been love ever since.

For 10 years I have babied that car. I’ve meticulously had the oil changed and attended to its every need. New belts when needed, new brakes, exhaust system, catalytic converter and tires over the years. Anything that car needed. And in return she has given me over 177,000 miles of memories. In my eyes she still looks as good today as the day I drove her home.

For the longest time my hope was to be able to drive that car until it reached 200,000 miles. It’s been paid off for a number of years now and she was still running fine, and I wasn’t in the market for a new car, so there was absolutely no reason why we couldn’t achieve that. It was a milestone I had wanted to achieve. Besides, that car always made me feel forever 21.

But suddenly things started to change.

As I was driving, the car would slowly veer toward the left, taking me close to the center lane only to start heading back to the right. A constant back and forth, back and forth, like the car had an uncharacteristically loose or delayed response to my steering commands. The handling was becoming noticeably more sluggish. Not only was it increasingly more noticeable to me but apparently to my kids and my wife as well who would periodically say “You’re veering to the left!” as if they somehow believed I was to blame for the problem.

The clutch which I had always had such fun with was becoming much more laborious and fatiguing, leaving my legs feeling exhausted after a days commute through the stop and go rush hour traffic on Chicago’s expressways.

The headlights too seemed to be less efficient at illuminating the road which in turn was leaving me feeling unusually tired on the road while driving.

The GPS which had always allowed me to navigate my surroundings was now starting to show small signs of failing requiring a significant increase in time required to program in the appropriate information. I’m sure nothing more than just a simple connection problem but just one more thing in a growing line of symptoms.

But finally it was the noticeable loss in energy and power which left me feeling not only unsafe on the road, but as if I was impeding the flow of traffic. I needed to stay over in the right lane to be sure I was out of everyones way. And that was a big adjustment for me. I had been used to driving in the fast lane for so long and here I found myself where I never thought I would be driving.

So this past week I had to make a very hard decision. But one that I know is for the best.

I put my car up for sale. And as I did I realized how I was saying goodbye to such a wonderful time of my life. I won’t be driving in the fast lane anymore and I won’t be forever 21.

But that’s ok. I’ve come to terms with the fact I have Parkinson’s disease and as such there really was no guarantee as to how long I might have been able to continue to drive. I mean eventually the problems my car was experiencing might have become my own.

In the meantime I have an appointment tomorrow with a gentleman who left me a message expressing his interest in the car.

I’m hopeful he’ll be as caring to the car as my team of doctors have been to me.

And I also hope he hates shopping.

More to come.

[Read more on Tremors in the Universe]

Interested in writing or blogging for the Pioneer Press? Email richard@aggrego.com. Submissions also can be made here.

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