Those Driveway Moments

By Judy Berman

I’m sure it is an unsettling sight to passers-by when they see someone just sitting in a car and laughing.

The motor’s running. For 15 minutes, I am transfixed. I can’t turn off the ignition and leave to go into the store.

These are known as “driveway moments.”

Sometimes, it’s a song you want to hear all the way thru and maybe sing along. Other times, you’re spellbound by the story you hear and wait for the inevitable conclusion.

Still others, you just don’t want the story to end.

One of those stories was T. Coraghessan Boyle’s “Sorry Fugo.”

Albert blames Willa Frank’s caustic review as the reason one of his friend’s businesses went under. The headline over her column read: “Udolpho’s: Troglodytic Cuisine in a Cavelike Atmosphere.”

He shuddered and knew it was only a matter of time before she “slipped like a spy, like a murderess,” into his restaurant, D’Angelo’s and skewered him as she had done to the others.

The night she shows up, the staff is in a tizzy. This night: it’s a disaster. But Albert knew Willa Frank would be back. “Twice more. And he would be ready for her.”

When she did return, “Albert put his soul into each dish, arranged and garnished the plates with all the patient care and shimmering inspiration of a Toulouse-Lautrec bent over a canvas, and watched, defeated, as each came back to the kitchen half-eaten.”

Revenge is a dish best served cold. Albert had a marvelous scheme cooked up for Willa Frank’s final visit.

To tell you how Albert turned the tables on Willa Frank would spoil the story. I will just say the ending was delicious.

Other stories expose us to places, people and things we’d never meet. Some are haunting, like the story about Lucy the chimpanzee who was raised as a human.

Lucy the chimpanzee coloring

Lucy was only two days old when she was adopted by psychologist Dr. Maurice K. Temerlin and his wife Jane. Lucy looked adorable in her little dresses as she drew in a coloring book and learned sign language.

But there came a day when it was necessary for Lucy to leave the family who raised her.

Janis Carter, a University of Oklahoma graduate student, accompanied Lucy and another chimpanzee to the wild in Gambia. They were being released in the coastal West African country.

Lucy the chimpanzee and Janis Carter hugging2

Lucy did not adjust easily. Janis Carter remained with the chimps longer than she intended to help them survive in the wild. For me, the final photo of Lucy hugging Janis Carter as Janis was leaving the area was heartbreaking. (The link to the podcast is below.)

Other stories are laugh-out-loud funny, and I’ve shared them with family and friends.

The tall tale, “The Beard,” by Fred Chappell is a classic example. It’s in his book, “I Am One of You Forever” and is worth picking up.

It centers on Uncle Gurton, who has a long, flowing beard of unknown length, and his visit to 10-year-old Jess and his family. Uncle Gurton’s main talent is eating voraciously.

When asked if he’d like more to eat, Uncle Gurton smiles. About the only thing he does say is: “No thank you. I’ve had an elegant sufficiency. Any more would be a superfluity.” My students delight in that line, much more than the cut-to-the-chase comment: “No thanks. I’ve had enough. Any more and I might burst.”

Then, Uncle Gurton disappears whenever he’s needed to help out with chores.

One night, their curiosity about the beard got the best of Jess and his Dad with hilarious results.


The fast-paced life can wait. Sit back, relax. So what if you’re still in the driveway. Take the time to listen to a really great story. You’ll be glad you did.

Sept. 10th marked my third anniversary on WordPress. Thank you for all your thoughtful and funny comments, for the friendships I’ve found on WordPress, and for your support. I want to especially thank my husband, Dave Berman, who has edited my posts these past three years. Thanks, Honey.

Are there times when the world stands still until that special song or story ends? Please share some of your favorite driveway moments.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-15. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider,, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

1. Photo: Lucy the chimpanzee coloring

2. Photo: Lucy the chimpanzee and Janis Carter hugging. (radiolab slide show)

3. Photo: Happy

RadioLab story of “Lucy” – a chimp teaches the ups and downs of growing up human.

  1. I’m so glad you blog and so glad that we’ve met here, Judy. And to answer your question: Time stands still when I read your posts (and, yes, sometimes I read blogs in my driveway). Thanks!

  2. I’ll often linger in the car to hear a song finish. It drives my kids crazy. In fact, if I play my cards right, they’ll go into the store and get what I need before I even have to leave the car. 😉

  3. Congratulations on reaching the third year of your blog–and great stories in this post!
    I love driveway moments, although I can’t think of a particular story or song right now that I’ve stopped and stayed in the car to listen to. 🙂 My husband and I have often stayed in the car to finish listening to a segment of “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me–especially to see which of three stories is the real news story.
    BTW, I’m sure you know that NPR actually has compilations of “Driveway Moments.”

    1. Merril … Thank you for the anniversary congrats and for enjoying my stories.

      I also love “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me.” I recently bought one of NPR’s “Driveway Moments” CDs. I haven’t played it yet, but I will. All the stories that I mentioned in this post I’ve heard on NPR stations – “The Beard” was on its “Selected Shorts,” and, sadly it is not on an audio format that I can find. I taped it years ago – one of the few I did. “Lucy” was on “RadioLab,” and “Sorry Fugo” was on “Selected Shorts” (I believe).

      1. I used to love to listen to “Selected Shorts.” I’m not sure when it’s on now–if it is. RadioLab is great, but I don’t listen to it very often.

        comment from earthrider to merrildsmith:
        I haven’t heard “Selected Shorts” in years. Too bad, I loved it. I also listen to “This American Life” which has some amazing stories. 😉

  4. i’ve done the same thing with npr stories i’ve loved and had to hear the ending to, or long songs i haven’t heard in a while. funny, you called them this, because i bought my aunt a ‘driveway stories’ (or something like that name), cd put out by npr, for the audience who are afflicted by this very phenomenon.

    1. The “Driveway Moments” title is borrowed from a recent NPR CD by the same name. It just fits what I’ve done and I totally relate to your experience. I bought one of the NPR collections about a week ago and will play it soon. As you pointed out, there are many of us “who are afflicted by this very phenomenon.” 😉

  5. I like this one a lot, Judy! It answers my questions about why I see laughing people who look like they are not on speaker phone in their car and they don’t have a cell phone glued to their ear! I did not think of this ‘why?’ until you mentioned it. This is like an ‘aha!’ moment, Judy! I love to sing and smile at the songs, there are moments when comics are also on the radio, but this post opened my eyes to the ones in the cars passing me by! Smiles and thanks for this!

    1. Well, Robin, they (I) might be crazy. That’s another thought. But I find it difficult to tear myself away when what I’m listening to is so compelling. I was considered a ‘radio freak’ by those who know and love radio because of defining moments like this. Comics are another reason why I might NEVER get out of the car. 😉

      1. I am laughing at this one, you may be right: they might be crazy! I like to hear stories, have featured Lake Woebegon and also, the one who said, “And now… the rest of the story…” When the old radio days were around, real stories told, I loved this very much. I could listen to Bill Cosby for quite a long time! Smiling back at you!

        comment from earthrider to reocochran:
        The radio commentator who said: “And now … the rest of the story … ” is Paul Harvey. I loved his stories, too. Bill Cosby also is an excellent story teller and comedian. 😉 I didn’t mean to leave out “Lake Woebegon” where “all the kids are above average.” Yes, Garrison Keeler is funny as well.

  6. Oh, kindred spirit of mine!!! I sit in my driveway all the time totally transfixed by, for instance, a fascinating “The Bob Edwards Show” interview on NPR which I can’t access in the house. This causes great consternation to the “boys” who would hear me drive up and start barking to be let outside. Talk about your push-pull! And congratulations on three years of blogging! You are one of my very favorites.

    1. I haven’t heard “The Bob Edwards Show.” I’ll check to see if there might be an audio version online. Barbara, our cats have the same reaction as your “boys” – Yorkies. They also are waiting, impatiently, for one of us when we come to the door. Thank you. You also are one of my very favorite bloggers. 😉

  7. Congratulations on entering your fourth year, and I hope it will be a great one.

    As far as driveway moments . . . yes, I’ve had them, but never for good stuff. I’ve had my share of bad news delivered while driving, necessitating pulling over to continue a conversation or such, but songs or stories are highly controlled when in the car. I pick playlists and podcasts that only require half a brain to absorb, the other half being reserved for driving.

    1. Disperser … I try not to get into ‘distracted’ driving. You’re smart to give your driving your full attention. These stories – and songs – do help lighten my mood. If I didn’t have them on, I might be talking to myself and that’s not always a good thing. 😉

  8. I’ve read several of T.C. Boyle’s stories, Judy, but not “Sorry Fugo.” Now you have me curious, drat you! 😉
    But I do know the Lucy story, and just thinking about it makes me sad. Furious on one level, too.
    Why did they do all that and then turn her out where her previous “life” was a disadvantage?

    My driveway moments usually come from a snippet I hear on the radio news, or maybe a song that reminds me of a different time and place. I had to laugh; it was only a few weeks ago that a neighbor tapped on my car window with his cane. He wanted to know if I needed help since I’d been sitting there so long!

    1. Marilyn … “Sorry Fugo” might be online. I do have it in a collection of his short stories, “If The River Was Whiskey.” I’ll bet you will love that story. Great fun.

      Lucy’s plight also made me very sad and angry as well. From the story, Lucy was given up because she was physically aggressive. But the whole thing was horrible. She was taken away from her mom when she was two days old as part of an experiment – to be raised as a human would. We need to let animals be in their natural environment unless they are threatened by poachers, for example. Then, have them stay in a safe, outdoor location like a preserve.

      I love YOUR driveway moment. I figure it’s only a matter of time before someone does the same to me. 😉

  9. I will gladly stay in my driveway for a great story. Thanks for sharing this stories. Stories that have us at the edge of our seats, stories that make us cry, stories that make us laugh and forget for a moment life’s worries. The image of Lucy and Janis, very touching. It reminds all of us of that all living creatures have the capacity to love and care, to show compassion and mercy. Sometimes I stay in my car longer listening to music, just to relax and unwind. Kind of like a “me” time. Have a great Sunday. All the best to you and your family.

    1. That “me” time before we return to the daily responsibilities of life can help recharge us. Music is a great way to unwind. I do that as well, Island Traveler. 😉

      That photo of Lucy and Janis is touching in how they both care about each other. It also is heartbreakingly sad.

  10. Congratulations on your 3rd year Blogging anniversary my friend. Time flies when we love what we do. So much rich stories. So much friendship. So much inspiration to be thankful always. Wishing you lots of amazing blogging adventures ahead.

  11. First of all, happy 3rd blog-a-versary! Your blog is successful because you deliver with meaty and entertaining content. – like today.

    When does the world stand still for me? Well, if I were listening to the tune “La Strada” on the radio in the car, I would have to stay put until the end, even if I had arrived at my destination. It was our song in the 1960s.

    Here is such a moment in reverse and with a twist. This weekend I saw the indie film “Don’t Come Knocking” with Sam Shepard and Jessica Lange. When the two romantic leads staged a knock-down drag-out lovers’ fight right in front of a gym, exercisers on a treadmill and stationery bike by the front window observed the whole scene play out. The lovers moved on of course, but the people in the gym staying in motion either amused or appalled by the high drama they had just witnessed. Great post, Judy.

    1. Now you have me curious, Marian. I’m sure I’ve heard “La Strada,” but can’t place it right now. I will check this out. Thank you for your good wishes and compliments.

      From your description of “Don’t Come Knocking,” I’d have been dumbstruck, too. I also would have been appalled. When I think of fights, I think of the one between a couple in the story, “Train Spotting.” When someone tried to intervene because the woman was injured, the woman turned on the ‘Good Samaritan.’ That scenario is one that most police officers find worrisome because the fighting couple now has a common enemy: the cops.

    1. Marian … a tune that touches me the say way is the music from “A Man and A Woman.”

      “Charade” and some other Henry Mancini songs are among those that would have the same impact.


  12. Well, I’m all for stories Judy, fiction or real life! 🙂 As long as they are entertaining and well written, I love to read them, and even better to hear one through radio is so good. It means I can get myself ready to go out for the evening (hair and make-up) but enjoy a story at the same time! I remember my Mother listening to a lot of radio, especially in the kitchen where sadly she spent a lot of her time keeping us all nourished, but she managed to find time for herself wherever she was, and was always telling me “I heard this story on the radio the other day” I probably owe a lot my interest in writing to her. She certainly introduced me to a lot of fascinating real life stories.

    I’ve not heard of T. Coraghessan Boyle’s ‘Sorry Fugo’ before, although the story sounds familiar, but not the title or the writer. It could be my kind of story, and maybe have quite a hilarious – or possibly romantic, or even tragic ending??? You sent me on a bit of search with TC Boyle – what an interesting man! I may add some You Tube videos of him on my writers page. I like to find talented and interesting writers to expand that collection – so thanks for that, I shall check out some more about him, his writing and stories are very good!

    I guess it must be an unsettling sight to see someone in a car laughing, like they’re completely mad – I shall remember that next time I see that, they might just be enjoying something on the radio! 🙂 I have seen people talking to themselves sometimes, but it always turns out to be a telephone conversation. Could be useful to cover a bit of insanity though, just pretend it’s a phone conversation! 😉

    Thanks for the other links too, Janis Carter with Lucy the chimpanzee sounds like it would be an interesting story, I shall get back to that story tomorrow. Can’t imagine rearing a chimpanzee, especially wearing a dress!! 😀

    1. Suzy … I hope you found T.C. Boyle’s “Sorry Fugo” online. It is available. I saw two different sites that had it – one appeared to be connected to a university. The other to Harper’s – available to subscribers only.

      My Mom also introduced me to many stories on the radio. My interests run the gamut from “Strange But True” to NPR-affiliate stories: All Things Considered, This American Life, RadioLab, etc. (I am not sure if that last one is part of This American Life.)

      Strange confession time. When I was a teen and going to a business school in the city, I sometimes killed time by either hanging out in front of a busy store to people watch or I’d be on the phone “talking.” I phrase it that way because I actually wasn’t talking to any one, but it was a way to pass the time without looking too nutty. 😉

      Be prepared for a very sad story when you listen to “Lucy.” It is a story that haunts me still and I first heard it about 2 years ago.

  13. Judy time stands still if I have my nose in a good book or I watch a movie and lose time and everything else to be carried away in a story. Time also stands still when I am writing or drawing. Love your post and where would we be without a good story. In the car its ideas that come to me. I get lost in my imaginary worlds whilst trying to drive on the highway. I try to keep alert and write everything down when I arrive at my destination.

  14. I’ve had many driveway moments, but I’ve had just as many of the opposite kind: I get into the car and turn on the radio just in time to hear the punchline to a joke or the very ending of a story that sounds like something I would have liked. I’m always glad to see a new post from you, Judy, and equally glad that I never have to worry about missing a word. But has it really been three years already? Congratulations!

    1. Hard to believe, right? Time does fly. Thanks for being one of the earliest folks to comment here and support me. 😉

      Charles, I also am bummed when I tune in and hear the end of a great joke or story. I scramble to find out what I missed. With npr, it’s easy. They have their shows online.

  15. Here, here, to the great story, Judy, and to three years of you sharing them here on WordPress. Thanks, Dave, for careful editing, though I’m sure Judy needs little. 🙂

  16. Sometimes I pull into the driveway, and sit and listen to the static on the radio. Finally I have to turn it off, and resign myself to the fact that I’ll never know how it ends… : )

    Just your description of the stories here was entertaining, my dear Judy. I’ve decided I must search them all out, and find out what happens!!

    You’re one of the best bloggers on WP, and one of the best influences. Congrats on the Big 3, and keep ’em coming!! : )

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