Growing up in the Greater Ludlow-Bromley Metropolitan Area, my parents had lots of rules. Breaking those rules always seemed to coincide with me “winding up in a ditch somewhere.” My mother, in particular, was obsessed with ditches. The ditch was where chronic rule breakers always ended up.


“Don’t do this, or you’ll end up in a ditch somewhere,” she’d say, which conveyed the seriousness of the rule.


As a child, I perceived ditches as if they were somehow Satan’s personal portal to hell. As an adult, I drove all around Ludlow and Bromley only to discover we, in fact, had very few ditches.


The many hours I’ve spent with my shrink exploring my “ditchaphobia” (fear of ditches), led me to realize that many of my parent’s rules are no longer applicable.


DON’T TALK TO STRANGERS. Historically, the fastest way to ending up in a ditch was doing anything beyond making simple eye contact with someone you did not know. Thinking back on it, even eye contact was fast-tracking some unknown roadside trench. Every unidentified person walking the streets of Ludlow and Bromley had “danger” tattooed across their forehead. This ignored the fact that many people we actually knew deserved the same forehead ink.


Today our entire life experience is a hashtag away from being conveyed to the world on social media. Strangers view our lives from the screen of some portable electronic device. I suspect the people my parents feared would send me to my eternal ditch are probably now following me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. For their benefit, I post pictures of me on vacation, so they’ll know when to rob my house.


DON’T HITCHHIKE. To my mom, every driver picking up a hitchhiker was a potential Ted Bundy in a VW Bug. Come to think of it, I once hitched a ride with someone driving a VW Bug, but I married the driver. Aside from a few outbursts during menopause, she has not displayed any psychotic tendencies. But I digress.


This rule no longer applies because Uber and Lyft have made hitchhiking a respectable and growing business in America. Traded on the NYSE and the NASDAQ, both companies have flowery mission statements aimed at luring investors to purchase its stock. Personally, I’d be more apt to buy if they had an honest statement, something like, “We pick up hitchhikers for a fee and 99.9% of the time take them to their requested destination. Very few end up in ditches.”


LOOK BOTH WAYS BEFORE CROSSING THE STREET. Apparently, many less enlightened folks do not realize that peering at a cell phone while crossing the street places a cosmic protective shield around the body, alleviating the need for paying attention to oncoming traffic (witnessed by me on a daily basis as I constantly slam on my brakes to avoid hitting these cosmically shielded people stepping off the curb while looking at their cell phones).


RESPECT YOUR ELDERS. This rule seemed to be the cornerstone of all parental pronouncements—everyone at least two decades older than me was to be respected. Even the crazy cat lady that lived two doors away, who sat on her front porch telling all pedestrians crossing her sidewalk how rock ‘n’ roll was leading to the degradation of western civilization, deserved respect.


As someone who has officially reached elder status, I can assure you that this rule is out the window. Young people today have no problem telling me (and everyone else my age) how we’ve screwed everything up for their generation. To them I say, “Shut the hell up and like my cat pictures on Facebook.”


DON’T LET ME CATCH YOU AT THE BOAT DOCK. When I was a kid, the Ludlow Bromley Yacht Club was known to locals as simply “the Boat Dock.”


On any given weekend, my mom and dad would drag me to the Ludlow Vets, where we’d enjoy the evening from the back deck overlooking the Ohio River. As we would be enjoying our family outing at the Vets, the sound of the Boat Dock’s jukebox would come rolling up the riverbank. The combination of music and crowd noise would cause a great deal of consternation to the folks trying to enjoy drinks on the deck. This led to my dad’s Golden Rule: “If you ever get caught at the Boat Dock, don’t come home.” No ditches—just don’t come home.


Of course, as soon as I was old enough (or had my first fake ID—I forget which), I headed to the Boat Dock. Luckily, Dad never found out. Obviously, that rule doesn’t apply anymore because everybody (and their parents) hang out at the Ludlow Bromley Yacht Club.


By the way, please post this column to Facebook and Twitter with the hashtag #NKYDITCHES. If you don’t, you might end up in a ditch somewhere.