MACHINE: Driving me crazy
There are few activities I loathe as much as driving. It’s right up there with picking up dog doo and vomiting. I’m enthralled by the open road, the prospect of new vistas (like Mr. Toad or Jack Kerouac, depending on your point of reference)—as long as someone else is at the wheel. Merging with highway traffic, as cars and trucks barrel past at the speed of light, instills abject terror. I see death on every two-lane country road where passing another vehicle requires a combination of confidence and bravery I sorely lack. Drive at night in heavy rain? I’d rather eat a snail.
The simple fact is, I learned to drive too late in life. Not that I was fearless at sixteen, the age at which most sensible people take driver’s ed. It’s that I didn’t realize the many ways there were to be injured or killed in a car. Growing up in an East Coast city where walking and taking public transportation were the norm, I could easily postpone the inevitable. It wasn’t until my early thirties, faced with the prospect of living in Texas for a year, that I could no longer avoid the dreaded task. Countless white-knuckled miles and two failed driving tests later (to this day, I still cannot parallel park), I got my license. I’m proud to say, thanks to caution, luck, and the patience of (most of) my fellow motorists, I’ve never received a ticket or been involved in an accident—not counting the incident in which a deer leapt over the hood of my car, leaving some of its fur embedded in my hubcap.
If only the story ended there. But no. I had to relive the angst all over again when my sons learned to drive, an educational milestone even more nerve-wracking than science fair projects. Which often were—Guess what, Mom?—due next week. (There’s only so much you can do with baking soda. I know. I tried.). Fortunately, my sons took to driving like ducks to water. They faced their new challenge with the right balance of enthusiasm and prudence—despite the pale woman next to them, clutching the armrest and pumping the floor with her brake foot. In my defense, the younger one suffered under the delusion, albeit briefly, that he was a citizen of England, entitled to drive on the left side of the road.
After a few years of their near misses, one fender bender, but mostly darn good driving, I relaxed. Best of all, it’s payback time for all the years I spent taking them to lessons and events, years of removing Cheerios, raisins, and French fries embedded in the car’s upholstery. A labor of love, like theirs, when, come that rainy night, they drive me to my destination.