Drive My Car
If you’ve read my blog more than, say, three times, you’ve probably read about how much I don’t like driving. I’m not entirely sure where it comes from. It’s kind of like sleeping, I guess, one of those things you have to do that requires your full attention. You can listen to music (or an audiobook, if you’re so inclined), and that’s about it. Can’t play Scrabble or watch a movie or knit or whatever else. Then there’s the fact that cars are small enclosed places, and the fact that no one is a good driver (even though everyone thinks they are), and, well, it’s a recipe for nervousness on my part.
I passed my driver’s test the first time I took it, which I remember being a while after I turned 16. Not sure what the holdup was, other than the fact that I didn’t really need to get my license any sooner. The very first night I drove by myself after getting my license, I ran over a rabbit. I was on my way to help a family in the church hook up their VCR and it hopped out in front of me. All these years later, and I can still hear it. Poor rabbit :(
My dad’s been a mechanic since forever, and I grew up never knowing what kind of car might be in the driveway. My first car was a 4-door two-tone diesel Buick Century. It wasn’t speedy, by any stretch, and it’s hard to drive crazy in a diesel. It was a reliable ride, until February 1989 when I put it in a ditch. From then on, it never drove exactly right again, and had a weird thing where I had to keep more than half a tank of fuel in it or it wouldn’t work, especially in winter.
I’ve often wondered if having a “family” car as my first vehicle set some of my driving habits. I have only gotten one speeding ticket in my life, and that was in the fall of 1990. It was a construction zone on a weekend, and I was doing the normal posted speed. $74 later, I learned that construction zone speed limits count on weekends, too. To this day, people call me “slowpoke” and “grandma” when I drive. I have two thoughts about that: a) I’ve got other things I’d rather spend $74 on and b) Speeding’s breaking the law like stealing is breaking the law.
I spent five summers in a van with 5-6 other people while I was traveling for college. We spent 12 weeks a summer traveling to churches and schools to sing and perform dramas. The 7 of us and all our luggage fit into a 15-passenger van with the last row of seats removed, and it was a pretty tight fit. I’m not sure why I kept signing up for that, but I must have used to like traveling. Perhaps traveling all over most of the 48 contiguous states got my traveling bug out of me in a serious way.
Driving through or even around big cities stresses me out like very little else does. There’s too much going on with 4+ lanes of traffic all going at once, and my brain doesn’t apparently deal with it well. If there’s any kind of traffic jam, well that just makes it worse. There’s something about stopping and starting that have an effect on me, both physical and mental. It wears on me much like painting seems to.
I can drive a stick shift if I need to, but I’m not very good at it. One of the first times I ever had to drive a stick shift – a huge pickup – I was stuck at a stop sign on a hill for twenty minutes or more. Folks in the Midwest are usually fairly friendly, but the kinds of waves I got during that 20-minute stretch as people went around me were not the neighborly sort.
These days I drive a Saturn station wagon. It’s a good car and hasn’t needed much work. My only complaint is that it sits a little too close to the ground, and I have a hard time getting up out of it some days. That…might be more a function of my getting older than the car being too low, I suppose.
I doubt I’ll ever like driving, but having someone along for the ride usually makes it nicer. I feel guilty asking them to drive, as I figure if I hate it so much, it doesn’t seem fair to ask them to do it, especially if I’m going to enjoy my not-driving by sleeping or reading. Here’s what I figure, though: GPS is the first step towards self-driving cars. If the car knows where it is and where it needs to go, it should be a fairly simple prospect to have it get itself there. Once self-driving cars are commonplace, driving becomes riding, and I’ll get a lot more reading and sleeping done.
Hurry it up, scientists! I ain’t getting any younger, and I’ve got places I need to get to.