The funny disease.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Confessions of an Autophobe

I realize as I start this article that admitting my fear of driving is tantamount to writing the word “commie” on my forehead in indelible red ink. There is nothing more American than hopping into the mammoth gas-guzzler, which is so big it doesn’t fit in your garage, to pick up milk at the corner Quick Mart. But I suspect I am not entirely alone in my fear driving, and I may at least, get a support group out of the deal. My fear began when I was a child and my parents, in their infinite wisdom, put me behind the wheel of a mini racecar, that kiddie death trap known as the Go-Cart. If you’ve been to a “Fun World” with Go-Carts you’ve probably seen the kid that drove straight into the pilings on the side and can’t seem to get turned around. That kid was me. I pulled my hair, sweated with frustration under the pounding sun and cried while my parents, and other obliging grown-ups shouted instructions to me. The least helpful of which was, “Calm down!” My frustration mounts as I hear the zips and whizzes and woohoos behind me as the other kids whip around the track, the cool breeze of success on their cheeks.

There was also the lingering trauma of an early childhood mishap, that was caused by my brother, who lives breathes and eats in cars and has ever since he first wrapped my long blond hair in the wheels of his Matchbox. My father was away on an all-expense paid vacation to Guam (courtesy of the U.S. Air Force), and since we were living with our grandparents in Wisconsin, we had not much need to use the car. It was winter, and at that time (way back in the 80’s) it was necessary to turn the car on every once in a while to make sure it would start up when we needed it. I was sitting in the passenger seat with the door wide open. Mom was sitting in the driver’s seat with my brother on her lap. He was merrily vrooming and steering in the little station wagon that was sitting in the driveway warming up while in “Park.” When suddenly the car took off in the direction of the neighbor’s brick column, which is what stopped us. Fortunately, no one was injured physically, except for the white picket fence and the brick column, but those things were fixed, and the tragedy of it was borne well by the good humor of the neighbor.

So, when it was time for me to practice driving I was more than a little hesitant. But to sweeten the pot I had a hot-tempered father or a nervous mother to practice with, not to mention a younger brother that would take to driving like a warthog to a mud puddle. (He would actually sleep out in his first car.) I took the extra scenic route to license ownership. I had driver’s permits in two states, and one in another country. Mom had to drag me into the car to get me to practice. But eventually I took the final driving test, and was rather disappointed in my little trip around the block where the DMV was located, having had four years to build it into a horrible manic nightmare, complete with a cackling clown reveling in my failure when I got to the end. Despite the feeling that I didn’t quite deserve it, I couldn’t help being a little pleased with myself when I was handed a shiny new plastic card with a picture that made me look like Jo-jo the wild girl. And then I was scared because I knew I shouldn’t be behind the wheel of a thousand pound vehicular weapon, and that there must be other people out there who were also legally incompetent drivers.

The good thing about having my license, at that point, was that I didn’t have a car. I had all of the pride of driver’s license ownership without any of the fear or road pizza guilt. I walked everywhere, and was in pretty good shape, actually. But my physical fitness came crashing over my belt-line after I was married. We bought a little blue Saturn. While we were setting up our household, I had to drive, but once we were settled in I was pretty good at finding ways of avoiding it. My husband aided and abetted, I’m afraid. Because I made him nervous when I drove.

To help me overcome my fear I began unscientifically collecting data on should-not-be-insured drivers. There are some general rules to help you pick out bad drivers: the foremost of which is to beware red cars. Any “car improvements” such as under carriage lights, or semi truck wheels on a Toyota are signs that this driver may do stupid things—like forgetting to use their turn signal when they dart into your lane. Even something as innocent as a Jesus fish can be a sign of a militant, bloody-thirsty psycho behind the wheel. Another red flag is vanity license plates. “NO 1 MOM,” and “DR PROCT” are not just declaring their individuality by plunking down an extra $50 to $100 for their license plates. They are saying, “Watch out for me! I must get there first because I think I’m more important than any of you.” Not only are these bad drivers narcissistic, they tend to be stupid. You can’t tell me that they highway patrol wasn’t waiting all day for the cherry red pick-up with the “SHMOKIN” license plate to come whizzing by.

I have also noticed that certain models of cars often attract crazed drivers that live in the world of “I saw this in a cartoon, but I think I can do it. The following aren’t hard and fast rules. I’ve just noticed that bad drivers are often driving one of the three following cars. Nissan Maximas, and Jeep drivers seem to enjoy weaving in and out of the regular flow of traffic, speeding and being general vehicular nuisances. My brother has owned both of those brands of car at one time or another. Operators of PT Cruisers drive as if they have to prove that they’re worth more than the only luxury vehicle they could afford. I’ve seen PT Cruisers do crazy things like pulling into oncoming traffic to get around a car that’s waiting until it’s safe to make a left turn. My brother thinks it must be V6

While I'm sure that mose of these people are upright citizens when they are not behind the wheel of a steel killing machine, for some reason they turn in to slobbering maniacs when they are. I think it is easy to forget that there are other actual living people in other cars. Such as those who accidentally cut off cement trucks, and like to wait to be certain the road is clear before making a left turn. I think all drivers could benefit from taking a few deep breaths at every stop light, and from realizing that it isn’t worth bursting a main artery because you’re not going to be on time. It’s better to get there late than dead.


Anonymous Timmy T. Napalm said...

Check your spelling more carefully...

A Badly Injured Bush in Deutschland

(You should have mentioned me!!)

11/04/2005 7:32 AM

Blogger Sarah Letnes said...

Is that an offer to be my editor?

And that bush had it coming!

11/05/2005 7:36 AM


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