When I was “knee high to a grasshopper” my Paw Paw began to teach me how to drive. Sitting on his lap, behind the steering wheel of his pick-up, I learned how to shift gears, steer and eventually how to use the gas and brake. By the time I was “legal” I had been driving for years on the dirt roads in the woods around my house.
As a young girl, knowing how to drive was thrilling. As a young woman, having a license to drive and a vehicle at my disposal was liberating. Driving to school, trips into town, late nights with my friends, a few exciting road trips. A few accidents.
The first few involved deer. Night-driving on rural roads at certain times of the year can be dangerous. One heartbeat and the road is clear, the next and a hundred pound deer meteoriting from the roadside slams into your vehicle, somersaults onto the hood, windshield or roof, a tangle of hooves or horns, or hooves and horns, the third and you try to stop without slamming on brakes, heart racing, time slowing, life passing. Slamming on brakes, though instinctual, can get you killed, if the deer through the car or your heart stopping from fright doesn’t get you first.
Another involved an eighteen-wheeler on a snowy road in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The driver, merging onto the interstate pulled into my lane of traffic, clipping my driver’s side door and “slingshotting” me first into another lane of traffic, then across the grassy median, and finally into oncoming traffic. Luckily, both my car and I , received little damage, and after an evening’s rest because I was too shaken to travel, I was able to drive away the next day.
I was lucky.
As a woman of middle age, I drive practically every day. Shuttling my children, our pets, the groceries, the cleaning, myself to the Starbucks, it has become a duty, a chore. Too many hours in the car and my back and legs ache. My eyes dry and strain, especially after dark. My mind dulls.
Now I’m not saying that I don’t appreciate having my car. I do. An automobile is an integral part of my life, but these days I am grateful for a day that doesn’t include time behind the wheel. And today, with a three and a half hour drive in the dark looming in my near future, I’m exceedingly grateful to be a mere passenger.
Day Nine: Someone else to do the driving.