Reprint: previously printed in “Highway News and Good News” 2012 and “Mature Years” 2017
It’s not that I have a complete fear of driving; it’s mainly nighttime driving, unfamiliar roads, and those big green signs on thruways that bother me the most. And, I’ll have to admit, a few other idiosyncrasies.
I’ve tried to look back on my life to see where I picked up this fear of driving. I had an accident as a young mother with all the children in the car. I skidded on a patch of ice. The car spun in the other direction, landed in a field of snow, stopped, then, very slowly, tilted on its side. No one was hurt, including the baby I carried inside of me. I never stopped driving after those accidents, though. Could I have picked up more fears with the aging process?
For the past few years, I’ve gone with my sister, Dorothy, to visit her family in New Hampshire. She is a widow and doesn’t like to travel alone. Just last year, when we were one hour’s drive from her son’s house, my sister insisted, “Carole, I think you could drive now. We’re on country road the rest of the way.” I agreed and, I may add, I did a swell job of getting us there safely.
Since our drive home was long and tedious, Dorothy asked me to tell me some of my “fear of driving” stories.
“One time, before Harry knew of my fears on the road, he asked me to drive from our motel for a while. We were around the suburbs of Boston, and I didn’t realize the road would become a six-lane highway. There was no way I could get out of traffic like that. I think even Harry was scared just sitting next to me. He insisted I had to keep up speed. That was a horrifying experience for me.”
Dorothy agreed it would have been for her, too.
“The first time I drove through a tunnel, I said to Harry, it really is dark in here. He said I had my sun glasses on and he’d take them off. As he reached over, I yelled, ‘Don’t’ you dare go near my face, I’m having a hard enough time. Don’t you touch me!’ He didn’t.”
I had one more story to tell her. “Harry and I were traveling through Nebraska. He wanted me to give him a break in the driving and told me the roads were flat there and he wouldn’t fuss if I didn’t pass anyone. He then started reading the paper.
After driving awhile, I noticed a police car behind me with its lights flashing. I kept driving, wondering why the policeman didn’t pass. Finally, I asked Harry, ‘What does it mean when a police car has its lights blinking on top?’ He looked out the back window, did a double-take, and yelled, ‘It means stop! Why didn’t you stop?’ I claimed I never was stopped by the police before, how would I know? I always thought the police turned on a loud siren if you were supposed to stop.
Well, soon the policeman was at the side of the car, insisting I come sit with him. After he left, I asked Harry if I had to go to his car; why couldn’t he do business right there in our car? He glared so hard at me, I thought his eyes would fall out (they didn’t). Finally I went to the policeman’s car and we had a nice chat. After our nice chat, he handed me a $100 fine. Since that trip, Harry rarely asks me to drive anymore when we travel.”
“I wouldn’t either if I was him!” Dorothy said!