Tales from a Female Driver's Perspective

When I was a teen-ager, I got my student driver's license at sixteen. Looking back, I'm astounded that anyone would let a sixteen year old behind the wheel!! I had major fender benders galore. My parents were very patient with me, although my father often sobbed, "I'm going to be sued!"

One day in 1971, I drove my 1962 white Ford Valient Dodge to school; my brother, Matt in the passenger seat. While parking, the driver of a brand new Chevy on my brother's side popped her door open. My front bumper sheered the door completely off and the velocity flung it onto the grassy median ten feet away. Matt, hysterical, rolled into a feotal position. I finished parking and jumped out of the car.

"What the hell is wrong with you?" I yelled at my classmate, Nancy. "Didn't you see me?"

Her jaw fell slack. "You hit my car!" she said as she walked over to retrieve her door.

"No, it's your fault!" I insisted while she gently pushed the door into the frame. "You didn't bother to see whether anyone was coming. And the force you used to push that door open, when you hit my car, it was only natural that it was ripped off!"

Nancy looked at me with tears in her eyes. "The car's brand new. My father's going to kill me."

By this time, my brother rolled out of the car, eyes watering from laughter. "Dad's gonna kill you. We're gonna be sued."

I ran to a phone booth in school and called my father at his office. "Dad, please don't kill me."

"Oh boy, Maura! I'm gonna be sued!"

Nothing ever occurred. Nothing. Which always made me wonder the state of people's minds to believe that it was the force of the door hitting a bumper that caused it to be ripped off and not because I smashed into the car door. To this very day, I'm her arch enemy. At every high school reunion, I smirk and reminisce, "Hey, Nancy, remember that time..." With disgust, she glared, nostrils aflare and walked away. I believe she's a driver's ed teacher today.

After college, I didn't drive for a decade because I lived in New York City.

It was only because my boyfriend back then didn't have a driver's license that I resumed driving. He inherited this little old jalopy with only 5,000 miles from some great-aunt. I loved it. We took that car almost every weekend and went for long journeys, mostly up the Eastern seaboard to Maine and Vermont, racking up over 50,000 miles in a year. And when we traveled, I always drove the rental cars.

What I didn't enjoy was his backseat driving. He got me so nervous, I'd forget little things, like using the brake. Or signaling when changing lanes. It got so bad that in Providence, RI, I went up the wrong way on a one-way street. When he shrieked like an eagle, I drove up the pavement onto the sidewalk and jumped out of the idling car.

"Where are you going?" he yelled from the passenger side.

"If you don't like my driving, do it yourself!" He turned ashen.

I realized right there it wasn't me, the man was petrified of driving.

Over the past fifteen years, I drive daily. I've run over skunks, one rabbit, sheered off both rear view mirrors, parked over concrete pillars and back-ended into walls. According to every man I've ever had in my car, it's a terrifying experience. I've seen men white knuckle the dashboard. I've heard bass voices turn falsetto. And one guy hung his head out the window, moaning. One boyfriend, the one who set fire to my house, at the very beginning of our relationship leapt out of my car in traffic on the Bronx Cross River Expressway. He yanked my door open and pushed me to his now vacant seat while hollering, "I'm young and intend to live a full life."

In February, my now former long-distance guy came to visit. This time, however, he didn't rent a car. Instead, I picked him up at the airport. After three minutes, I saw his knuckles turn white and heard that tell-tale inhale. He rambled on about something the entire drive, visibly shaken to the core of his soul. Luckily, being deaf in the ear that faced him, I barely heard a word. An hour later, when we reached my cottage, he bolted out of the passenger seat. I didn't need to hear what he had to say; I handed the car keys over for the duration of his visit. Until I drove him back to the airport. It was only befitting that our last time together he almost peed in his pants in fear, a perfect ending.

Should you see that little ol' jalopy with the three huge band-aids on the bumper, run for cover!

# # #

This is a work of fiction. Names, character, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

1 comment:

Stacey Roberts said...

Perhaps it's time to install a fake brake pedal on the passenger side. It's a placebo, but maybe it will make the sissies feel better....