November 24, 2010
Driving Miss Crazy
After my last accident over ten years ago, I confided to a friend that I was scared to drive and his response was this: "Well, you'd better get back up on that horse, and soon!" He was right because at the time I was living miles from the nearest town. Back up on that horse I did get and with practise and time I even became a better driver than before my accident. The last few years, however, I have noticed an increase in my anxiety level when it comes to driving, and on a bad day, I find it hard to trust in my experience as a driver. Recently, while reading an article about road sense in the newspaper I learned that drivers who have been involved in accidents, even accidents which were not their fault, have higher anxiety towards driving and tend to make more mistakes. When my husband and I embark on a road trip now, short or small, he never has to fight me for the car keys. I hand them over most willingly. I suppose I could take a defensive driving course or sign up for therapy like the article suggests. I mean, I'm hardly a candidate for the reality tv show, Canada's Worst Driver, it's more that I've developed a sort of...distaste for being behind the wheel.
When we moved to the Fraser Valley, a sprawling, continuous suburb of Vancouver, I thought, "Here's my chance to become a real city driver." I imagined myself working up the experience to take trips into the big city, using MapQuest and high doses of caffeine as 'courage water'. Seven and a half years later I am no closer to being a Vancouver driver than I was before. In fact, I may even be farther away. I simply just do not fit in with the aggressive, tail-gaiting style of the other drivers and I sincerely doubt I ever will. I like a reasonable amount of space between the next car and me when on the freeway and I don't feel safe driving over 120 kms per hour. I never was very good at intensely crowded situations, let alone on the road at autobahn-like speeds or at a bumper-to-bumper crawl. Sometimes when I'm out on the freeway I begin to think like a Woody Allen character - one of those sort of neurotic philosophers obesessed with death:
What does it all mean anyway? Look at all these cars, these killing machines travelling at crazy speeds. Don't these people know they are risking their lives, not to mention the environment? We're hemmed in like sheep, except we're like sheep with high powered engines and wheels careening down a six lane freeway. Why do we do it? Look at that girl in the next car talking on her cell phone, laughing away. She's got one pinky, the only finger not holding her Starbucks, on the wheel. Look at her change lanes without signalling. Doesn't she know she's going to kill someone with her bad habits? Maybe I should envy her lighthearted view of existence.
Okay, so maybe now I'm starting to sound crazy, but I think I'm old enough not to care about that sort of thing. And besides, my husband says he knew that I was crazy when he married me and he still loves me, so I have decided to be content with my lot, and leave the big city driving to the experts: the experienced commuters who listen to books-on-CD while weaving their way through rain-soaked traffic; to my husband who in his younger days, on his trips abroad to New York, Paris, Stockholm and Philadelphia with a certain Swedish modular furniture company, was always asked to be the rental car driver among his workmates; and to the bus and taxi drivers. I salute them all. You go! - I'll hold the map.