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Inspirational Reads

Chauffeur for None

October 21, 2010

My mother is the world's finest driver. Unser? Pisshh. Andretti? Puh-leez. Earnhardt? Never heard of him! Petty? Oh, now you're just being ridiculous.

Whenever my mother would set the key in the ignition of her car--any car--Jesus would fart a rainbow down the road along her intended destination clearing animals, cars, drunken hobos, old people, surly county deputies with ticket quotas to fill, and invisibul driving hazards out of the way. She's never hit an animal, gotten into an accident, been issued a citation, had a flat tire, nor veered anywhere outside of the white and yellow lines that confine her lane on the road.

Though, I do find this all hard to imagine. My mother grew up in the fifties, and we all know that women from that time can't drive. Don't you pretend like you didn't see the films in driver's ed. That balding man with the horn-rimmed glasses driving along, hands at ten-and-two, saying "I'll just give her a little honk on my horn to let her know I'm here." Never mind that the honk probably distracted her, causing her to plow through a troupe of nuns on their way to bless the sick. At least she knew you were there!

My mother is this man with the impeccably clean driving record, just with more blue eye shadow. A lot more blue eye shadow.

I know that my mother's driving record is spotless because she began regaling me with anecdotes about what a sinfully perfect driver she was when I was nine years old. Never mind that I was more interested in the day-to-day activities of the Chicago Cubs or whether or not Kelli Vogleman would ever see fit to go with me (the answers: shitty and not-on-your-fucking-life, bud).

You see, at that point in time, it would only be a scant seven years until I was behind the wheel of a car, and so she needed to start the brow-beating then in order to have me properly cowed when I was sixteen to the point where I wouldn't even dream of getting behind the wheel, let alone ask her for the keys to the car.

Her plans failed*. One of my favorite things to do is drive. In that year between college and graduate school, when I was stuck in a dead-end job that I disliked earning far less than a living wage and my relationship with the Ex- was flourishing and subsequently crumbling and I was living with my parents, too boot, I spent a lot of time on the roads of northeastern Indiana, northwestern Ohio and southern Michigan. I would drive and think and dream and see parts of the world I probably would not normally see.

That's kind of gone by the wayside as gas has gotten a lot more expensive, my free time has shrunken dramatically, and North Carolina's roads are not laid out on the convenient grid system that the Great Lakes states enjoy (and, well, anywhere west of the Appalachians).

Anyway, my mother would tell me--nearly daily--about what a terrible driver I would be. She claimed she would not get in the car with me until I was much older and those youthfully exuberant urges of youth--excessive speed, one hand on the wheel--had faded from my psyche. Though, it was her self-imposed calling to prevent those silly notions from ever finding purchase within me in the first place.

She was loathe to teach me how to drive a car, even when I had my learner's permit. This is one of the chief reasons that I had no idea what I was doing when I was told to park her minivan in the garage. My only frame of reference--and you'll probably agree that this is quite a brilliant turn of logic--is that there are two pedals in a car with automatic transmission and--lo and behold!--there are two feet on my body. Oh, and I have a foot on each leg, as well. Ladies. *wiggles eyebrows*

I plunked down in the car and put one foot on the gas, one on the brake, and I tried gallantly to move the car by alternating which foot did what. I did an admirable job moving the car forward in lurching, jolting movements, and got it into the garage--mostly--without incident. The final few feet, I let up on my right foot, and the car slowly pulled forward. I watched as the back of the garage moved toward me. When I was in far enough, I decided it was time to brake. Except, I forgot which foot was on the brake.

I gunned it. For about six inches before I remembered my mistake, but that was all it took. I had hit the back of the garage and--most importantly, most deviantly, most dreadfully--I hit my bike, which caused the handlebars to cut a large gouge in the hood of my mother's minivan.

She was livid. The combination of my imbecility--or, truth be told, my innocent naivety--and my bike meant that I would not be driving any time soon. I was sent to my room, told I better have my homework done, and then sent to bed. It was around five o'clock pm.

I did feel a little bad, but not about her fucking minivan. My father had been standing in the garage, trying to guide me in. If he hadn't stepped out of the way before my error of footing, he probably would have been crushed. Fortunately, no one was hurt, save for the hood of the minivan.

As my mother was one to constantly seek sources of embarrassment for me, she has not stopped bringing up the minivan incident to this day. Gathering of people? Let me tell you about the time my idiot son couldn't park a car! Amazing, isn't it? No one told him the proper way of holding his feet, and he goofed. Why, you might even be inclined to call it an "accident".

My father later corrected me on what to do with my feet. I have been largely without incident since. It's not to say I'm claiming to be the world's greatest driver. I'm a good driver, but probably not a great driver. My mind tends to wander from time to time while I'm driving. Especially when the college girls return in the late summer.

Anyway, when I was in college, my dad got me a summer job at his company. I was to drive a mail route (see how that works?) in Fort Wayne. Unfortunately, my hours and his hours didn't coincide very well, so I had to drive myself. While I was working there, my mother started working there, too, doing data entry and such. She was part time-y, which meant that she did not have to be there all day. This meant that she could ride in with me and go home with my father.


Coupled with the fact that my mother is the world's greatest driver is the fact that my mother is the worst backseat driver. You're going to fast. You're in the wrong lane. Pass this guy. Slow down. There's a curve up ahead. Watch for deer. And on and on and on she would natter.

Well, this simply was not going to do. I had no desire to drive my mother around at all. And so, I decided that she would ride with me...once. After that, she would be my father's problem. He married her. He should drive her around.

The route from our house to work went along a rather quiet stretch of northern Indiana highway, which meant it was straight, flat and easily navigable. I could have driven it blindfolded. I could probably still drive it blindfolded. And so we loaded up that fateful morning. I pulled out of the driveway and immediately began punching in the calculations for the jump to light speed.

When we got to the highway, I sped up. And not just sped up. For a second before I truly accelerated, the world became long and tinted blue. Dimensions warped around the front of my car. In my rearview, I could see the road catching fire in my wake, and the asphalt rolling up like a Swiss cake roll.

And then I kicked it up a notch. I passed on double yellow. I didn't use my turn signal. I honked and gave people the finger for no apparent reason. The town of Zanesville was just a dark blur clinging to the sides of the road. The bridge over I-469 was gone in the blink of an eye.

The entry into Fort Wayne from this particular direction involved a wide, sweeping turn which was banked at a most pleasing angle. Trial and error had told me the best way to handle this curve on a good day. That day was a great day, a fantastic day.

And so I took the curve around 80 mph. My mother was already screaming some incomprehensible bullshit in the passenger seat when a red truck pulled out in front of us. It was driven by a clueless old man, which meant that he pulled out and started doing five miles under the speed limit. My mother's scream became a fevered-pitch. She braced for impact and began stomping on an invisible brake. I chuckled.

I waited until the last possible second, when I was mere centimeters from smashing into the back of the old man's truck to make my move. I laid on the horn, flipped the man the bird, and slid up the banking curve in the road like I was making the final pass at Talladega. The old man's hair was fluffed in my wake--never mind his windows were up--and papers hung in the air, spinning wildly on the eddies and swirls of the air currents as I zoomed past. My mother had not stopped screaming. Her eyes were pressed shut and tears leaked from them, smearing her blue eye shadow and mascara.

I turned and looked at her after we had come mere inches from the old man's bumper and, slapping on my most yokel-ish voice, uttered: "Kinda gets yer heart racin', don't it?" She looked at me as if Satan himself were driving the car.

We got to work in record time. I got out and my car heaved a sigh or relief. My mother kissed the earth. She stomped into the building, stammering and swearing, went to my father's office. For the next hour she regaled my father with her harrowing trip to work that day, and when I saw him next, he had a sort of glazed, faraway look in his eye.

"Your mother wants you to slow down," he uttered, only halfheartedly. My father is a college-educated man. I'm fairly certain he saw through my plan and that the distant gaze in his eye was an artifact of knowing that he would now be the one chauffeuring my mother from point A to point B.

But the important thing was, the following morning, she rode to work with dad.

*Her plans failed with me, at least. My brother was terrified of driving when he came of age and didn't get his license until he was 17 or maybe older, and only then because it was a pain-in-the ass to walk to work.


DEZMOND said...

ah, your poor, poor, poor father :(

The Invisible Seductress said...

schemer!!!! I am shocked at you!!

Had me rolling with laughter though!!


Elliott said...

My father got his first speeding ticket ever around age 60. I surmise he was going downhill at the time.

And even when I caused about 2k worth of damage to my father's car (two separate incidents within a week that included similar repairs), he let me keep driving it.

Lesson: Never corner at breakneck speed when you're drag racing in the snow.

Adam L. said...

Lucky me, neither of my parents felt that they were great drivers (mom was DEFINITELY not, Dad was pretty good), so I wasn't scared of driving when I got my permit. In fact, I think that they really wanted me to drive so they didn't have to transport me anymore.

Ingenious way to get your mother to stop backseat driving, though. It's not easy to do it when you're not in the same car!

Elly Lou said...

You had me at Falcor. Throwing in a sobbing mother didn't hurt though.

snowelf said...

Your backseat driving mother and my backseat driving mother were separated at birth.
My mom has some perfectly redeemable qualities and I love her, but the backseat driving is not one of them.


SkylersDad said...

That was an excellent story sir! In my minds eye, I picture you and your mom with jowls flapping and faces contorting like those old 1950's rocket sled tests.

Scope said...


I was driving something before I could reach all the pedals correctly.

Nej said...

The one, and only, time my dad ever took me for a driving lesson....he kept shouting deccelerate....but I thought he was yelling accelerate. (Who yells deccelerate anyway?)

This resulted in me taking a reduced radius interstate exit ramp at MUCH more than the posted 30 mph.

Joel D. Timm said...

I had a drive very similar to this one with my own Mother, but I added smoking a cigarette to the list of things I shouldn't be doing while driving.