Yesterday my blogging friend, Patti Jarrett, commented on my post that traffic going across the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel signaled summer here in Virginia Beach. She is so right, and that made me think about my aversion to driving in traffic, and my aversion to driving in general. It wasn’t always that way.
When I was growing up in Connecticut, teenagers had to wait thirty days after their sixteenth birthday before they could get their driver’s license. That was because they couldn’t even get behind the wheel of a car until they were sixteen, and the thirty days was to allow them road time to practice. I started driving school a couple of months before that so I could get all the classroom instruction over with before I turned sixteen. As soon as my thirty days were over, I took my driver’s test, sweating parallel parking, and left the motor vehicle office with my license in hand.
I was a good driver, and my parents trusted me to run errands for them or take my little sister places she needed to go. I also could take the car to visit my best girlfriend, Linda who, though a little older, did not have her license yet. I drove my mother’s big blue Chrysler Newport everywhere and whenever she’d let me take it. When I was a senior in college, my dad gave me that big blue car, and I like to joke that it was partly responsible for getting me a boyfriend, who later became my husband, because he didn’t have a car and our school was in a rural area. If you wanted to go anywhere off campus, you had to have a car.
When I graduated from college and got my first job as an editor in a publishing house, my brother left for Vietnam Nam and sold me his little yellow 1968 Volkswagen Beetle convertible. That was my favorite car of all time. I loved driving the back roads of Connecticut on my way to work in Westport. One morning, my boss, the publisher, came in and gruffly said to all of us, “Who owns that yellow Volkswagen?” Herman Taub was a little intimidating, sort of like Lou, the character Ed Asner played on the Mary Tyler Moore Show. I meekly raised my hand, and said, “I do, Sir.” He responded, “Well, I hit it,” and kept walking into his office.
I sometimes felt like Mary did when I talked to my boss, but I didn’t have as much spunk.
I ran down to the parking lot, and my poor little Beetle’s fender was demolished, crushed by my boss’s huge Lincoln Continental. Since this was in 1971, you can get a picture of how big his car was. Herman gave me one of his Lincoln convertibles to drive while my car was being repaired, and I took that big old car, also a convertible, everywhere, too. I even had to drive it to La Guardia Airport in New York to pick up a package for him. I didn’t mind. I loved driving.
Now I have disliked driving for many years. I don’t know when or why it changed. I’m sure age has something to do with it. I get nervous that I won’t see a car in my blind spot, or I worry that no one will let me change lanes when I need to make a turn. I hate intersections and I dread driving on highways. Once, when my friend came to visit me, I got up the courage to drive across that bridge tunnel Patti Jarrett was talking about, and my knuckles were white all the way to Williamsburg.
Now that it is nearly summer, the traffic here in Virginia Beach, especially where I live so close to the Oceanfront, will be a nightmare. I have to plan my trips to the grocery store during the small window before the crowds are on the roads. Lucky for me, I live in a place where I can walk to so many things like my doctor or dentist, the library, the market, restaurants, and shops to just poke around in. I probably put only twenty-five miles on my car each month. But if someone else drives? Count me in. Believe it or not, I love road trips. Go figure.