Now, you know I don’t like cars. I haven’t driven a car in well over 3 years and if we’re really counting it’s actually probably closer to 6 because the few times I’ve driven it was just to move the car across the street for street cleaning. The last time I drove a car for real wasn’t by choice. As we were pulling onto the busy road leading up to the highway near my parent’s house, one of Mark’s contacts fell out. Mark is almost, if not actually, legally blind without his contacts. His vision is horrible. Somehow he managed to drive the car onto the side of the road. We frantically looked for his lens which was probably an exercise in futility because the car is full of small crevices for a tiny transparent plastic disc to fall into. But I desperately tried to look for it anyway since I was dreading the alternative.
“well, looks like you’ll have to drive home”.
nooooooo, I thought to myself, but I just nodded, OK.
So I faced one of my worst fears: city driving.
We made it home ok though and I may have even parallel parked.
That should have been a lesson that driving is no big deal, but you know, I get pregnant and start to sit with the baby in the back seat for awhile. And then a few years pass and I’m out of practice again.
I learned how to drive at 17 like most kids. I didn’t drive often but I did get my first used car when I was 24 after college. I drove it around Portland and I was comfortable enough behind the wheel, but I can’t say that I ever loved to drive. Mark and I drove that car, a silver Toyota Camry, cross country when we made the move back to NY. The day after we got here, the car was given to my brother. And that was that. We didn’t get another car until my mom gave us her old Lexus 6 or 7 years later. I might have been pregnant with Mia already, but at that point, I had already gotten into a car accident with my mom and riding in a car started stressing me out.
7 weeks after Claudine was born, the day after Christmas as we were driving home from my parent’s house with a trunk full of suitcases and Christmas presents, we got into a car accident. Miraculously, we were all ok, though a few seconds more and that probably would not have been the case. The car, however, was totaled. The ironic thing about the car accident was that we had just passed one 20 minutes prior on the highway and I turned to Mark and said, “man, that must suck” as a woman stood next to her smashed car in the cold with wrapped Christmas presents by her feet on the side of the road.
If you’ve ever been in a car accident then you know that the whole thing seems to happen in slow motion. The actual impact takes but a second and it’s almost like you blank out for that instance (and maybe you do ’cause that airbag HURTS), but everything after that moves painfully slow. We were at a busy intersection somewhere in Bushwick and I remember the collective gasps on the street as Mark pulled Claudine, just a newborn then, out of the car. After the initial shock and the commotion of ambulances and firetrucks, I started worrying about how to get home. For some reason I thought you’d get escorted home in a police car or a tow truck if your car was totaled – I mean how else would you get home? But people were offering numbers for car services and I soon realized that wasn’t the case. The last thing I wanted to do was get into another car. So we organized all our crap, left most of the presents and suitcases in the car, grabbed diapers and essentials and piled it high on the stroller with Claudine nestled in a sling. We then walked a few blocks to the subway station and took the A train home. It was surreal. It was like an episode of Seinfeld.
So Sunday we are driving home from my parent’s house on the highway and we feel the car jerk. One of the lights on the dashboard flashes on. It’s odd and it’s bit scary, but we think it’s just a one off thing. A few miles down, it happens again. It’s like the car is losing power. Now we’re freaked. Mark drives off the highway on the next exit and as soon as we stop at a stop light, the car dies and won’t start up again. He gets out and instructs me to steer so he can push it out of the road. A man in a truck sees him and offers to help. We’re not sure where we are – maybe in Queens, maybe still in Long Island. The car was just inspected for its annual Inspection just a few days ago so we can’t figure out what’s wrong as the three of us peer under the hood. Mia is fretting in the backseat while Claudine continues to sleep. Mia is old enough to remember the car accident. Our friendly stranger blesses the car because he doesn’t know what else to do and wishes us luck. We try starting the car. It works and we drive it to the gas station one mile down the road.
I don’t know whether our gas gauge is off but it indicated that the tank was still an 1/8 full. After we filled up the car with gas, we didn’t have any issues again and we were able to drive it home on local streets just fine. Maybe we were just running out of gas despite what the gauge said?
I think the fear of driving, aside from the trauma of accidents, is from the loss of control. We can do everything we can to make sure that we’re driving safely, but you can’t predict or control how everyone else is driving. You can’t predict when a car will start breaking down. I find the whole thing extremely stressful. I don’t need reminders that I probably just need to get behind the wheel to get over the fear of driving. I know. As luck would have it, I live in a city where you don’t need a car. It’s been very convenient.