On Writing

"Every fine story must leave in the mind of the sensitive reader an intangible residuum of pleasure, a cadence, a quality of voice that is exclusively the writer's own, individual, unique."
Willa Cather

Friday, March 2, 2012

White Knuckle Driving

    I learned to drive in a city, so maybe that’s why I still feel most comfortable going from stores to shops to malls and back even in fairly heavy traffic as opposed to highway driving.  I set off on any trip that takes me onto an interstate with a white-knuckled grip on the steering wheel. After only a few miles on the road, my neck begins to grow stiff--immovable, sometimes, and my fingers have turned into claws that are strangling the wheel.  And it’s all because of certain drivers that I consider road hazards.  Maybe my concerns will strike a chord with other nervous drivers.
    The most prominent and disturbing hazard that roams the interstates is the Careening Semi.  This behemoth is like all bullies everywhere.  Because of its size advantage, it rules the road; wherever it wants to go, it goes.  Even when it is sedately traveling the speed limit, it always seems to be advancing in a menacing way toward the innocent, undersized passenger car.  If a Careening Semi gets angered because a mere car has not moved out of its way quickly enough, it may give a frightening bellow of its horn as it threatens to run up over the back of the car.  In days of yore, truck drivers were called "knights of the road."  They helpfully blinked for safe passing or warned of lurking highway patrol cars and generally were paragons of safety and courtesy.  I have found a few latter-day truckers to follow these standards, but sadly more often than not, they strike me as capable of turning on the motorist with all the chilling fervor of the anonymous driver in Duel, a 1970s movie that realizes my worst fears.
    The second most aggravating hazard is the Spoiler.  You can spot these little devils in your rear-view mirror as fast moving vehicles darting from lane to lane, pulling in dangerously close, whipping onto the shoulder or turn lane around cars that don't move quickly enough.  These cars may be any make, but they are always either black or red, low slung, and have a saucy little spoiler on the back which seems to taunt, "Up yours!"  These cars are driven by teen-age boys or slightly older ones of a teenage mentality.  My tendency is to move away from the Spoilers, or even try to outrun them (I may be tense, but I'm not slow).  This maneuver is doomed to fail since they are egged on by any suggestion of competition.  With the Spoilers, slow and steady, the philosophy of the tortoise, wins the race.  Changing lanes unless absolutely necessary is risky, for even though they have quick reactions, you may not get in the lane fast enough, and they could easily side-swipe you.
    Drivers Lost in Space are not as dangerous as they sound, but they can be extremely annoying.   Lost in Space might be a mother trying to corral the back seat which is full of fighting, crying children, a businessman mentally going over his presentation, a woman checking her makeup or hair, or merely someone deep in thought or conversation with a passenger.  These drivers may be seen coming onto the interstate from a ramp without a glance at converging traffic.  If they noticed the "yield" sign, the letters didn't add up as an instruction to them personally.  The best way to avoid Lost in Space is to get by them quickly since all Lost in Spacers are narrowly focused if not myopic and could swerve in front of you at the drop of a hat.
    Lastly, Gramps is the driver who believes himself to be the safest on the road but is perhaps (after the Spoiler) the single greatest cause of accidents.  Gramps may be either sex but is almost always old (some younger persons are so afflicted), and maybe with eye problems.  Gramps may be spotted from behind as an apparently driver-less car in the right-hand lane going excessively slow.  Closer inspection reveals a short person who must view the road through the steering wheel.  They can, however, see out the side windows, and many seem to be out to look at the scenery, as are their passengers who stare intently out the window beside them.  Probably Gramps has learned to drive in another day and time.  I seldom drive in the far right lane, particularly when traveling on a hilly, curvy highway.  Coming up on Gramps suddenly at a high rate of speed means taking drastic avoidance measures--screeching brakes or running onto the shoulder.  When I see a long string of traffic creeping along, I know what I will find--an old timer nonchalantly leading the pack.
    No method of dealing with my fears and frustrations on the highway is perfect as one might guess from these descriptions, so I make every effort to keep my husband comfortable behind the wheel on trips, long or short, and encourage other relatives and friends always to be the designated driver as a favor to me and my nerves.