Sunday, May 2, 2010

On Driving

This was a great story when it first ran.

All my friends say I'm a pretty bad driver.

I won't argue that. I enjoy feeling the inertia as I take a turn a little too fast. I enjoy knowing my car and my roads well enough that driving is more instinctual and tactile than cerebral. I'm the quiet observer who given the opportunity would love to get to do a few laps at a NASCAR stadium if no one there knew me or liked NASCAR.

But when my other friends all wreck their cars and I'm the only one with both a vehicle and a valid license, it's like we're in high school again and I'm the designated chauffeur. Of course I'm going to be distracted. Yes, I'm a much worse driver with extra people in the car. That's why when I first got my license and all my friends were younger than I, my mother set the rule that I could only have one friend with me to start with.

But not Dean. If I did fine I could have two people with me or Dean. Dean has and always will, in any car, count as two people. It is not Dean's fault, he's just a probabilistic singularity, your proximity to which can greatly affect your day.

And yes, on unfamiliar roads I'm pretty bad at reacting to the unexpected. Couple that with poor night vision and a slightly out-of-date eyeglass prescription and it's really a better idea for anyone other than me to drive new places at night. I'll admit I've nearly sideswiped a few people because I was too distracted to re-check my blind spot on open highways in the middle of the night.

But here's the thing: I have never once been in an accident.

For all my inability to satisfy my friend's expectations of riding with me, when they do they're usually drunk. I'm a lightweight so I almost always D.D. It's responsible. I may not be a good chauffeur, but I'm a good driver. The only thing I could say might have been an accident was when a red pick-up sped past me in the right-hand lane during a terrible snow storm as I was attempting to move into his lane because mine was not well plowed in that area. I hit some ice I saw coming, decreased speed a bit before, maintained speed as I went over it and tried to stay straight-on, but I lost traction on one rear wheel and I started fishtailing after the pickup passed by.

The guy behind me saw what was up and pulled back. I let the ABS do their thing, tapped a little extra on the breaks to help it out and kept pointing the car in the direction I wanted to travel. When that became impossible I guided the car towards a side street and managed to slow down and careen into a snow bank instead of a guard rail.

All-in-all it cost me $80 for a new tire and $20 I tipped some neighborhood kids for helping me dig my car out. Everything, in a situation beyond my control, was handled masterfully, but also safely.

Now I did mention that it's like I'm seventeen again when all my friends crack up their cars and I'm forced to drive everywhere. Truth be told, my friends are shitty drivers. They take a much more leisurely approach to the ride, so passengers feel a bit safer, but it's not actually safe.

They hit guard rails, skid out on gravel, rear-end old women, have roll-overs, all because they either don't pay enough attention either or because they're not as familiar with their vehicles and so can't react as quickly to what their cars are telling them.

So yes, apparently I'm a bad driver when my friends are in my car, but my friends are bad drivers all the time and don't realize it.

See, this is why I need to get a motorcycle.

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