Day 3

Challenge: Think about transportation

A Short History of Cars and Drivers

1968: Dad drove fast, and hit the brakes hard. He liked to blow out the bad gas in his Pontiac LeMans, a dark blue shark in the Pittsburgh driveway. 1981: Mom tried to teach me how to drive in Mexico but I was too afraid, cars stacking up behind me in a honking mass, the clutch a tetchy devil. The Dodge Aspen stalled for the 10th time, and I quit — got out and took the passenger seat for 5 more years. 1986: 21, I applied for a temp. “You know it’s a crime to hide previous attempts,” the picklefaced woman at the counter said. Caleb got me going in Providence that summer, nudging me from Rhode Island to Massachusetts to Rhode Island in his white Yugo, and Stewart and his Mazda 626 finished me off 3 years later in Tucson. I lost control in the apartment parking lot, hit a tiny tree, took off his side mirror. 1990: Dave helped me buy my first car, a Mazda GLC that drove me through the PhD, wedding, Lizzie’s first two years, to Michigan, where I learned — in a horrifying second — how to stop in heavy snow. 2000: “The right front wheel is about to fall off,” the mechanic said. “Drive across the street to the dealer and dump it.” We drove for three more weeks, Lizzie strapped in the back. 2000: Fred, our first brand new baby, a black Toyota Corolla, drove us to Wisconsin. 2001: A BMW crushed Fred’s back bumper. I felt his damage in my guts. 2010: After a rattling Fred took us to Yellowstone and back, we traded him for Carlos, a silver RAV4. 2013: Lizzie learned to drive him, took him to Portland and back (2018-2021), and he’s still alive, a proud warrior, battlescarred in the drive. 2018: Sappho, a dark blue Camry hybrid, solid, stately, joined me in my middle-age journey, a series of small circles inscribed between Green Bay, Madison, and Chicago. We get good gas mileage (though not quite as good as advertised), especially on the open road. We aren’t afraid to merge, to drive in big city traffic, to explore uncharted territory. We never stall. On the other hand, we don’t feel that bloodcrazy excitement of driving the edge of incompetence, or that bonedeep fear of moving tons of metal through streams of indifferent strangers. We just drive, body and machine, while my mind travels back and forth in time. So far, we’ve always reached our destination…

2 thoughts on “Day 3

  1. It’s rare these days that I drive alone
    and that’s really for the best.
    There’s a muscle memory that clicks
    with my seatbelt and if I’m not careful
    I find myself on cruise control and
    blow past my exit, traveling to a
    spring night from high school, through
    a college snowstorm, a summer
    afternoon alone
    alone
    alone.
    My home in my rearview I
    pump the breaks and flip my
    hazards, gasping amid exhaust.
    Dust settles.
    I adjust my mirrors, turn on the blinker,
    merge back into traffic.
    The ac vents adjusted to my face, cold air
    blasting, I pull a u-ie
    and return from whence I came.

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