When I learned how to drive the country was in the midst of an energy crisis which meant you had to sit in a gas line to fill your tank, the speed limit was lowered from seventy-five miles per hour (which nobody drove—I have vivid memories of being squashed between my parents, unseatbelted, in the front seat of our Ford Country Squire, my eyes glued to the speedometer as my dad kept it at ninety) to fifty-five, and we were urged to avoid “jackrabbit starts” at stop signs to save on fuel.
Nowadays people don’t have to remember to avoid jackrabbit starts at stop signs since most of them barely bother to pause at intersections, the speed limit is back to seventyish, and apparently there is gas galore for everyone forever.
I actually like to drive, it’s other people on the road I find irritating, although I’m sure they find me irritating as well. I’ve never been what one might term an aggressive driver and I’ve been passed on the road more times than McDonald’s has sold cheeseburgers. I suppose I should say I used to like to drive. Not so much anymore. There are too many people out there who rules of the road are more along the line of suggestions, and that the silly law about not looking at your cell phone while driving was meant for everyone else.
A former (thank God) girlfriend of our oldest son explained why it as all right for her to text and drive whenever she darn well felt like it, which was constantly.
“Young people have faster reflexes so they can text while they’re on the highway and no one will get hurt,” she explained.
I kept my mouth shut, as mothers of sons tend to do with the girls their sons are dating, but I was thinking, in addition to how much my son needed to drop this girl, that one day Little Miss Constant Texter would learn even the fastest reflexes in the world aren’t always enough. I only hope when her inevitable crash happens it’s on a deserted road and there’s no one else involved.
And then there are roundabouts. I know some people love them, but I think they were designed by the same sadists who thought up zipper lanes and colonoscopy prep beverages. I avoided the many roundabouts popping up around our fair town until the day Mark had to take his truck into the Nissan dealership which meant I had to be a good sport and follow in our other car unless he wanted to stay at the dealership all day long (an option I strongly supported).
“But we have to go a roundabout to get there,” I said after searching alternative routes to no avail. “A big one. The only roundabouts I’ve driven through are at six in the morning when there’s no traffic.”
“We’ll go before eight and I’ll drive home. You can do this,” Mark told me, conveniently forgetting the return trip we’d have to make to pick his truck up.
The drop off went smoothly since there was little traffic on Highway 22 at that time, but when the dealership called and said the truck was ready, around two in the afternoon, traffic had increased considerably.
“Just remember what that guy told me,” Mark said when we got to the dealership.
“The one I met who drives a propane truck.”
“What did he say?”
“He said ‘The second you get in a roundabout, drive like you’re playing chicken and you’ll always win.’”
Easy advice for a propane truck driver to give, but I clung to his words of wisdom nonetheless.
Stomping on the gas, I entered the roundabout and sped toward the exit, pretending I too was hauling a load of propane. I made it crash-free and if I still kept a diary, my entry for that day would have been: “Dear Diary, Today I drove through a roundabout twice and didn’t die. Today I am no longer a roundabout virgin. Today I am a woman!”
Of course, I haven’t driven through another roundabout since, but at least now I know I can if I absolutely have to.
I just wish everyone would slow down a little, obey the rules of the road and be more courteous and less prone to hand gestures while driving. And put down your cell phone. The rest of us law-abiding citizens see you and one of these days we’re going to start tattling, although not while we’re in traffic, of course.