Driving me crazy (in which I slightly overuse ALL CAPS)

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After blogging for so long, I feel compelled to make a confession, even though I realise that by sharing my hitherto closely guarded secret, I run the risk of exposing myself as the absolutely uncool, neurotic bundle of nerves that I am. Because you know, that’s one of the many joys of blogging and writing in general: With little effort and a few carefully chosen words, one can seem über-cool and sexy and brave, when that is actually the furthest thing from reality! Which is just another reason why I love writing so much. Yes, I know that you’ve seen right through me from the get-go, but please just humour me, okay?

Here goes. Ready? Brace youselves, because it is bad and you’ll never view me in the same light again!

So read on, if you dare. Just promise to at least try to still respect me tomorrow morning, okay?

I hate hate HATE driving. It terrifies me.

Not only that, but I am TERRIBLE at it.

Seriously. I am the driver that you all love to loathe. The one who slams on my brakes when someone 100 kilometres ahead of me merely taps theirs.

Granted, I am not in the fast lane* when I do this, but still… from the way the faces of the drivers behind me, visible in my rear view mirror, twist and contort with rage, I reckon that my cautionary measures don’t go over very well.

See? I TOLD you it was bad.

Compared to me, the granny who nervously crawls along at about 20 kph in her sturdy, vintage car looks like the female version of Michael Schumacher.

Yes, I know. I am the one girl who is single-handedly responsible for giving female drivers the world over a bad name. (Actually, it isn’t single-handedly. It’s more like both white-knuckled hands gripping the wheel. One at two o’clock and one at ten o’clock.)

My affliction extends to everything with wheels: From bicycles (don’t think I ever progressed past the tricycle stage) to motorcycles.

Yes, of course I have stupidly tried riding a motorcycle. On my father’s insistence.

When I was ten years old, he still couldn’t accept that I, his fourth child after three daughters, turned out to BE YET ANOTHER GIRL. Even though he and my mom had changed the recipe by waiting four years instead of the usual two years between babies before having me. Therefore I harboured so much being-a-girl-instead-of-a-son-guilt that I swallowed my fear and agreed to try and ride a bike. With Wheels. And an ENGINE. By myself.

Granted, as far as motorcycles go, it was a real girlie bike, with an engine sounding no more threatening than an ailing mosquito, but still enough to trick the ears on my ten-year old self into believing that it was as powerful as a Ducati and therefore a potential coffin on two wheels.

Do I really need to tell you how that excursion went? Well, it didn’t last very long, thank goodness. And thank goodness that no living thing was in my path, but that there was a wall which came in very handy when I went faster and faster instead of stopping…

Luckily, the wall, the bike and I all survived with minimal external scars. But the emotional scarring was forever carved into my fragile soul…

Oddly enough, I am not a nervous passenger. I even love to ride on the back of a motorcycle and one of my biggest thrills ever was riding around the greater Washington D.C. metropolitan area on the back of a Harley Davidson.

So yes, all you lay (psycho)logists. Go ahead. But I know what you are itching to tell me: That I have Major Issues and am therefore unable to trust myself and that some of those very same Major Issues extend into Major Issues with my self-esteem. Which would be good news, actually, because that would imply that I at least HAVE self-esteem! Ha ha.

I think the reasons for my driving terror are actually far more boring and mundane: I am just a scaredy-cat. Plain and simple.

I am one of the only people I know who wasn’t eager to get my driver’s license. As my 18th birthday inched ever closer, I DREADED the thought.

So throughout college, I saw to it that all my boyfriends had cars. And I knew most city bus drivers in Pretoria by name.

Eventually, at the age of 20, the gong sounded ominously on my procrastination of the inevitable, marking the end of my ‘career’ as a happy, terminal passenger.

I had a job offer as a newspaper reporter. But one of the conditions of the job was that I had to have my driver’s license!

My father and I were both still too scarred by my near-fatal motorcycle driving experience, so external, professional help was recruited. One early autumn day in my 20th year, I was picked up by the Top Gears Driving School** instructor for my first lesson.

I’m sure the poor man had to undergo trauma counselling afterwards. He probably still is! It was a good thing that the Top Gears Driving School cars came equipped with brake, clutch and accelerator pedals on the passenger side as well!

But we got through it. Even though what was supposed to have been five lessons (“No, really, Mrs. Redsaid’s Mom. We assure you that all our students have the hang of it after only five lessons! In fact, we guarantee it!”) stretched into a costly fifteen.

(And I STILL can’t parallel park.)

Then the only other ordeal remained: Actually getting my license. Now, all my sisters – despite being eager to drive and possessing lead feet – failed their driver’s license tests the first time.

So I think my entire family (including myself) mentally prepared for the possibility of me becoming a regular at the testing grounds for the next few years or so.

Right around this time, my mom became increasingly nervous by the prospect of me taking too long to pass my driver’s test and then losing the newspaper job and spending the rest of my living days lazing around on the couch watching television under her roof. So she took necessary precautions.

She arranged for my driver’s test to take place at a testing ground far outside the city in a town where the female population was hovering just this side of extinction and where they probably had not seen a girl in real life in WEEKS.

Then, on the day of the test, she had me dress up, attempted to tame my hair into something remotely resembling a style and had my sister carefully apply my make-up. (“But not too much, in case it’s a female traffic cop.”)

To be continued on Monday... (Promise)

* Sure I've been in the fast lane! As a passenger.

** Not their real name. Are you kidding me? They'll probably receive death threats for allowing the likes of me to even go for my driver's license. They should have just given up on me after fifteen lessons, declaring me unfit to handle anything with wheels.

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3 Comments

zoot said:

First of all, blogging can make one seem uber-cool (if one could find the omalots), sexy, and brave? How do I get in on that gig?

Second of all, you are not alone. I know more than one person who is totally phobic about driving. In fact, when I moved to the States I had not driven for darn close to eight years and I found it quite overwhelming. The person I lived with was even more phobic about driving than me, if you can imagine that!, so I did it under duress... over and over and over again, day after day, until now, seven years later, I pretty much drive like a normal person unless it is in the rain, in which case I drive with the wheel gripped firmly at ten and at two, with panic and anxiety my close and unwelcome companions....

So I feel your pain...

Alma said:

You certainly aren't alone. It took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that I am a bad driver. In the early days I was a reckless and a terror to be riding with. I eventually calmed down (turned 20) with the speeding and swerving and general stupidity, and that's when it came to light that I'm "that female driver" so many people make fun of. I've totaled a car in a parking lot (seriously). A few years back I was in the Tsunami and nearly drowned. Ever since then, not only am I a bad driver, I am terrified of driving. Absolutely terrified to drive over 25 miles per hour. Heck, I'm scared to be a passenger on the highway. Cannot stand things coming at me quickly. PSTD+being a bad driver=Boyfriend gets to chaufer me around ;D

Marco said:

I'll admit I had a good chuckle reading this. But I still think you're über-cool and sexy and brave. On top of that, über-funny as well.

It's not so much that I hate bad drivers. What irritates me more is having a driver as a passenger, telling me how to drive! :-P

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is a South African girl living in South Africa. That doesn't sound very original, we know, but you might find it remotely interesting when you learn that she has only recently returned to South Africa for the first time after a nine year, one month and two week (non-stop!) stint in the United States where she accidentally became an outlawed alien (also known, especially in immigration circles, as an 'illegal immigrant.' We prefer the term 'outlawed alien' ourselves). During her reversed exile from her homeland, she kept herself occupied by winning this website (but only after shamelessly bribing the judges) and thus being unleashed on the web where she slowly, leisurely became the World's Laziest Blogger; by being a nanny and by attending sci-fi conventions in search of other aliens. In the US, she also made her sailing debut, her international acting debut, tried and failed to learn the piano, and never learned to cook. She is hopelessly addicted to coffee, dogs (especially Labrador Retrievers), how-to books (with a particular fondness for her copy of the Time/Life A - Z Medical Encyclopedia), and she tends to grossly overuse parentheses (we're not kidding) during her attempts at writing, which you may - if you really have masochistic tendencies - subject yourself to by reading the words to the right of this column. If you REALLY and truly STILL want to know more, you can read her C.V. here.
Or you can stalk her send her some love via e-mail at: redsaid[AT]gmail[DOT]com

The Wish List (Because yes, she really does need more how-to books. Honestly!)

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comments
  • Marco : I'll admit I had a good chuckle reading this. But I still think you're über-cool and sexy and brave.... [go]
  • Alma : You certainly aren't alone. It took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that I am a bad dr... [go]
  • zoot : First of all, blogging can make one seem uber-cool (if one could find the omalots), sexy, and brave... [go]
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