I have a long history with driving, and most of it has been spent hating it or driving like a squirrel. I prefer to walk, bike, or direct the designated driver, which usually means messing with the radio, or pointing out blacks cats and old ladies in yellow rain coats. It’s obvious who’s really having the most fun in a car? Passengers. “I am a passenger. And I ride and I ride…”
Being shotgun means you get to be the dj and enjoy the views, while also distributing snacks if it’s a long ride. No worries, just the long road ahead. It’s all fun talk from the back people, who are left abandoned to their devices, sloppy sleep, or talking until words run out. At least they get to nap while the people in the front stay awake, worried that they’ll miss a turn on the long journey. As a passenger your job is to keep everyone entertained, while also being in charge of checking alternate routes, messing with the GPS, or using a printed google map when there’s no service. “We won’t know if we’re going the right way until we get there,” echoes from somewhere.
The last time I held a real map was in 2007. It was a giant one, and it was upside down when we were on the highway heading to Canada. Eventually the giant map overtook me and covered my side of the front window. My friends in the back laughed hysterically. The driver wasn’t too thrilled. I heard the car steer. No more giant maps after that.
Who’s the real decision maker? The driver. While I love indulging in music, the views, and being the squirrel shotgun who spaces out. I often wonder wouldn’t it better to drive, to make decisions on the whim—last-minute, quick decision.
Now that I’m back to driving the second time around, I feel more confident, and less fearful of traffic. I still have my reservations, and they should be in place. I don’t want to be the daredevil beginner driver who gets a ticket on her first badass driving maneuver. When you’re learning its best to be patience and take it slow. Expert drivers can take calculated risks, since they anticipate the possible outcome after years of difficult driving.
Being fearless doesn’t mean exhibiting a kind of hubris and making careless decisions on the road, it means weighing out the options, and making a wise decision. As an example, here are these two scenarios. The first is a calculated risk. A friend was in a small parking lot with only a few spots available. She spotted one and hurried to take it with confidence, moving past the slow cars while being careful. The second decision was a careless one: she was in a curvy highway on the side of a mountain, just beyond the road was gravel then the abyss. On this barely lit highway she decided to suddenly stop and take a photo of a blue sunset (It was beautiful, I have to admit)—not knowing if there was a car behind her. “Gasp!” The car behind stopped, albeit abruptly, but at least it didn’t hit us. The moment was so quick, I doubt she enjoyed the sunset in the same way we did.
On Sunday I drove in the sun. Despite the noises outside, the traffic, the conversations inside the car, I was able to black out those minors things, and simply watch the ongoing streets, lights, and pedestrians walking by. Everything was clockwork, turning, turning, slowing down, moving quickly, staying still, letting cars pass, moving again. At some point I began feeling the fluidity of driving, and it was no longer a chore. I like driving in the mornings when its quiet, especially if its foggy. Everything is blank and new out there in the cold early spring days, making me feel empty with clarity. The repetition of driving is therapeutic—sameness down ordinary streets.