Driving Me Crazy

I’ve never liked driving. I never even had the urge to drive. I waited 6 months after turning 16 before even thinking about it. I finally started because all of my friends were starting. Most 16 year olds, after getting their licenses, become enchanted with the idea of their newfound freedom and independence. I was not one of those.

When given the chance to drive somewhere, I’d turn it down. I just did not enjoy driving and found it to be stressful.

Fast forward a year, and I get in an accident. A Catholic school girl in her uniform, on her way home from school. A 16-wheeler truck pulls out from a hidden side street in front of me as I’m going 50 MPH. This guy is trying to make an illegal U-turn on a divided highway. I hit him (the sound of my brakes squealing paired with the chilling, instant realization of ‘Oh my God, I’m going to hit him’ is singed in my brain forever). He was the top of the T, the horizontal part, if it helps you picture it. Thank God for seatbealts. My car starts smoking and leaking while I’m just sitting there, head aching from where I pounded it on the steering wheel upon impact, stunned. I’ll never, ever forget the old woman who screamed at this truck driver or the nice man my dad’s age who pushed my car to the side of the road and told me to turn the car off. I was shaking too badly and was still paralyzed by shock to accomplish this easy task, so he reached in my open window and turned it off for me.

“Do you have a phone? Call your dad or your mom. I saw what happened; I’ll be a witness for insurance purposes. I won’t leave until someone gets here for you, okay? I won’t let the truck driver say a word to you.  Sweetheart this isn’t your fault, okay?”

I think of that man often. Remembering people like him reminds me of how good people are. My car was $6k in damages that the truck driver and his company insurance paid. We went to the ER for insurance purposes and after the scans, the doctor announced, “You have a very minor concussion, your neck that’s sore will remain sore for a week or two, and…a sinus infection.” Haha!

So I was fine. But mentally, my attitude toward driving was forever changed. That truck driver appeared out of NO WHERE. Before, I knew things could happen while driving. I took the driving courses, I went driving with my parents, I listened to their stories about driving. I just lived in an ignorant bubble about it, I guess. This accident was the most real reminder that anything could happen while driving, not just to me but anyone I’m sharing the road with, and you need to react quickly with the right instinct, whether it’s swerving, braking, whatever, or you could be seriously injured, injure somebody else, die, or kill somebody else. I am not good at reacting and am not too confident in my driving instincts. I know that I’m a good driver; I’m just terrified of all the things that can happen.

I’m well-aware that anything could happen outside of driving too. I could be walking from my cubicle to the office kitchen and my heart could give out. Something about driving just really freaks me out.

Junior year of college, I got a nail stuck in my tire but I didn’t know it was in there. My tire pressure light came on while I was driving with my roommate. She knew how to put air in a tire so we pulled into a gas station down the street from school. After the tire was successfully filled up with air, my tire pressure light was still on. My roommate assured me that her car took a while for the light to turn off. Long story short and a few more attempts at driving while still waiting for the tire pressure light to turn off, I had to take it to a second mechanic who pulled the nail out. The nail-in-my-tire saga popped my bubble of ignorance again and reignited my fear of something happening. I still don’t know how to gauge my tire pressure or put air in my tires.

Now I wish I’d taken a picture of my deflated tire for comparison purposes, because now, every-time I look at my tires, I’m convinced they’re flat or steadfastly deflating. They just always look flat to me! It’s a running gag with my friends now, my fear of my tires, coupled with my fear of driving. I’m scared of flat tires or having a blow-out and flipping my car. When driving, I’m constantly glancing down at the dashboard thing, to see if my “low tire pressure” icon is lit.

In early November, the feared icon came on and I drove straight to the mechanic down the road. He gauged the air pressure in each tire. Every tire was reasonable, my tires are supposed to have 32, and the lowest was like 20. The light probably had just come on due to change in weather and it getting colder out. I think  my terror-stricken expression and my question of “So…there’s nothing stuck in the tire, right? It’s just low? No nails or anything?” made him feel sorry for me and so he filled each one up to 32. So, thanks to that mechanic, I now remind myself “Kirk just put air in them 3 months ago…they’re fine…..” to try to combat my panic.

So aside from my tires, someone I’m sharing the road with doing something like that truck driver, or just generally, driving, I also hate to drive people. Not only do I hate driving people because I think they’re judging my driving, I don’t want anything to happen to them. What if we got in an accident and they died and I lived? Oh the blame. That’s a burden I couldn’t bear. I’m happy as a clam and cool as a cumber when I’m passenger in someone else’s car because if something happened, I’m not responsible.

Oh I know how messed up this is.

Now that I have Triple A, I feel a little better. Although they can’t really help if I’m driving to work and my low tire pressure light comes on. How do I know if I can make it to work? How do I know where a gas station with an air pump is? I’m assuming if I needed to, I could figure out how to put air in my tire. It actually sounds pretty freaking easy. I just have to make sure I don’t OVERFILL it, and then I’ll really have a blowout, Oh God.

I think if there was no traffic, no other drivers, no reversing, no difficult parking jobs, no left turns without a traffic light, no snow and a car that was indestructible and nothing would ever happen to it, I wouldn’t mind driving. I like listening to music and coasting along on a nice day.

Yeah, I know I’m totally nuts and paranoid.

I can’t imagine when I have kids! What am I going to do? Refuse to drive the pre-school carpool? Oy.


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