I have never been what we in the Western world dub a “car person.” One who is “into” cars, understands them, finds the mechanical beast of a somewhat interest. Those guys from Car Talk—Click and Clack, the Tappet brothers—now they are car guys. I am just not, nor ever will be.
This fact became obvious when I was in my peak of adolescence. Cars and I shared no magnetism. I spent my 16th birthday as far from the world of motor vehicles as I could get. I was probably doing my parents a favor, but no one understands the person who waits to drive until they are 17. I was lost.
Especially in New Hampshire.
In the Granite State, drivers "live free or die." I’m not kidding. They barely encourage safety regulations for operators of motor vehicles these days—seatbelts, helmets—who needs them? It’s astounding and terrifying. Most terrifying.
My summer of Drivers Education can be described as one of the most traumatic eras of my young life. Seriously. Sitting behind the wheel of that dreaded silver 2002 Ford Focus put me over the edge. Every time, without fail. I looked as if I had put my all into a 5K upon exiting the vehicle: breathing heavily, sweating, legs cramping. By no means was this normal.
My first hour session on the road with my instructor can be summed up in two words: death and destruction. Not only did I peg an innocent squirrel sharing the road, the Focus got a flat. In retrospect these events were not caused by my neurotic first maneuvers, but by the strange alignment of the universe that day. But either way, I lost grip not only of myself but of a handful of lug nuts on the side of the road.
Not one of my finest moments, that’s for sure.
As the years passed, my confidence grew in navigating the New Hampshire and Massachusetts highway systems freely. Storrow Drive had nothing on me. That was until most recently when the universe sprang back into its old order. There is something about the vernal equinox and my operating some sort of sedan that ultimately conflicts.
On two completely unrelated occasions, my brakes failed. Yes, there was a failure in the braking mechanism of my car. Twice. The panic first struck in and around Ringoes, N.J. and later while cruising down Pearl Street in downtown Burlington. This is not appropriate behavior for a braking system. Thanks for nothing Mr. Henry Ford!
I soon labeled the 2001 Ford Taurus “the Death Mobile.” When I gave it the name, I was too panicked to let my creative juices flow, and the title stuck. Over $1000 of labor and Meineke-related services later, and I am still behind the wheel of the Death Mobile. Freaky, I know.
Safety seems so far so good, but sometimes when I am alone my nervous 17-year-old self surfaces. Having a vice grip on 10 and two, I often calm myself by listening to the Barenaked Ladies’ Christmas album. Off season, I know, but it’s an underappreciated piece of work. And as the journey continues, I can be thankful that each Christmas, Santa renews my AAA membership. Thank God it’s November!