February 10, 2009

Every Day Is A Winding Road

My sister likes to demonstrate one of our many differences by telling how we got our respective driver's licenses. Nicole looked forward to her 16th birthday as a life-changing date. Getting her license was a pivotal moment in her life, and she was most likely in line as soon as the DMV opened on her sweet sixteen. That girl wanted to drive and no one was going to get in her way. I, on the other hand, didn't even get my license on my birthday. The DMV was closed, so you know, I went a few days later, or whatever. No big deal. I am pretty sure had the DMV not been open on my sister's birthday she would have broken in, administered her own test, took her own photo and made her own license. Even today, our car tendencies could not be more different. She's a mechanical engineer designing heating and cooling systems for automobiles. I don't even own a car.

When I moved to Chicago, I brought my nice (almost) new 1999 Alero with me. I had my car in the city, but I can remember being excited to take public transportation. My first Chicago apartment was located within walking distance of three bus lines and an el stop. I'm proud to say that I could navigate my way around most parts of Chicago via public transit within a month of moving here. And given that I lived within walking distance of a grocery store, I found myself using my car pretty much only to drive to and from my job in the suburbs.

I was only two months into my job when I began to grow tired of my daily car commute, and by my fourth month in the city I had started a new job. This new job was located near an el stop so my car was no longer a necessity. A month into that job, I drove my car back to Michigan and left it at my parents' house. I told them that if in three months I didn't feel I needed my car they could sell it. It was less than a month later when I gave my parents the go ahead.

Not having a car was such a freeing act. I loved living in a place where I did not need to own a car. I preferred almost anything to driving: walking, buses, trains, cabs or a bike. All were better than navigating and finding parking on the city streets. Not to mention, on my cash-strapped budget I was more than happy to no longer have to pay for gas, car repairs, city parking stickers ($200), towing fees ($150) and tickets ($50 a pop). I happily carried on with my city girl lifestyle sans car for the next three years.

I still do not have a car, but moving in with Mike has allowed me access to a car. Mike's trusty Jeep has been a lifesaver in my new neighborhood. I no longer have to carry groceries, and the errands that used to take me hours to run via public transit take no time at all. I also have to say I could not do my morning gym routine without his car. I love it, but I don't like driving Mike's car with him in it. I am more than happy to sit shotgun no matter the distance - be it a five minute drive to the grocery store or a five hour trip to Michigan. In fact, I think I can count on two fingers the number of times I've sat behind the driver's wheel with Mike in the car. You see, while I have keys to it, it's not my car. And if anything were to happen to it while I was behind the wheel I would be devastated. Plus I'd lose any trust Mike has in my driving abilities. I am uber paranoid when I drive it. That paranoia reaches unprecedented levels when Mike is in the car. That's why he's seen me drive it so few times.

That is until his surgery.

Mike is unable to walk without the aid of crutches right now, and he certainly cannot drive. Given the distance to the train and the hassle of him climbing aboard the train, we've been driving to work everyday this week. Scratch that, I've been driving us to work.

My years not spent behind the wheel of a car have left me a little shaky on the road. I never feel like I fully have my bearings. Factor in that we're commuting to downtown Chicago during rush hour and that Mike is watching my every move behind the wheel, and I can tell you this has been a most stressful week for me. Plus what I am driving is a Mike-sized car. A Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited. An Amy-sized car is something a little smaller, probably a mid-size, not very flashy. Let's face it, I'm a Malibu.

I find myself making a lot of audible noises while I drive. For some reason, I think if I start throwing out random "motherf*ckers!" to passersby that they'll make room for me. I think that by going "eeeeEEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeEEEEEEEE" while merging that the lanes will open and no one will get in my way. I think that by shrinking in my seat, pulling in my elbows and holding my breath that somehow I'll be able to squeeze between that bus and that street sanitation crew a little easier. And for some crazy reason, I think that if I stare intently at cabbies that they might, just might, let me go in front of them. Note to self: That will never happen.

I cannot wait for Mike's foot to heal for many reasons. It will be wonderful when he has no more pain in his foot. It will be nice for him to be able to get water without having to figure out how to carry it back to the couch. And I'm pretty sure he's looking forward to being able to walk, instead of hop, up three flights of stairs to get home. But for purely selfish reasons, I cannot wait for Mike's foot to get better because I do not want to drive any more. I have learned that I am more than willing to sit in my rightful place in his car - shotgun. Until he is healed, I'll be fighting the traffic on the mean streets of Chicago and trying to channel the car gene that was given to my sister, but not to me.

1 comment:

Megan said...

I'm with you on the car thing! Five years of Los Angeles and I know I can drive anywhere, but I hate it. We moved downtown so literally we only drive in really bad weather or to Target...that's it.