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Driving Miss Amy [Tall Drink of Nerd]

To be perfectly honest, I was always a lousy driver. Less then a year after I got my license, I began my reign of terror. Side-swiping my Dad’s 1960ish green van, one of those behemoths that was made entirely out of Adamantium. After that followed a series of unfortunate events, the last happening just a few years ago when I totaled my SUV. Now I can’t drive at all.

It started when I was a Senior in high school, coming home late from theater practice one night. I tried to park my tinny Ford Fairmont in front our house and ran up against Dad’s van front bumper. The back passenger door caved in and one of my hub caps knocked off and folded in two, like a PB&J made on one slice of bread. Dad’s van didn’t have a scratch. We didn’t report it, so my car never got fixed.

That incident was followed by a series of one-car mishaps. I backed into poles, spun out on icy country roads and scraped garage walls. I’m thinking now that maybe it had something to do with depth perception. Or maybe there was a correlation with how often I hit things when I was singing along with the radio.

In between accidents, I loved driving. My chosen college sat exactly 10 hours from my parents house and I would drive back home every few months. Ten hours, by myself, rattling across Kansas in my old Ford Fairmoni (the “t” in Fairmont had lost it’s top at some point, so my car was a unique individual) with only an AM radio for company. The trip was boring, so I popped into the discount store of my college town and purchased a few fake animal nose masks. It was fun to pass other cars with a Toucan nose or a Piggy nose, smile and wave. Other drivers usually laughed, some just gaped. Being an oddball was a fun way to pass time.

That Fairmont carried me to Chicago, 14 hours, again on my own. I still wasn’t a great driver, but I was much better on highways, where backing up and/or parking wasn’t an issue. The move to California included a co-driver, in a VW micro-bus. I managed to get here in one piece, and continued to work through L.A. traffic for over a decade. Driving was beautiful, peaceful even in rush-hour, freedom. It’s a sweet feeling to wind down Laurel Canyon with the windows down, Eagles on the radio and a breeze cooling the valley sweat off your neck.

Then it happened. I didn’t see the car that t-boned me. I don’t recall the moment that a little blue pick-up drove itself into my passenger door going 40 miles an hour, fast enough to break her foot and crack my frame. I don’t recall the airbag blossoming out of my steering wheel, cracking open the leather horn cover like the tinfoil on a pan of instant jiffy pop. I remember the hiss of a broken radiator, clamboring for my purse and the door latch so I could bail before the car exploded and the thought of how I was glad I was wearing tennis shoes so I didn’t have to walk barefoot.

I wish I could have seen her coming at me. I wish I could recall the impact. I wish I had that “Oh Shit! How do I stop this!” moment where you can see the accident about to happen but can’t avoid it. I didn’t see her and because I didn’t see her then, now I’m always expecting that shock again. Whenever a car speeds by too fast or merges too close, lightening electric bolts of fear blaze up my spine and across my skin.

I rallied for a little while. Started driving, commuting but never enjoying that breeze or that solitude again.

I thought I got better, for a few years, it got better. But when stress defined my world though an overwhelming series of sucky events – my neurosis hopped on me, overwhelmed me. I had a panic attack one morning when driving to work. The world went black, my skin went cold and I managed to pull to the side of the road and wait for my husband to come save me. That was two and a half years ago.

Now my husband (The Driver) drives me everywhere I need to go. He has been a saint, and I try not to burden him with too many plans. Luckily I work from home and we live in an area that has so much within walking distance. I’ve tried to drive since the panic attack, but go rubbery and blind almost instantly. I miss the independence of being a driver. The road is long and this is just a bump that I managed to hit particularly hard. When the time is right, I’ll get acclimated again, but for now, I’m cutting myself slack, meditating and relaxing and letting The Driver take the wheel.

featured image credit: biblicone