Are We There Yet?
Posted by Cassondra Murray Feb 4 2013, 4:47 am
Do you like to drive? I used to.
I’ve been driving for a long while . Longer than my age should allow.
Okay, so I figure the statute of limitations has run out on this by now so I’m going to say it right here in front of God and everybody.
I started driving a bit before the legal age in my state.
Let’s go back even further.
I knew how to drive when I was a wee little thing, because for any of you who don’t already know this, I grew up on a farm, and things are a little different on farms.
On the farm, if you’re going to help with anything beyond cleaning the house or mowing the yard, you need to be able to drive various pieces of equipment. You generally learn how as soon as you’re big enough to physically manage the machine.
Nobody ever made me help out on the farm. I guess it was the whole “Daddy’s Girl” thing combined with my intense love for the outdoors. If you gave me a choice of feeding cows or washing dishes, I’d be out of the house so fast you’d get friction burns if you stood within ten feet of the door.
Nobody ever encouraged me to drive either. The bottom line was that if my dad did it, I wanted to do it.
I wanted to know everything, and I wanted to know how to do everything.
I haven’t changed much in that way.
Okay…Social Services folks..you really should stop reading right now. Otherwise you might have a heart attack. That’s the disclaimer. Read on at your own risk.
I went everywhere with my dad, and I learned how to operate a vehicle by driving his tractor while I sat on his lap. If he was on the tractor, I was either sitting at the edge of the field where I could watch, following on foot as he ran the cultivators, or I was on the tractor with him, riding or driving.
I couldn’t reach the pedals or operate any of the controls, but sitting on his lap, I learned to steer that old Allis Chalmers down the lane and into the barn with just my hands on the wheel when I was barely five years old.
Farm kids learn fast because nobody tells our parents we can’t. By the time I was six my dad could set the speed and let me drive alone.
I still couldn’t reach the pedals but let’s just say he could move the lever on this tractor into its “forward LOW speed” notch, and this tractor would lose a race to a lazy, geriatric sloth.
He set the controls and let me steer at a slow crawl across a flat field while he climbed off the tractor, picked up the sticks of cut tobacco, and hefted them onto the wagon. He could get back to me easily, of course, if I had trouble.
By the time I was eight, I was driving the truck around the farm. I had to wait until I was eight because it took that long for me to reach the brake and the gas, and that was with me on the edge of the seat, stretching my entire body to get to the pedals. But making the truck go, stop, and steer was all you needed in a big grassy field.
We didn’t take family vacations, but when I was ten, I rode with my grandparents and my Uncle Willard to the gulf coast of Mississippi. I sat up front in the middle, and asked a lot of questions. Uncle Willard talked to me the whole way. He taught me how to drive on the interstate, merge safely, how to be courteous and move to the right if somebody was behind me, and a bunch of other skills for safe long-distance driving. I never forgot those early lessons. They made me a good driver.
Flash forward a bit and I was driving to the country store at the bottom of the hill way before I should have, and then to after-school functions at the high school…well…let’s just say early.
I turned sixteen, got my driver’s license the same day, and never looked back.
Cars, and driving, were fun for me.
A few years later, when I had to drive sixty interstate miles twice a day for my work, I learned that the quiet time during the drive was some of my best “alone time” and yielded some of my best creative ideas. I’ve written some of my best songs, solved problems in my books, had personal epiphanies and figured out my life philosophy all while I was driving.
I sometimes get a tiny little glitch in the mental processor when someone says to me, “I don’t drive.” Even though I realize that many, many people don’t drive, it takes me just a second to catch up. But my late mother-in-law never drove and did just fine. The first time I was ever in New York I was walking around the city and thought, “If I lived here, I wouldn’t need a car.”
And yet, I can’t imagine not being able to get in my own vehicle, with my own stuff all around me just the way I like it, and go.
Flash forward again, to 2006, when I needed extra money and started working for the US Postal Service. I was a rural mail carrier, which meant that no matter what, whether I was sick as a dog, the sky was dumping hail the size of dinner plates, or there was a three-inch sheet of ice coating the entire world, I had to drive in it.
No matter how many defensive driving courses, and no matter how much practice I’d had at driving on slick roads, as a mail carrier I had to actually deliver said mail, which meant I had to stop on the ice at each box to put the mail inside. Anybody who drives on ice knows that managing the stops..well, that’s the tricky part.
Driving became a chore. A demand. A necessary evil.
My route was 80 miles long and had more than 500 mailboxes every day. Even thought I was good at it, in bad weather I woke up dreading it. On those icy mornings I woke up fearing it. My job made me hate driving.
When you have something you enjoy and the life gets sucked out of it, I think that’s a sad thing.
Now we’re in 2013, and in more ways than I can count, I’m sort of “waking up” from that job as a mail carrier. Several of my friends deliver mail, and they absolutely love the job, but it wasn’t right for me. You can have the best job in the world, but it it’s wrong for you, somehow I think your soul starts to shrivel a little.
I’ve been driving of course, but even since I quit that job, when I face a long drive part of me goes “bleh.”
For the past three days I’ve had to drive an 80-mile round trip to a nearby town. As I climbed in the car to leave that town earlier this evening, I realized that I actually looked forward to the drive. Something reawakened and I enjoyed the time alone. I got to stare at the passing landscape, to think, to muse, and to tell myself the stories that hang around in the back of my mind, waiting for a quiet moment to whisper, “Hey! Over here! There’s a story over here!”
I have to drive to Atlanta this week, and for the first time in a lot of years, I’m looking forward to it. My journey will take four hours and I’ll go over a mountain, across wide, smooth lakes, and through the beautiful hills of southeast Tennessee.
I’ll have a basket full of my favorite cds in the floorboard and the radio to keep me company.
Or maybe I’ll let some of my characters ride up front with me and have their say. Some of these stories that are banging around in my head might come out to play a bit. Maybe even form into something new and different. The muse might have something it wants to tell me. Something I haven’t been able to hear because I’ve been too busy.
Maybe all I need to do is get quiet and drive for a while.
I can’t wait.
What about you, Bandits and Buddies?
Do you love to drive? Or would you prefer to let someone else do the driving?
Who taught you to drive? Did you learn in a Driver Education class in high school? Or from a family member?
What kind of car did you drive when you were learning?
How old were you when you took your test and got your license?
If you don’t drive, is there mass transit where you are? How do you get where you want to go?
Do you enjoy driving—or riding–on long trips?
Or would you rather hop a plane?
Do you have fond memories of road trips as a kid?
When you’re on the road, what do you do to keep yourself entertained—or if it’s late at night, what do you do to keep yourself awake?
If you’re a writer, do you work on your stories while you’re on the road?
Images by Cassondra Murray or from Dreamstime Free Photos
Posted in Cassondra Murray, Cassondra's blogs, Driving, The muse, The road, travel