Something comes over perfectly nice men when they’re in a car driven by a woman. Almost every man who’s been in my car when I’m driving has been annoying, and then some. Bob, my former significant other, was the worst of them. His name is not really Bob. I changed it for this blog post so I won’t be sued.
A typical example of driving with Bob was my 40th birthday. I was bummed out about hitting 40, but looking forward to dinner at the nice restaurant Bob was taking me to. Bob drove to the restaurant, and we had a great dinner and a lot of fun. I drove home because I don’t drink and Bob had had a couple of beers. He wisely never drove if he had more than one drink.
Picture it. (I borrow that phrase from Sophia in Golden Girls.) It’s a dark night. We walk to the car, I get settled in the driver’s seat, and turn on the ignition. Bob is normally an amiable, easy-going man except when I’m driving. I glance over at him and he’s in his usual male-passenger position: staring straight ahead, his jaw set grimly, his feet wide apart and firmly planted on the floor. There’s not one relaxed bone in his body. Not one relaxed muscle. Even his ears are stiff. His nose is tense. His nostrils are flared. It’s not a good sign. I’m not even out of the parking lot yet and he’s loaded for bear.
Dr. Jekyll has become Mr. Hyde.
I drive to the end of the parking lot exit. A car is coming on my left. It’s quite a distance away, yet I stop. I always drove super cautiously with Bob in the car, to keep him from getting agitated.
After the car has gone by, I check again. Out of the corner of my eye I see Bob’s head turning left and right repeatedly. He is checking for cars, as vigilant as an airliner copilot. Traffic is very light and there’s only one more car coming, quite a distance away and traveling slowly. With plenty of time on my side, I turn right onto the road.
“Wow!” Bob says tensely. “That car almost hit you. You shouldn’t have pulled out. Reckless.”
“It wasn’t even close to the driveway, Bob,” I say calmly. “It still isn’t. It was a mile away, what are you talking about?”
“He wasn’t far away,” Bob insists. “He was almost on top of you!” I say nothing. I glance over at him and see that both hands are now gripping the seat on either side of his knees, his knuckles white, his jaw still set grimly, his feet still planted wide apart.
“He was not close,” I insist. “Not even,” I add, imitating Lisa Kudrow, who always said that phrase with the accent on even. Lisa Kudrow annoyed him no end, which of course is why I did it.
“Watch it! Watch it!” Bob yells all of a sudden. I’m once again reminded of how he always yells “watch it!” twice. It’s very annoying! It’s very annoying!
“Watch it! Watch it!” he yells again. I don’t know what he’s yelling about.
“Watch what, Bob?” I ask, exasperated.
I glance over. Bob’s right hand is now fiercely gripping the arm rest, with his left pressed tightly against the glove compartment. He’s clenching and unclenching his jaw. “That car’s going to sideswipe you! Watch it!” I can’t see what he’s talking about, and then a car passes by me gently and safely in the lane on my right. Bob was watching it. Bob was always afraid cars were going to go over their lines. He had no trust in the Universe.
“Everything’s fine,” I say. “He’s just going past me, he’s well within his lane.”
“He was going over his line,” Bob says. “Way over. You have to watch people!”
“Well, what can I do Bob? I’m stuck in my lane, I can’t get out. We’ll have a head-on if I go over to the left. And I can’t go to the right because the car’s there. Anyway, that guy wasn’t getting close. I saw him in my side mirror. He was fine.”
There’s a red light coming up. I stop in plenty of time, with one car ahead of me. “You’re too close!” Bob yells. “You have to be able to see the tires of the car in front of you. Completely!”
“I can see the damn tires,” I shout, starting to lose my cool. I glance over again. His lips are moving. He appears to be praying. He’s changed position and is now gripping the door handle with both hands, like he might jump out. A part of me, I’m ashamed to say, wishes he would.
When the light turns green I cross the intersection, after I look both ways like I always do. I’m old and wise enough to know you can’t just shoot out like a bat out of hell because your light turns green. Someone could be running the cross light. I shot out without looking once when I was in my twenties and got T-boned. I foolishly told Bob about it and traumatized him, even though it was about 40 years ago and I haven’t had an accident since. Goodie-two-shoes Bob never had an accident, not even a little fender bender. His worse traffic offense was a fix-it ticket for brake lights.
Down the road a car approaches on the cross street to my right, slowly, braking to stop safely at the intersection. “Watch it! Watch it!” Bob yells. “Watch it! Watch it! That car’s not stopping!”
“He is too! He is too!” I yell back, my voice growing strident. “He’s stopping in plenty of time. He’s a cautious old frug.” I manage not to say “like you.” I don’t want things to deteriorate into name calling. I proceed, glancing over at Bob whose feet are now raised up and braced against the glove compartment. His jaw is grimly reset.
“You’re a reckless driver,” he says. “You’re dangerous, wild.”
“I’m a perfectly good driver,” I tell him. “I’ve been driving us around for 10 years and I’ve never had an accident. I’ve never even had a ticket,” I lie. I did get a few for speeding and one unsafe lane change, during my years with Bob. But never when he was with me.
He doesn’t hear me. “You don’t look,” he says. “You’re distracted, spacy. You’re a menace to society.”
“Not even,” I say. “I’m very alert. It’s a wonder I can focus with you in the car. You badger and badger, you’re like an annoying cockatoo. You have a voice like a jack hammer.” I glance over at him again. He’s now in the fetal position. And there we were, reduced to name-calling. The conversation deteriorated from there. The relationship deteriorated soon after. It was our final car fight. Before long, we split up.
A few years later I met Frank. We’re celebrating our 19th wedding anniversary this year, and 223 years of being together. I’m sorry, 23 years. Freudian slip. We’re going to Monterey today. I’m driving because Frank likes to look around when we’re going somewhere scenic. We get in the car, I start ‘er up, and look over at Frank. As usual when I drive, he’s looking straight ahead, his jaw set grimly, his feet wide apart, firmly planted on the floor. There’s not one relaxed bone in his body. Not one relaxed muscle. Even his ears are stiff…. It’s déjà vu time.
Oh well, nothing’s perfect. Frank and I have disagreements in the car but things are much better than they were with Bob. For instance Frank yells “watch it!” but not twice in a row like Bob used to. And I don’t do my Lisa Kudrow impersonation anymore. I’ve grown. Plus there’s no point to it since it doesn’t bother Frank. Most important, I realize now that nothing is perfect, including driving with your spouse. Including marriage, period. Marriage is good, but it’s definitely not perfect. Not even.
Oakville Kid: Yo i heard you were kickin it old school with corbin’s mom last night brooo!!!
Oakville Kid 2: Yo NOT EVEN