The Driving Lesson

Over the past 36 years, I have gradually assumed more of the driving duty whenever John and I travel together.  It has been a fairly steady transition that gained momentum when he took a job as a truck driver in 1981.  Driving 10-14 hours a day, 6 days a week renders driving on your day off a less than enticing activity.  However, if you would have been in the vehicle with us when I was driving in the early years of our marriage, you never would have predicted my ascension to head of transportation services.

I readily admit that I was an inexperienced driver when we married.  However, I disagree that I was the highway menace John insinuated I was every time I got behind the wheel.  From the moment I turned the key in the ignition, my performance was under constant assault and critique.  Whether it was my position in the traffic lane (too close to the center line) or my lack of consistency with the speed I traveled in the days before cruise control, I endured an unending litany of complaints.  It got to the point where I would elicit a promise from him that he would not comment on my driving before I would get behind the wheel.  Although it didn’t completely solve the problem, we took a huge step forward the day I gave HIM a driving lesson.

I’m not sure why I was driving on this particular day in 1975, but for some reason I was behind the wheel as we headed over to pick up hay from a nearby field.  As was usually the case, I drove too fast (or was it too slowly), I hit every pothole in the road, and I was responsible for the escalating tension with the Soviet Union.  You get the picture.  So I was already completely irritated by the time we got back to the house and headed up the drive to the barn.  I passed by the first gate as we rarely, if ever, used that entrance, but for some reason known only to John, that was where I was supposed to go.  Suddenly, I was the most incompetent driver on the planet because I missed my turn.  I was already going slowly as I approached the turn at the second gate, and that was how I was afforded the opportunity to avoid any further insults to my driving ability as I put the pickup into neutral and bailed out of the vehicle.  Of course this left John rolling down the driveway seated on the passenger’s side.  I didn’t look back, but I have a pretty good picture in my mind of what that driver-less vehicle and it’s stunned passenger must have looked like as he assessed the situation.

It only took a few seconds for him to slide behind the wheel, bring the vehicle to a stop, and shout out the window for me to “Get back here right now!”  I just kept walking to the house.  The command was repeated verbatim a couple of times before he accepted the fact that I wasn’t coming back.  In a vain attempt to save face, his last verbal missive actually made me chuckle because I knew it carried no real threat when he shouted, “You better not come back because I’ll kill you.”

He later apologized, and I declined to drive for the next few weeks to reinforce my point.  As I said, the driving “advice” didn’t stop immediately, but things gradually improved from that time forward.  I still get unsolicited advice, but that is the exception rather than the norm.  I’m not sure which has improved more, my driving ability or his ability to withhold comments about my driving, but apparently we are both trainable.

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