On The Road Again

You may remember that I have a little bit of a thing about driving. The "thing," to be more specific, is that I hate it. Or I guess just fear it, whatever, same difference. I wrote about it in 2007, and then again in 2008—by which point I hated-slash-feared it even more, despite a grandiose promise to myself in the 2007 post that I was going to get better at it and, I don't know, win a hundred medals in driving or something—and then I didn't really write about it anymore and I sort of just figured that I'd be a driving hater-slash-fearer for the rest of my life and that would be that. 

But guess what? That was not that. And in case you've been thinking "gee, I wonder how Holly feels about driving these days and if she ever managed to get her hate-slash-fear of it under control"—and I imagine this is often top of your mind, right up there with the global financial crisis and when the new season of Mad Men returns (wait, I know this one: April 7th!)—I thought I would tell you the joyous news. 

Friends, I am fully cured! I can drive again!

(Did you imagine me saying that in a sort of Matthew-Crawley-I-can-walk-again! voice? I hope you did. It doesn't really work otherwise.) 

It's true, though: I no longer have a thing about driving. Much like the rest of the world, I kind of just....get in my car and go.  It's been a long time coming—and also a slow time coming—but I am happy to say that it's really just kind of not a big deal for me anymore, or at least not as big a deal as it used to be. Part of it is that we moved to a different part of the city, one where the streets are wider and flatter and way less clogged with angry city traffic—and also there is abundant parking so one never has to worry about parallel parking backwards up a hill with honking traffic gathering behind one, not that this ever happened to me or anything (of course it did)—but most of it is just that the more I did it, the less I was scared of it. It's like anything, I guess: you just practice and practice and practice, until one day you notice you're not breathing into a paper bag while you're doing it. 

Up until a few months ago, I admit, I pretty much just followed a few timeworn routes I knew like the back of my hand—house to grocery store; house to Target; Target to grocery store to house; Target to TJ Maxx, you know, the essentials—but then I started to branch out a little and go further, take routes I didn't know, drive—gasp!—through the packed city at rush hour. It all sounds so silly now that I'm recounting it—ooh, big deal, you did what most people do every day of their lives—but you have to understand that driving had been a HUGE, HUGE, HUGE mental block for me for the past six years. I would have actual nightmares about merging onto freeways. Okay, I still have actual nightmares about merging onto freeways. I guess the difference is that these days I'm not sweaty and crying when I wake up from them. 

This weekend, I picked Sean up from the airport—an endeavor that involved two freeways, many in-the-dark lane changes, and a few unfamiliar loops of the terminal while I waited for him to come out—and I was so goddamn proud of myself, you'd think I'd won the Booker Prize for Literary Fiction. (You know, I originally typed "the Nobel Peace Prize" but then I had a little think about it, and maybe this is something I should be ashamed of, but I think I'd probably be prouder if I'd actually sat down and fought the procrastination I'd have to fight to be able to write literary fiction than I would be if I'd somehow brokered global peace.) On at least five or six occasions, I've driven myself the hour down the peninsula to work, an undertaking for which I award myself bonus points not only for the ridiculous traffic I have to navigate when I do it, but also for the number of people I have to witness who are sitting in this traffic with their fingers up their noses. (I mean, come on. Do they think there is some sort of PROTECTIVE BUBBLE OF TRAFFIC SITTING that means other drivers can't see them picking their noses?)

I'm not sure what the point of this post is, except to say that if you too are a, ahem, nervous driver—this is the euphemism I liked to use to describe myself, "spineless car-fearing milquetoast" being a little bit of a mouthful—I just want you to know that it might not always be this way. You might not always fear driving. Hey, if I can get over my anxiety about it, anyone can, and as an unexpected bonus, you may even start to like driving again. Listen, if nothing else about it sounds appealing, I can tell you this: it's way less awkward singing along to both parts of California Dreamin' when you're the only person in the car who can hear you do it.  

Jan 31, 2013

Well done Holly, that's great. I was determined to learn to drive before I hit 30 and I did. London isn't the easiest place either now though, I have a complete hang up about driving on the right. I just can't do it. Could you cope driving on the left?!

Jan 31, 2013

I used to not have a driving anxiety but since we moved to Sweden in June of 2011 I have not driven and I now just have a general car anxiety. I am fine on the bus but if I have to go in a car I just want to squeeze my eyes shut and miraculously be at home.

Jan 31, 2013

That is so super for you, and thanks for sharing! I love, love, LOOOOOVE driving. In Canada (or the rest of the right-side-driving world). In an automatic. But I just moved to the UK. And now we have a manual-transmission. And TRAFFIC CIRCLES, OH MY GOD KILL ME NOW, EXCEPT DON'T BECAUSE I AM ABOUT TO DO IT TO MYSELF WHEN I CUT OFF A DOUBLE-DECKER BUS.

Anyhow, Yes. Nervous driving. I was practicing, and then I hit a plateau where I couldn't make it through a certain intersection without stalling (near my house, requires driving through to actually get anywhere useful), so I just... stopped.

Clearly the wrong decision. And if you can sack up and get over your driving fear, I can certainly get back on the proverbial horse and figure it out.

Jan 31, 2013

Good for you! I have been driving since I was 16 but recently realized I have a bit of driving anxiety. It's mostly when I'm in unfamiliar cities and mountainous highways. I just drove through Pennsylvania in the dark and had to pull over halfway at a rest stop to unclench my jaw and pry my hands off the steering wheel for a minute. And now that I've made it to DC, I suggest all pedestrians stay at home til I've left on Saturday...

Jan 31, 2013

Wonderful! I understand how you feel about driving though. Although I've been a regular driver since I was 16, I've always been nervous and anxious on the road. I'm also what my husband calls an "active passenger." I just can't relax in a car, no matter what seat I'm in.

Anna Louisa
Jan 31, 2013

Ha - I hear you! I live in D.C. (insane. traffic.), but I only get nervous when my husband's in the car with me giving me "advice" about when to merge, etc. When I'm by myself I'm fine, but constant ideas of how to get one car ahead stress me out!


Jan 31, 2013

I drove a rental car through downtown San Francisco once during the evening rush-hour -- oh, the one-way streets! the crazy hills! and, my god, the cable cars! -- I think I'm still a bit traumatized by that experience. : )

Jan 31, 2013

I am relieved to hear this, as I have developed into a nervous driver since a car accident. Driving on highways seriously terrifies me now, although I know it's probably something I need to just get used to again.

Jan 31, 2013

Hmm, I can't really relate to this. I live in the western US and driving is a fact of life. The town I grew up only had a bank and a gas station, no grocery store, nowhere to watch a movie or a bowling alley to hang out at. It took me 20 minutes to drive to my high school, for heaven's sake. Most cities aren't terribly walkable unless you live right downtown or in a specifically designed neighborhood, so driving is something that everyone has to do. I think I was 19 when I took my first 13+ hour solo drive and I loved every minute of it.


Jan 31, 2013

Oh, man. Why does everybody act like driving isn't scary? It's SO scary. I didn't get my license until I was 19, and that experience involved being taught by my boyfriend. We're married now, so clearly no one died in the process, but I'm so glad to hear that other people have had the creeps about it, too. I live in Southern California, so I had to get over it to even remotely live my life, but it was a long time coming.

Jan 31, 2013

OMG, thank you for posting this, and congratulations on getting back on the road! I can relate to all your driving posts, as I have had a thing about driving since I got my license in my thirties. Driving on the freeway has been a HUGE mental block for me from the beginning, and has only gotten worse. Believe you me, I know what it's like feeling incredibly oppressed, crappy, and powerless. The last couple of weekends (early in the morning of course), as an exercise, I drove across the Bay Bridge from Oakland to San Francisco. And last weekend I drove to Sebastopol, and yes, it was a proud moment. I think you're right about the practice, practice, practice. It was reassuring to come across your post just as I am in the midst of trying to conquer my own anxieties. Thank you!
P.S. Have you heard of the book, "The God of Driving"? I heard it's helpful.

Alison Presley
Feb 01, 2013

ME TOO! For me, it was dealing with several moves to new parts of the city AND the advent of getting a nav system in my car.

Turns out all along I was just afraid because I had no idea where I'm going.

I still don't love rush hour on Market Street, but I don't fear it or the car. Hilarious, but I'm really damn proud of myself too.

Feb 01, 2013

Yay! Remember that parking in certain neighborhoods in San Francisco is an olympic level sport. Sounds like you earned your ptsd honestly. Glad you're feeling competant. I loved being able to know which lanes of the Bay Bridge were best for where I wanted to go and maneuvering all the weird corners of the city.

Feb 01, 2013

Congrats!! I have yet to overcome mine!

Feb 01, 2013

I refused to drive for the first year I lived in LA. It was TERRIFYING, and so many rude cars, and the freeways were GIANT.

And then we moved back to Florida, so it wasn't a big deal.

But then I moved BACK to SoCal, alone!, so I had to drive.

And then I didn't die, and realized I would probably be just fine, and now I'm not really terrified at all. Isn't it lovely?!

Feb 01, 2013

I thought we were having an earthquake while I read this post. First, I thought it was caused by the fact that you are actually driving. Then I realized it was because my cat was sitting behind my flat screen monitor, LICKING IT REPEATEDLY. Seriously. What. The. Hell.

Congrats, by the way. 8-)

Feb 02, 2013

I, for one, would rather share the road with nervous drivers than the overconfident ones who are out in spades. To me, driving next to someone who checks over their shoulder three or four times before changing lanes is preferable to the driver who takes half a glance and then goes for it.

Then again, I am the driver who recently took off both her own side-view mirror AND another driver's mirror, so maybe that disqualifies me from giving opinions.

Feb 03, 2013

Good job! Getting over a fear is always commendable. Also, I always sing both parts to California Dreamin'. There's just no other way to do it. :)

Feb 04, 2013

I learned how to drive when I was 38 and when I got my license I cried. It was the proudest day of my life because I was so afraid up until then. Now I love driving. Love it! Congratulations!!

Feb 08, 2013

To be fair, San Fran (and LA!) is a white knuckle type of place to drive. It wasn't really built for the level of traffic so everything is just a hair too narrow and there is never any parking. I drive just fine in most places but San Francisco and LA give me the cold sweats. Which makes your achievement ridiculously impressive to me.

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