Driving Miss Crazy

Psst, here's a confession: we've lived in San Francisco since December 29th of last year---that's a few days shy of nine months in case you're counting---and in that time I've only driven twice.

The first time was the day we moved into our new apartment and I had to follow Sean (who was driving the U-Haul, which, yes, I guess is worse) on unfamiliar highways IN THE DARK to the U-Haul warehouse place, and I accidentally stayed on the freeway while he got off it, resulting in A SEVERE PANIC ATTACK somewhere in Daly City, a little whimpering on the cell phone, and a makeshift map drawn on a dirty Subway napkin by a very kind gas station attendant. That was in January, and then I didn't drive again until May, and then it was only because my mother was visiting and I wanted to hit the great Target/TJ Maxx/Marshalls trifecta in San Mateo without having Sean the Martyred Chauffeur stand in the corner, sighing heavily and saying "no, no, it's fine, take as long as you want, try on whatever you like, don't worry. I'll just go wait for you in the Sports Authority and SCRATCH MY EYEBALLS OUT."

So yes, until now I've only driven in emergencies.

To be truthful, we don't actually drive a whole lot anyway now that we live in San Francisco; the city is so conducive to walking (we walk everywhere!) that we mainly only drive if we're going grocery shopping, or over a bridge to Marin or Oakland, or to somewhere in the city where we can't be bothered to look up the bus route. But still, every time we drive, Sean is the one who does it.

And this is the way I like it, this is the way I ask for it to be, in fact. Because slowly, gradually, sometime over the last year or so, I've come to hate driving. Well, not hate it, really, perhaps just fear it a little. Or maybe a lot.

In Charleston, I couldn't get away with it; I had to drive everywhere---to work, to the store, to friends' houses, even (if you can believe it) to the gym (and I lived, I hate to admit it, FOUR BLOCKS from the gym. Although, in my defense, it rained a lot in Charleston.) I was a fairly decent driver---a nervous driver, but a decent one---until I had a very unfortunate accident a few days before July Fourth (I was running out to buy wrapping paper for Sean's birthday presents) which may or may not have been my fault---I vote for NOT, but whatever---but which I very definitely made my fault when I got out of the car and said "oh my god, oh my god, I'm so sorry! I'm so sorry!" Note to any just-turned-18-year-olds looking for life advice: NEVER APOLOGIZE AFTER A CAR ACCIDENT. Even (nay, especially) if you're polite and British.

So eventually I got over it---you know one thing that helped? Making everyone I knew tell me about their car accidents, so I didn't feel so bad about my own---and then, of course, a mere six months later, there was that incident where those drunk toothless rednecks drove their pick-up truck into the back of my car when I was sitting at a stop light. And that pretty much killed any desire I ever had to drive again.

And luckily for me, I didn't have to; pretty shortly after that, we went traveling and then hung out for a few months in Singapore, Land Of the Super Cheap Taxi (and, failing that, Land Of The Very Willing Parent), and then we moved here, where I pretty much just refused to drive. My thinking was thus: why take the risk of rolling backwards in a stick shift or trying to parallel park backwards up a hill if I don't have to? And so I didn't.

Until Sunday, that is, when I started to realize how incredibly oppressed I'd been feeling over the last few months with not driving, with feeling like I COULDN'T drive, even though I knew perfectly well that I could (and had the license to prove it---unlike, apparently, one Britney Spears.) I started to feel really crappy and powerless about having to rely on Sean to ferry me to the Trader Joes and shuffle about while I debated the merits of chocolate-covered almonds rolled in salt and sugar (verdict: awesome) when his time could obviously be much better spent at home, figuring out how to get the new DVR (new DVR!) to record America's Next Top Model while I compared prices on half-and-half. (An aside: did you know one of the early contestants on ANTM last week was called Spontaniouse? I don't even know where to begin with that, except to say, hey, expectant parents: I think you might have found your name.)

So Sunday morning, we set off for World Market to pick up a hammock stand for a hammock we'd bought in Ecuador (reader hint: buy your hammock stand at the most seasonally inappropriate time EVER, so that the 50% discount is a welcome balm to the injury of being laughed at in no less than three Bed Bath and Beyonds) and I surprised Sean by getting into the driver's seat of my car. (Yes, I did say my car; that's the irony of all this---it's my damn car I refuse to drive. And yet continue to pay for.)

And sweet cracker sandwich if it wasn't just like riding a bike. I rocked it, if I do say so myself, never once stalling or slipping backwards on any of the eight million hills I had to stop on (second reader hint: don't drive through neighborhoods called Nob Hill and Russian Hill if you're trying to avoid hills, because....well, you get it.) Of course, it helped that my co-pilot is quite possibly The Calmest Man Alive (well, second to my dad, which is why I enlisted BOTH of them to teach me to drive all those years ago), and didn't freak out at all when every time I teetered vertically on the edge of a hill with one sweaty hand on the gear stick as I waited for the light to change so I could move forward, I shouted (at top volume) THIS IS MY NIGHTMARE! THIS IS MY NIGHTMARE! THIS IS MY NIGHTMARE! Instead, he said "you're doing fine, you're doing great, don't worry." And then fastened his seatbelt a little tighter, maybe said a Hail Mary or two.

Of course, I felt so proud of myself when we made it back from World Market in one piece that I vowed that my NEXT challenge would be to do the same journey next week by myself. My problem, I decided, wasn't that I didn't trust myself as a good driver, but that I didn't trust anyone else on the road.

And this opinion was wholeheartedly reinforced this afternoon when I was walking home from work and was DRIVEN INTO by a woman backing out of a space on the side of the road. There I was, just waiting to cross the street---and perhaps I should have been standing on the pavement, but really, I was just off it, and anyway, shouldn't she have looked behind her?---when this white Honda backed right into me as it attempted to pull out into traffic. I let out an injured yelp and limped around to the passenger side window, where I pulled an aghast face and said something extremely witty and cutting like "you should....look in your mirror...LADY." (For the record, she did say sorry. But not sincerely enough that I didn't memorize her license plate number and then call Sean and tell him to write it down since I didn't have a pen and thought it probably wouldn't last the journey home if scrawled in Cover Girl Lipslick on my wrist. It's 7DTL-991, in case you see her and want to flip her the bird.)

So in conclusion, I was right, and other people really are terrible drivers (hey, at least I never BACKED INTO anyone) and I should be afraid---very afraid!---of their skills on the road rather than worrying and fretting about my own. But I'm going to try not to let that stop me, and I'm going to see if I can make myself drive just a little bit more over the next few months. After all, those sugar-and-salt-coated chocolate almonds aren't going to buy themselves, you know.

(PS: I finally uploaded my final set of Ecuador pictures! There's even one of a horse's bottom, because you know I like to keep it classy like that.)

Filed Under:
1
missbeegail
Sep 25, 2007

I used to seriously hate driving. In fact, I hated it so much that I refused to even get my license until I was 19. Why do it when I had parents and friends to drive me around? I will never be someone who loves to drive, but I find it soothing to know I can, if need be. I still don't own a car. Whenever I do drive I talk to the other drivers and say things like, "No, no, no! Don't turn in front of me!" Because, you know, they can probably hear me on some psychic level. And better safe than sorry.

2
Lori
Sep 25, 2007

I completely understand how you feel. I was a fine, albeit nervous, driver all throughout high school and college, but as soon as I moved to NYC after graduation, I was more than happy to give up my car. I spent seven years in NYC, happily spending money on taxis, riding the subway, and walking blocks across the island. I loved the freedom (from my fear!) up until the last year or so, when I started feeling trapped. I wanted OFF the island; wanted to throw groceries in my trunk, rather than walk home with them and up four flights of steps; wanted to be able to able to do errands anywhere without having to plan my outfit around what shoes I'd be wearing. So I did what any normal person who hated driving would do: I moved to LA. And dammit if that didn't teach me to be aggressive.

3
kimblahg
Sep 25, 2007

I am SO buying a hammock stand tomorrow.

4
wwcutie
Sep 25, 2007

I have actually backed into somebody. And I doubt that I looked sufficiently sorry, because I was too shocked and ashamed from having done something so stupid and dangerous. (Also, dude pounded his fist into my car and then let loose a string of choice words. If I had hit *you* I probably would have felt much worse.)

5
Superfantastic
Sep 25, 2007

I have no trouble driving alone, but whenever I go anywhere with my boyfriend, I make him drive. And it is always my car since he doesn't have one. But I just moved here and he knows how to get everywhere, so it's much easier for him to drive and then we can have an actual conversation instead of a constant stream of direction-giving. We go the same places a lot, but since I'm not driving I don't pay attention to how we're getting there, so I don't learn and I keep having an excuse to make him keep driving. This has the added benefit of not giving him the opportunity to make fun of my driving. I'm not a terribly nervous driver, but that does not mean that I am a good driver.

6
Erin
Sep 25, 2007

Well that explains it - I just got back from San Francisco and we stayed in the Russian Hill area - man, they aren't kidding are they? We drove up and down the hills for fun at night, it was like a roller coaster! - and the squeaky breaks in our rental car gave an extra bit of fear factor.

7
Not The Mama
Sep 25, 2007

I wish, wish, wish I could walk everyone and never have to drive. Like you, I've had far too many accidents that were in no way my fault. I trust my own driving skills, but don't trust others at all. Once I was driving my employers car through a parking lot and was at a dead stop waiting to turn out of my lane when someone reversed out of their parking spot without looking and rear ended me. He got out, apologized profusely, explained that he couldn't see because his trunk was overfull and blocking his back window, and promised to pay for the damage. We exchanged insurance info and when we got home, my boss called to make arrangements. At which time the guy changed his story, told him it was MY fault and we spent months arguing with the insurance companies. A second note to any just-turned-18-year-olds looking for life advice: don't trust anyone who apologizes after an accident and promises to take responsibility. Call the cops, take photos, etc.

8
jkrunning
Sep 25, 2007

Um ya. I know this isn't the point of your post, but I need some of those almonds.

9
geeky
Sep 25, 2007

I love driving! Except for the other drivers. And I'll admit, I feel somewhat vindicated in my "everyone else sucks at driving" prejudice whenever someone hits my car through no fault of my own, which most recently happened just 4 days ago. However, the woman who stopped and gave me her information so I could contact her as a witness? She completely restored my faith in humanity.

10
New Blue SHoe
Sep 25, 2007

LOVE those almonds. Those are just the best. Want some now, for breakfast.

11
lisa
Sep 25, 2007

My polite British husband also has a default response of "I'm sorry" even when he really doesn't need to be. He's trying to assimilate but that stubborn, charming politeness just hangs on...

12
chirky
Sep 25, 2007

When I was learning to drive, my brother stood off to the side of the car to wave me down the driveway (we had a long driveway, and lived in the country where there was plenty of room to go off-roading in our family car, just for "practice"). One time, just as I was driving off, he screamed and fell over, clutching his left foot and rolling around in pain. I HAD RUN OVER HIS FOOT!

Or, I thought I had. He was just faking it. I've been kind of scared of driving near people ever since.

13
Diane
Sep 25, 2007

I love driving and do so all the time - Toronto is a great walking city if you live in the city centre. We however live just a wee bit north of that and walking is not the easiest.

However, I do not drive long distances with my beloved husband as he is a terrible back seat(passenger seat as I do not make him sit in the back seat) driver. I absolutely hate driving with him as there are constant comments about this, that or t'other. And then the worst is him trying to make the most of the time together by setting marital goals (which I approve of just not when I am concentrating on not killing us on the highway of death aka the 401) or when he thinks he is so funny by trying to make me do math - WHILE I AM DRIVING! I made it very clear when we got married - he does the math and I buy the sheets. Every once in a while he bitches about him doing all the long haul driving and my response is always the same - "You are a crappy passenger and an excellent driver. Play to your best skills darling!" That seems to shut him up for a while anyway.

14
Kate
Sep 25, 2007

This is completely unrelated to driving: are you going to do a post about the Bachelor? I really need it.

15
Jenn
Sep 25, 2007

I had lots of things to comment on until I got the part about Spontaniouse. Did the produces pick her solely because of the name? Did she get rejected from Flava of Love part 5? My boyfriend was finally like, "Do you want to watch the show or do you want to talk about Spontaniouse?" I felt it obvious, so I answered, "How do you think it's pronounced?"

16
Chiada
Sep 25, 2007

Every once in awhile I have this anxiety dream where I'm driving somewhere where there are very steep, long hills, and my car actually starts to roll backwards even though I am flooring the gas, and there's nothing I can do to stop it from rolling backwards. Horrible.

I don't know that I would drive in San Fran if I lived there, either. I've driven through there a few times, once in a stick and once in an automatic. It's much less stressful in the automatic, obviously. But I'd still rather walk and bus it than drive there.

17
Nothing But Bonfires
Sep 25, 2007

Kate, I'm thinking more of a Secret Bachelor Tuesday Lite, as that seemed to the general consensus when I asked. It'll be less of a recap and more of a dissection. And, as usual, it'll probably be late.

18
Jennie
Sep 25, 2007

I always get excited when my Google Reader alerts me to a new NBB post :)

I lived in Daly City from when I was 3 until 10, and I was always pretty scared there, too.

19
Leah
Sep 25, 2007

t took me almost three years before I was able to drive in San Francisco. Having a boyfriend who liked to drive sure helped, but oops, out with the boyfriend = in with the driving. My first time on the streets of SF was 2 a.m. on New Years Eve. Hello drunk drivers! Hello drunk bikers and walkers! Hello drunk girl in the backseat who screamed the whole way across the Bay Bridge about how she needed to pee and was going to go in her pants RIGHT NOW unless I pulled over! (She ended up jumping out of the car on the first offramp and going in the bushes by the side of the road as a police cruiser looked on. Awesome.)
Anyway, now I make my current boyfriend drive me around (in my car) because, like you, I'm nervous of everyone else on the road, the maniacs. If only I had wings...

20
Aerin
Sep 25, 2007

The odd thing is, I don't think I know any couples in which a: the car is not owned by the girl (even applicable to gay couples!), and b: the boy does not end up doing most of the driving. This includes me, which is weird because I'm definitely the one most likely to do 120mph down the freeway given access to a suitable car. On an alternate note, it is good that my car only has something like a 1.2 liter engine.

21
mcgee
Sep 25, 2007

hooray for you! at least you KNOW how to drive a stick shift...whereas i don't. automatic for me all the way baby!

i live in san francisco too and seeing as we don't own a car, i didn't drive myself for awhile. that is until we discovered zipcar. lo i've discovered i do still remember how to drive. however i completely agree with you that OTHER PEOPLE in this city DO NOT. (yourself and sean excluded of course)

22
Jess
Sep 25, 2007

I am the opposite one in the relationship--I have to drive everywhere, because my fiance doesn't have an American license yet but he's lived here too long to legally drive on his German one. And I am SO SO SO looking forward to the day when he finally gets his American license and I can ride in the passenger seat. I actually fantasize about how relaxing it will be.

23
MK
Sep 25, 2007

Spontaniouse is a good one, I once saw a salewoman with a nametag that said 'Chasity' and for some reason (pure irony) that's just unforgettable.

24
Michelle
Sep 25, 2007

I have connections at CHP, so if you want more info on the crazy white honda driving lady, just let me know :-)

25
Nothing But Bonfires
Sep 25, 2007

Wait, was it really Chasity? Or Chastity? I'm not sure which is worse.

26
Amy
Sep 25, 2007

Holly,

I have read your site for a while now and love it. I had to mention to you that ZipCar is the best invention ever and if you do not drive that often, it is the way to go. My friends and I use it in Washington DC and it is great. The best thing is it is about $8/hour which includes gas/insurance/etc and you have your own parking space. I have one on my block and it is a lot less to rent a few hours a few days a week then pay for parking/gas/insurance, etc. You just sign up for an account and they give you a card to swipe infront of the rearview mirror and you gain access. Just a thought for anyone out there ;)

27
Beverly
Sep 25, 2007

Holly, I'm coming out of lurker mode to say that I'm sorry you got hit by a car. I have a friend who hit someone in a parking lot and she felt horrible about it for days.

I am also hoping you continue the Secret Bachelor Tuesday recap and really wish it wasn't going to be a "lite" version (but I guess if that's what the majority wants you have to go with that). I can't wait to hear what you have to say about Melissa the drunk from last night. And the pretzel girl. And the girl with web toes.

My former boss is third in line to be next season's Bachelor. You must promise me that if he actually does become the Bachelor you won't make it a "lite" recap that season. I would, of course, need to read every tiny detail you write about him. There's a lot of good material there. I'm just sayin'.

28
christina
Sep 25, 2007

Sadly, all I've taken from your post was the part about the America's Next Top Model contestant.

I'm trying to top it with something, but all I've got is that I know a Christina who spells her name "Khrystyna," and I weep a little for her.

29
mj
Sep 26, 2007

Hey- I love to drive, and my car is a manual transmission too, but driving stick on the hills of San Francisco would probably give me a panic attack too. The only thing worse would be if there was ice on those hills. (shuddering).

30
Nothing But Bonfires
Sep 26, 2007

MJ, that made me shudder too. Visibly.

31
Sarah
Sep 26, 2007

Like missbegail, I dislike driving. Actually, I'll amend that--I don't like driving in cities. Give me a rural, winding country road and I love being behind the wheel. But put me in Boston (where I live), or any other major city for that matter, and I'll happily walk or take public transportation. Kudos to you for facing the San Francisco driving challenges!

32
Nicole
Sep 26, 2007

I feel the same way. Since we moved to Washington DC from Pennsylvania my driving has gone down significantly. Now I only drive to certain places that I know won't involve fighting the crazies on the Capital Beltway, which actually makes my hubby happy. One less thing to worry about I guess.

33
Miguelina
Sep 26, 2007

I had a woman open her car door into the side of my car (I was driving and she opened the door into my car, blew my tire and everything) and I haven't been the same since.

34
DM
Sep 26, 2007

I've never had a driver's license. I have a hard time with the concept of being responsible enough to have control of so much metal and plastic and knowing that I could possibly kill someone or myself. I'm trying to get over that phobia because, hello, going to be 41 and that's just so lame.

I know! Really, could her parents have thought of more of a ridiculous name? And the DVR is quite possibly the best invention ever.

35
Rachael W
Sep 26, 2007

The only places I will drive in San Francisco are the places without hills; so, basically, around the Giants ballpark.

In terms of the name thing, one time my dad was on the phone with a tech help guy, and my mom overheard the following (my dad's side of the conversation):

"And may I ask who's helping me? Wait--what? Is that really your name? Your name is ALIEN?!?! Oh, your parents were hippies, I see. But still, ALIEN???"

That poor, poor tech help guy. And yes, his name really was Alien.

36
Chelle
Sep 27, 2007

I learned to drive on the prairies, and now live in a very hilly city. We had a standard for the first 7.5 years I lived here, and as much as I prefer to be driven, can't be the passenger all the time, and I learned how to get almost everywhere without having to stop on a hill (upwards, anyway).

Good for you for tackling the drive on your own. I will drive on hills now (no choice, we live in a hilly area now), but thank god - we got rid of the standard, and my fears of rolling back into someone have been (mostly) quenched. Phew.

37
metalia
Sep 30, 2007

Oh, Holly. I totally relate. I loathe driving, and only do it when I absolutely MUST. Then again, driving in and around NYC would probably rattle even the calmest of drivers. :)