Since I’ve moved to Scotland, I don’t drive very often. I just don’t need to. And I LOVE that I don’t need to. By the time I was leaving the US, I’d done a few months of a fairly short commute to a temp office job and it made me hate my life even more than the job itself did. People in cars are morons. And that was BEFORE texting was even a thing in the US. But there was plenty of makeup application and reading books and eating full meals while driving going on. And that was just in the morning. I couldn’t take it anymore. I was so excited to get to a place where I could just walk or rely on public transport and be done with it.
The last time I drove (and the only time I’ve driven in the UK) was over 3 years ago. I rented a car to move flat and it happened to be the day of the Edinburgh Marathon. I’d driven on the left before in New Zealand, so I had a tiny bit of that going for me, but I did fairly well considering how stressed and out of practice I was.
Last Monday, I borrowed my parents’ car, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. They have a Honda Pilot, which is pretty big, and incredibly wide. When I lived in the US, I had a Honda Accord, so luckily I was completely familiar with how everything was laid out, but there’s all this new shit now like SiriusXM radio and a video feed with some kind of crazy overlay for when you’re reversing. And satnav, which I won’t even touch.
I borrowed it to go down to Salisbury to see my friends Dan and Kathleen and their new kid, Liam, who’s only 6 months old. I didn’t want them to have to pack up a newborn just to see me for a few hours, and I also wanted to see where they live. (They have DUCKS!) This was before I went to get a Delaware license since I no longer have a permanent Maryland address with which to renew my license. And the whole time I’m driving, I’m thinking: this is basically my brush-up driving test. So, state of Delaware, you can rest assured I earned that replacement license.
In the course of a few hours, I did night driving, heavy rain driving, and sun-low-in-the-sky-and-therefore-in-my-face driving. I had to stop for a school bus and pull over for an ambulance. I was on country roads and highways and city roads. And I had to stay alert enough to anticipate that, on a green left turn arrow, some dickbag in a huge SUV decided to go barreling straight through a red light from the other direction JUST BECAUSE. So, 5 minutes before I got back to my parents’, I could have been creamed because someone wasn’t paying attention. And by that point, I was well and truly done with driving for another good long while.
It’s so tiring. It’s a completely different brand of concentration from anything I normally have to deal with. I felt incredibly tense and unsafe the whole time, and that’s at least 60% because OTHER drivers are so rarely paying attention. It’s no good for a control freak.
It wasn’t all bad though. I scanned the satellite radio for a suitable rock station, found Lithium (basically the equivalent of mid-to-late-90s 99.1 WHFS), and proceeded to spend a good portion of my drive singing Pearl Jam and Stone Temple Pilots and the like at the top of my lungs, feeling very much like I was in high school again. In the best of ways. In fact, my best memories of driving are always the ones that involve blasting good music on long night drives. So despite the anxiety, it was a dose of nostalgic happiness.
Plus, I got to see my friends and their cute kid. And their border collie Scout, who had understandably incessant interest in his ball and was quite content to try sitting in my lap at dinner. And their ducks and chickens! Kathleen made awesome home made pizza for dinner and pumpkin pie for dessert. Dan and I talked about loads of people we knew in high school who I haven’t even thought about in some cases for years. It was the best kind of catching up. I sometimes hate that I’m not closer to some of my best friends, but it always makes for really, really good evenings where we can pick up as though we saw each other just yesterday and the conversation never stalls because there’s so much great stuff to talk about.
I think I hate driving now more than I ever hated flying, but even this one short stint has proven that, like flying, it’s a means to getting somewhere you really want to go, and when there are good friends at the end, it’s more than worth the hassle. The next time I drive will be to my friend Lindsay’s wedding in May, also in the states, and I have no doubt it’ll be equally worth it. I just hope the rental car has Lithium XM.