Sunday, April 06, 2008

A Testdrive

My car has been sitting in the parking lot since I got her, staring at me in a disgusted way. "You're too scared to drive me," she says when I walk past her. "Come sit inside. I won't bite."

I'm not worried about sitting inside my car, I'm worried about actually driving her. Part of this anxiety has been due to my not having driving glasses, so when my first pair arrived this week I had no choice but to schedule an outing: I would get inside my car and not only sit in the seat, but I would DRIVE her as well.

So I did, and today was the perfect day for it. I drove out to Wellesley and found myself on some awful dirt roads. I think I cut somebody off on my first trip through the roundabout, but my second time through seemed a little better; I just followed the leader.

I am slowly getting over my totally-unexpected performance anxiety: when I'm driving my car I feel like I am in everybody's crosshairs. This feeling of being under scrutiny is a problem I have in everyday life, but there's no doubt that when you're driving a vehicle -- or when you're in a conga line -- you are a crucial part of a social pact. The system only works because everybody more-or-less knows the rules. I suppose that's why we have licenses and are supposed to actually study up on what the speed limit on a dirt road is. And unlike a conga line, when you bump into somebody your insurance goes up.

Since I am my own worst critic, I look at the people in the cars around me and I think, "Damn, they all KNOW I'm scared, and they HATE me." When some guy in a hummer gets on my butt because I'm only driving 15kph above the speed limit, I find that I've somewhat lost my devil-may-care attitude. I've forgotten that people will ALWAYS pass you on the road, and that the best recipe for a speeding ticket (or a rear-ending) is to try to accommodate them.

This situation isn't improved by the fact that, with my new glasses, I can actually SEE those faces. Vividly. The fact that they look indifferent instead of disgusted just makes me think that they'd play great poker.

So anyway, I survived my first deliberate test drive. Now I'm going to pick up a driver's ed handbook and go through the tricky parts (because nothing brings confidence like thorough knowledge), and then next time maybe I'll try some city driving; for the most part I have yet to deal with left-hand turns and pedestrians.


Anonymous said...

Do you guys have compulsory driving lessons in school? You seem to have taken to this like a duck to water. Now dont go and lend it to the local goons who want to run over little old ladies. :)

Anonymous said...

It's been about 14 years or so since I've driven a car. I still have a valid license for ID purposes, and I also have a membership with a car share organization (which will help keep my insurance record spotless).

When I finally do start driving again (I keep saying it'll be sometime in the next few years but I keep putting it off), I completely intend on taking at least few in-car sessions to help my confidence levels.

In all honesty, I *like* not driving, public transit is decent here and you'd have to pay for parking everywhere. That, and I just don't want to start the reliance/expense/addiction that comes with driving a car.

But I get carbon credits, right?

Adam Thornton said...

Maybe like a very paranoid duck in water, JJ. :)

We don't have compulsory driver's lessons, but we do have an incredibly long process of probationary driving (which was enacted AFTER I got my license), and then the usual "test" in which you're advised to be VERY NICE to your instructor (I managed to pretend I loved baseball for my entire test, which somehow helped my instructor forget that I didn't know how to park).

In K/W the pedestrian signals are so long as to make old ladies pretty much invulnerable!

Adam Thornton said...

Raven, we're in exactly the same boat. I have no intention of driving within town when walking will do.

I like not driving too, and that's fine WITHIN town, but K/W is very much an island. I hate having to sponge off of friends or event organizers in order to travel to other islands (Guelph, New Hamburg, Stratford) to visit family or do shows.

If you're wondering about how much your insurance might cost after all these years, you might try just calling an agency and getting a quote, telling them approximately the sort of car you'd eventually get. I'd heard a wide range of estimates from friends (everything from $500 to $3000 per year), and was amazed when it came to only $800/year (though I got renter's insurance at the same time).

They seemed not to care that I hadn't driven in so many years; they were more concerned about what I'd be using the car for.

Adam Thornton said...

PS: And taking some driving classes is a GREAT idea. I'm considering it myself.

Anonymous said...

Daffy Duck. That's so totally you. :)

Anonymous said...

I've always felt weird that I didn't like to drive. Every Canadian male (especially in rural areas) is expected to not only drive, but to love doing it.

Me, I figure there's enough idiots on the road, without me adding another.

Present company excepted, of course.

Adam Thornton said...

I'm with you on that, Scott. I've never felt like driving is particularly fun or comfortable, let alone second nature.

I just try to focus on where it can take me, and what I can see along the way. :)

Anonymous said...

I am not a fan of driving, either! And I know exactly what you mean about being under scrutiny. I've also been in a few rear end collisions and when people drive too close I get REALLY panicky. I have neck injuries from these accidents which have caused a lot of problems, too. Ugh!

I don't like to drive much since I had the accidents and since it seems like there are three times as many cars on the road as there were when I started driving. I didn't even want to drive ever but was basically forced to at age 22 when I got a job to which I had to commute.

Adam Thornton said...

Alright, I thought it was just me, but since you said it too: ARE there really more cars on the road than there used to be?

Both times I've driven this car, I've been surprised at the number of cars around me. I thought I was only getting nervous, but maybe there's something to that.

As an added bonus, now there are roundabouts. I've studied up on them and talked to a lot of friends, and the consensus seems to be: few people use them properly anyway, so everybody just watches what everybody else is doing.

Anonymous said...

There are definitely more cars. I used to live in New Orleans and there was a multi-year construction project to expand part of the interstate. The government said by the time it was finished, it would be nearly obsolete because there would be MORE cars on the roads. When I first started taking that route to work, it took me about 20 minutes. By the time I left that job, nearly eight years later, it took me closer to 45 minutes.

I can only imagine it's the same up in Canada. Even though I've only lived here for three years, I've already noticed more traffic.

Adam Thornton said...

Well, they DID pave paradise and put up a parking lot.

Someday I'd like to see them turn a parking lot INTO paradise, but that usually only happens when gas stations close down.