When marriage counselors advise couples to spend time together to enrich a marriage, I’m pretty sure they don’t mean on car trips. Has Dr. Phil ever said, “Grab those car keys and get out on a highway among all those trucks and speeders and see if that doesn’t light your fire”? I don’t think so.
Dearly Beloved and I were in the car together about eight hours yesterday. That’s 3 1/2 hours driving and two pit stops each way. We used to love car trips; we’re getting over that. Our backs and our patience don’t hold up nearly as well as they did 20 years and 200 trips ago.
We have an intersection with a four-way stop on our street, a half block up from our driveway. We rode that far without incident. (That means we had agreed on whether or not we’d closed the back gate.) There were cars from each direction at the stop signs, including us, of course. The car to the left of us advanced. Our turn next. It was at that moment Dearly Beloved chose to turn to me and say, “Chick-Fil-A or Bruegger’s Bagel?” Now normally I’d consider that love poetry, but not when it stops traffic. Another car to our left went through the intersection. The guy to our right gave us a WTF? look.
“Bagel, but GO! We’re screwing up traffic here.”
“Oh good,” he answered. “That was my choice, too.”
With two bagels, a coffee, and a large Diet Coke on the console between us, we stopped at another traffic light. We were going straight. Traffic in the left turn lane was already moving so it was obvious that our light was going to turn green any second. When I am behind the wheel, that means hands in proper position on steering wheel, Diet Coke in cupholder, foot ready to apply gas, eyes on light. For Dearly Beloved? Time to remove bagel crumbs from the front of his sweater.
“GO!” I urged. He looked at me calmly, but I could see the slightest reproach in his expression. I pointed to an old Dodge up ahead which had already breezed though the intersection by the time DB’s foot eased onto the gas.
“That old car snuffed you. I’ll bet your car is downright embarrassed. “
The Look was quite readable now, not slight at all. “Do you think I really care about someone getting through the intersection ahead of me?”
“That’s twice you’ve shown symptoms of Old Fart Syndrome,“ I clarified.
“And twice you’ve sounded like a back seat driver.”
Oh HO!!! Game on!
Once on the highway I noticed for the first time that his high school Driver Training instructions must have specified staying in the right lane unless wife has suggests taking a pit stop just ahead. In that situation, the proper position, apparently, is to move into the left lane so as to make a turn improbable if not impossible. The proper state of mind? Oblivious.
Later, as we were in the right lane behind a truck–following too closely, I thought– I mentioned demurely that perhaps he might be interested in passing that sucker.
“I’m waiting until these cars get past,” he informed me, nodding toward his left as a pickup with steel rods and a ladder protruding from its bed and pulling a trailer with a motorbike chained to it blew past, one of a series of vehicles now ahead of us.
“They were on my tail, so I moved over to let them pass. This guy ahead is going slower than I realized.”
Indeed. I turned around to see if we’d be able to move over any time soon. Perhaps some Amish buggies wanted to pass?
At one point I offered to drive if he was getting sleepy. I think he’d rather be hooked to a bus bumper than have me drive. I closed my own eyes and had drifted into a semi-conscious drowse when he said, “Maybe I should put in some eyedrops.”
“You’re sleepy?” I asked, wiping a touch of drool from the corner of my mouth with the back of my hand and sitting up, looking around.
“No, not really. I just thought I’d aggravate you on this bridge.”
Holy crap! He knows I hate bridges, especially bridges around Charleston. They’re long, tall, and terrifying. I usually close my eyes. The water is waaaay down which means we’re waaaay up.
“You woke me when we’re going over a bridge? I could have slept over it!”
“We’re almost there. I thought you’d be interested,” he answered, looking out to his left between two trucks.
“Don’t look! Don’t look! Don’t look! Eyes straight ahead!”
“Both hands on wheel, Boss.”
Once we riding through the Appalachian Mountains at 2a.m. when he told me he was getting sleepy and pulled into a rest stop to doze. Although he went to sleep immediately, I was wide awake. People talking to each other walked past our car, headlights shone in our faces as cars drove by. It was foggy and creepy. I slipped out of the car, shoved him over, and took his place behind the wheel. I had driven less than ten miles when we entered an S curve–not too fast, but it did make him lean ever so slightly. He sat up in terror, shouting, “What’s going on? Where are we?”
“I’m driving. Go back to sleep.”
Maybe he tried; I’m not sure. It didn’t seem a sincere effort to me, since he was gripping the dashboard with both hands.
“Watch for an overlook and pull over. I’m wide awake now.”
Since that time I haven’t even tried to drive when both of us are in the car. If he does ever ask would I mind driving, I know I should head straight for the emergency room because something is surely VERY wrong with him.
I’ll do that… probably, right after I make a pit stop.