Driven to distraction

Published 4:02 pm Monday, November 5, 2012

Depending on the way you look at it, I was either a terrible or magnificent driver while I lived in California.

Traffic was so hair-pullingly grid-locked most of the time that I had a shameless talent for darting in and out of lanes like a dragonfly on diet pills – desperate just to actually be moving. It was also the only time in my life that I felt on even footing with the very rich because, when particularly bored after a half hour of mere idling, I would stare at the driver halted next to me in his throbbing Ferrari, choking on his own exhaust, and chirp,

“That’s a cool car!”

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To this, I would receive a barely acknowledged nod of his moussed head.

“Bet it cost a bundle!”

A slight smirk.

Then I moved in for the kill.

“And here you are, going the same speed as me!”

I don’t drive that way any more. There’s no reason to- mostly because there’s no traffic whatsoever where I live. I generally abide by the law and I never, ever, tailgate, especially behind the huge logging trucks that I just know are going to lose their entire load on top of me, or, naturally, horse trailers, because firstly, I’m a horsewoman and it’s terribly dangerous for all concerned, and secondly, horses live on a high-fiber diet and their giant butts are pointing right at the hood of your car, just waiting for the next bump in the road.

But still … you never know what could happen. Just a couple of days ago, I was driving my soon-to-be 91-year-old mother down to Spartanburg in order to buy a new pair of shoes. Traffic, as usual, was light on I-26 and we were having a pleasant ride on a beautiful day when suddenly, several car lengths ahead, a truck pulling an open trailer containing four motorcycles lost part of its load. That’s right: one of the motorcycles came somehow loose and flew through the air, crashing into the slow lane, scattering debris directly into our path.

I’ve learned to be calm in a car. The only time I’ve ever froze in a frightening situation was, again, in Los Angeles, sitting in a line of traffic on La Brea, waiting on a red light, and a maniac, waving a machete, proceeded to cross the road by leaping on the hood of my Isuzu and jumped from car to car across six lanes of traffic. Several drivers paused in their cellphone conversations, only to resume after he turned west on Sunset and was well out of view.