Thursday, September 30, 2010

Channeling Dustin Hoffman

I'm a very good driver.  I know that this is one of those universal misconceptions, like believing that going out with a wet head causes a cold, or believing that eating something over the sink or directly out of the refrigerator negates its caloric impact, or believing that socialist Muslims from Kenya are taking over.  However, I do think that I am, in general, a good driver.  I signal every turn, even when it's just into my driveway.  I always wear my seat belt.  I haven't had a ticket since 2001.  (Although, to be fair, I think that has more to do with my moving to Ohio than it does with my responsibility behind the wheel.  Ohio's speed limit is 65 on highways.  Maryland's is 55.  I pretty much always go around 75, which bothers Ohio's traffic cops not at all, but got Maryland's police in quite the four-speeding-tickets-in-three-years tizzy).

However, I have been finding that my good driver-hood had gone up a notch since LO came around.  It started while I was still pregnant.  I stopped feeling the desperate need to have cell phone conversations while I was driving.  "I must set a good example for the kid," I would virtuously proclaim as I ignored my ringing cell phone.  "I don't want him thinking it's okay to talk on the phone while driving."  This proclamation made me feel good and responsible inside, although it did cause other drivers to stare at me, wondering who the hell I was talking to.  (This is what happens when you are pregnant during the summer and have car windows open and have a tendency to speak your inner monologue out loud.  And I wonder why it's been difficult to meet people in Lafayette).

Now, LO and I have started taking solo jaunts out and about the town.  First, I no longer just jump in the car and roar out the driveway.  I do all my adjustments *prior* to turning on the car.  Sunny day?  Sunglasses go on BEFORE key is turned.  There's no waiting for the first stop sign to put them on.  If it's partly cloudy and I don't realize I need them until I get to that stop sign, it's just too damn bad for my eyes.  I've got a kid in the car!  My hands must be on 10 and 2 o'clock.  The GPS is taking forever to load?  Well, I'll just sit and wait for it, because there will be NO adjustments once feet have touched the pedals.

The next thing I've noticed is that there are no longer any of those "stoptional" traffic signs.  Just a few months ago, there were several stoptionals, right in my very neighborhood.  Now, as a longtime good driver, I've always rolled through them while my right foot lightly kissed the brake.  There was no need to commit to anything stopping-wise, since there were these signs every 3.2 feet, and it was clear as day whether anyone was coming, which they generally weren't.  But since LO has been in the car, I'm finding my commitment-phobic braking foot has tied the knot with the pedal so that I can check and double check that no one is coming.

Driving with just LO in the car can be somewhat nerve-wracking, if it is the 7.3% percent of the time that LO is unhappy to be in the car.  (He has two riding modes: screaming and sleeping.  And there's no transition whatsoever.  He'll be screaming, and suddenly he'll be silent.  I would feel better in these situations if he snored).  If he is screaming, I cannot reach him as he is in the rear-facing infant carrier, as mandated by the Federal Bureau of Scaring Parents To Death With Statistics.  So, in the long tradition of futile parent car behavior (like when my parents would throw an arm across my chest when they braked suddenly, as if their arm would protect me from an impact), I put my hand on the only part of the carrier I can reach and pat the carrier.  I don't know exactly what I believe I'm accomplishing here.  But it makes me feel as if I am DOING SOMETHING.

In any case, despite my irrational car seat comforting gestures, I do believe that I have overall become a better driver.  And I was no slouch to begin with.  Really.  I am one of the 90% of drivers who knows that she is better than average.

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