Craig J. Hansen

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Driving Fear


In my dreams, I still drive. Even dreaming, I’m aware that I have vision limitations. But as I drive in my dream, even if it’s snowing or it’s dark, I realize I can see well enough to do this, and why did I quit driving anyway? Actually, I stopped driving voluntarily. It was about a decade ago. I could still squeak by the state’s vision requirements, if only for a restricted driver’s license. But I knew this wasn’t a great idea. I knew my vision was getting, well, slow, and it was taking time to figure things out on the road. In the end, I didn’t want to drive one day too long, so I got up one Saturday morning, and decided I was done driving.

This has opened up an entirely new world. I’ve become an expert at logistics. Every Sunday, I figure out where I need to go for the next week and how I’m going to get there. Sometimes I can carpool, sometimes I hire someone to drive, and sometimes I just wait to see what happens. Maybe an expert at logistics is overstating it. Indeed, it gets complicated and I make mistakes. My university has three campuses spread across town and no shuttle system. So I bum rides off of colleagues. My recent acquisition of a disability parking tag to hang off a rearview mirror has given me a certain amount of popularity as a passenger. That’s good. The fact that I can end up riding with six different people in one day is not so good. It exposes me to a lot of different drivers.

I can’t say much about that. I might jeopardize future rides. Let me just say that there’s not just one wrong way to drive. Just as there are many paths to enlightenment, there are many options for scary driving. They include taking both hands off the wheel in order to gesture, turning to look at me instead of the road for long periods of time, driving 25 mph in the left lane of the freeway, searching for lost items under the driver seat, and of course, the regular things, like rage, dozing off, or teeth  flossing. Sometimes I bless my poor vision. Other times I remind myself that all humans are mortal and that it would be better to go by car accident than, say, being slowly dipped in molten lava.

But I am grateful to all those who haul me around. It’s okay if sometimes I feel like a pizza, or a stray dog, or a kid again, being helplessly trucked by irritable parents.

In fact,, I try hard to be a good passenger. I don’t get car sick no matter what. I engaged in any form of conversation, on any topic, making things up as necessary. I’m clean, happy, and will always pay for parking, if I can’t use my disability tag of power. This brings me into strangers’ lives, into the private world of friends and colleagues’ cars. If they have kids, I have Cheerios stuck to my butt. If they have dogs, I wear their fur. If they are into fragrances, smoking, or unwashed workout clothes, I proudly carry those smells with me.

Almost everyone tells me their car is dirty, whether they are or not. They vary from rolling landfill to the serene sterility of deep space.

But I do long to drive again, to just hop in a car and go wherever I want, whenever I want. No planning, no texting, calling, e-mailing, or desperate waving. Just get in the car, turn the key, and glide away, just like a dream.

Copyright 2014 Craig J. Hansen