Speed Demon Meets Mr. Slow Ride
When I was dating my husband – all starry-eyed and flushed with relief that it was possible for an over-age-fifty woman to find love again – our driving styles were the last thing on my mind.
As time has gone by, the adrenaline rush of new-marriage, new-season-of-life has worn off, and the less visible irks exposed by living together are beginning to unfold. One small, tiny irk is my consternation over our different driving habits.
I am somewhat of a female Paul Newman (in my fantasies), and have always loved low-slung, road-worthy vehicles that will effortlessly hug a corner and then accelerate to 60mph in five seconds flat.
I inherited a love of fast, hot automobiles from my dad. My father always kept us in new, trendy vehicles and traded them in every couple of years. When I was 16, he bought me a 1966 Mustang GT Convertible. I was the envy of every single student in my high school. When I was 18, he bought me a 1969 Pontiac Firebird, Formula 400. I could make the hour and a half trip from my college dorm\’s parking lot to Memphis in 59 minutes.
My husband comes from a kinder, gentler automotive background. His family drove practical Chevrolet sedans and hung onto them until they wore out. In his early twenties, he owned an exceedingly cool 1973 Dodge Charger 400, 4-barrel. His hot-car-owner days skidded to an abrupt halt, however, when he found himself with a wife and children shortly after graduating college. From that point on, sadly, he drove nicely-maintained but decidedly uncool family vans and SUV\’s, none of which lent themselves to an exhilarating driving experience.
My driving style is fast, efficient, and pushes a little to see what the car will do. My husband\’s driving style is much more relaxed: meander, enjoy, and don\’t wear out the tires. This approach drives me crazy.
One of his driving penchants includes taking corners at a slow, wide arc. When I finally asked him the other day why he persists in this maneuver, he responded that he felt it was easier on the tires, and used less steering effort. This is a completely foreign concept to me. I want to hug that corner as smoothly as possible, and then accelerate like mad. I call it “efficiency.” He calls it “speeding.”
I vacillate between respect for his adherence to speed limits and squinty-eyed, double-dog-dare-you. I mean, who can resist a tiny pushing of the speed limit on miles and miles of a straight, endless, deserted highway? To me, speed is exciting. To him, speed is a policeman crouched on a motorcycle behind a billboard.
My habitual response to his driving behavior goes something like this:
Me: Fidgeting in seat. Trying to keep my mouth shut. Finally, I erupt in exasperation, “WHY are you going so slow! You are driving like a grandpa!”
Him: Unperturbed. Eyes on the road. Hands at two and ten. “Well, what\’s the speed limit?”
Me: Resigned sigh. Slumping in seat. “Around thirty, I think.”
Him: Glancing at speedometer. “I\’m going 29.”
Me: Silence. I cross my arms. I know further discussion is futile. My irritation is perplexing to me. I know he is right, but somehow, a jointly-shared, satisfying vehicular experience dangles just out of reach.
Him: “Oops! Yellow light!” He slowly glides to a stop, and I watch a bright red, 2009 Camaro scoot through the yellow just before the light turns red. I cover my eyes with my hand and try to control my rapidly escalating hot-car lust. I remind myself to be grateful for a completely paid-for Pontiac, even though it is seven years old, and has never even thought about scooting through a yellow light.
I do not think our different approaches to driving should cause too much marital concern. I am learning to appreciate his regard for speed limits and well-maintained automobiles, and he is learning that white-knuckling it when I am driving is actually kind of fun.
But I am thinking that trading his Pontiac Bonneville for a late-model Mustang GT Convertible would go a long way toward resolving our disparate driving issues.
It is impossible to drive like a grandpa in a Mustang.