Monday, October 11, 2004

Why do I HAVE to drive?

Maybe I was born to be chauffeured. I certainly think so, because I dont like to drive. Driving to me is not relaxing. It isnt fun. At best, it's utilitarian. Many many moons ago, when I was a student in India, I took a car driving course along with my cousin. It wasnt the best three weeks of my life, I can assure you. My cousin always went first and she took to driving like a fish to water. She barely needed teaching, and if the instructor had to repeat anything at all to her, it was "Not so fast".

I was a different kettle of fish - more like a fish out of water, actually. I never managed to start the car without stalling it at least a couple of times. And it always moved forward in a series of jerks that, more than anything else, was eloquent advertisement for having seatbelts and using them. I couldnt park unless there was a square km of space around me, I didnt dare to drive faster than 30kmph and, frankly, my passengers could have reached their destination quicker on foot and with far less nerve damage.

Which is why, I guess, the instructor decided that I would get my licence a lot more easily if I didnt go through the actual driving test. (On my honour and to my knowledge, his palm wasnt greased - it was an arbitrary decision on his part!) On the day of the driving test, I fully expected to make an ass of myself and fail miserably (in the test, that is - not in making an ass of myself). My cousin sailed through her test without a problem and came out wreathed in smiles. Imagine my surprise when the instructor came out of the registry wreathed in an even bigger smile and handed ME my brand-new driving licence! All I got from him by way of explanation was "You didnt need a test." As it turned out, I didnt really need a licence either, because I didnt drive even once in all the years that it was valid. Partly because I didnt want to, but also because I didnt have a car and nobody would trust me with theirs!

Anyway - back to the present. My sister, brother and various friends-and-cousins assured me that driving in the West was nothing like driving in India. They were certain that I would like it - wide roads, smoother traffic flow and adherence to traffic rules.

Well, guess what - I still dont like driving. As far as I'm concerned, it's just a case of swapping one set of terrors for another. In India, it was the potholes, people, cows and other assorted animals, and generally all locomotive objects. Here in the UK, it's cars, buses, lorries and traffic rules. And the roads themselves. Even my sister, a die-hard supporter of driving, agreed that things werent quite as comfortable here, especially in the countryside. Why? Because the roads are TINY - unlike in the USA, where even the smallest road, apparently, is as wide as a runway. In fact, American military aircraft returning from a "precision bombing" attack - also known as "friendly fire" to their allies - regularly land on normal roads if they get lost on the way home.

(Ok, I made up that last bit. But doesnt it seem plausible?)

Anyway, English country roads are usually only a car wide; the bigger ones can take two small cars side-by-side with a few inches to spare (basically, the width of the lane divider!). The car I drive (on the rare occasions that I'm forced to) is my husband's Range Rover - and it's a pretty big vehicle which takes up all of a country lane. So it's extremely unnerving, while driving on a narrow, winding road, to go around a bend and suddenly come face-to-face with a massive 18-wheeler truck. It tends to make me jump - NOT a good move when driving an extremely responsive car, believe me. I havent crushed anything yet, but I figure it's only a matter of time before some farmer finds an ersatz entrance into his field of sheep where formerly there was a hedge.

Besides, when I'm driving, I cant take in the scenery. Driving requires concentration, not just some of the time, but ALL the time. If I'm watching the road and other cars, I'm not watching anything else. The world would pass me by and I wouldnt be able to do anything about it. Being tied down to a vehicle - mentally if not literally - is not my idea of freedom on the road.

So, as I was saying, some people are born to be chauffeurs and others chauffees, if I may coin a word. That's me. I'm a chauffee, whereas my husband/sister/brother/friend/acquaintance/Tom/Dick/Harry are all chauffeurs, born to the driver's seat. I'm happy to sit in comfort in the back (or even in the front - I dont mind, I'm quite progressive that way) and look out at the world.


None said...


i just got my driving licence. so you have no clue how relevant u sound to me right now. btw, gave ur blog a link on my site...



Really enjoyed reading your blog...Forgot how well you can write...Lets hope this inspires me to start writing too....

Am going to spread the word....