THE HOLIDAY DRIVE

Christmas ornamentIt’s the most wonderful time of the year. But somebody’s gotta do the driving.  Which is where we begin to lose men of good cheer.

Once again AAA tells us that more Americans than ever will be driving for the holidays to celebrate with family and friends. 

For our little family it isn’t that bad, a seemingly straight enough cruise north from San Diego to Los Angeles, 120 miles/200km give or take.  On a good day that might represent two-hours of confinement via either the coast-hugging I-5, or the more inland snaking 405. But there are no good days left. And it doesn’t matter which route we choose. There is no escaping the psychotic episode that awaits.

I-5 North

I-5 North

The I-5 is a true nightmare: old, cramped, and (like all of L.A.) seemingly under constant reconstructive surgery, while populated by zombie-like cretins in vehicles featured in chop shop shows, or rusted out Mad Max approximations.

And the 405 is no better. Though 85 lanes wide and featuring more Benzs and Beemers, it’s a backstreet parking lot for the string of bleached out Orange County beach communities where Botox and disregard find mutual fellowship.

Whenever I drive all Toya wants to know is,”why are you so angry?”

“Because I’m male!”

I don’t know, are there many women pace truck drivers at races?  I think that’s all it really comes down to, men and women just process driving differently. There’s no conspiracy to it. Men just have this foolish pride-in-performance thing about driving that women don’t. They seem more content with mediocrity in that field.

Don’t get me wrong.  They are vastly superior in many other fields, but just not driving. Maybe that’s one reason there are so few women race car drivers.

***

In spite of all evidence to the contrary, every guy in the world thinks he’s a phenomenal driver, and given the chance could probably compete on some junior NASCAR circuit at the very least. But women don’t think in those terms. They just go with the flow, even when there isn’t any.

For guys it’s simple, we use our position in the lane to communicate with fellow drivers.

If you want to get out of the lane you’re in, you move to the far side of your lane opposite where you want to go, then make a fairly abrupt move toward your intended target while staying safely within the confines of the lane you presently occupy. This intra-lane move tends to frighten the approaching driver in the neighboring lane, backing him off, thereby opening that space for you.  It’s simple, it’s safe, and it’s effective. Women wait for a gentlemanly offer on roads evidently zoned as gentleman-free.

On the other hand, guys tend to think at least three car lengths and two lanes over. We are setting up traffic like a laser-focused chess grand master heading toward mate.  Then, when traffic bogs down we tend to blow a gasket and begin fuming. So, bless her heart, the wife has recently taken the wheel on holiday drives just to keep my blood pressure in check.

“Just go to sleep,” she’ll say.

And I try. But I can sense the inaction, and I can’t help myself, I begin to silently side-seat drive. It’s just the way I’m wired.

Thing is, given the chance she’s a fast driver.  She wants to go 80, but unless you start at 3 a.m. 80 is a dream rather than a possibility out here. So she gets herself in the fast lane but than proceeds to just sit there waiting for the numb-nuts in front of her to get out-of-the-way, which, of course, he never will.

“Why doesn’t he move out of the fast lane if he doesn’t want to go any faster and I do?” she wonders.

I keep trying to explain that “your best interests are not on this guy’s Christmas wish list.  This is the American Serengeti, an endless migration, where only the strong survive. You gotta take what you need, and then whatever you can, cause that’s how they’ll be coming at you.”

At the same time, you know you can’t flash your lights much less honk at the guy, because odds are he’s armed with a cocked Glock 43 under his seat and a bout of seething alienation at having his country taken away from him.  And he’s sure as hell not going to let some woman in a gray sedan nudge him out of this goddamn lane.  So she just sits on his tail waiting for some sign from heaven to go around him, and getting increasingly pissed about my unsubtle gestures suggesting she change lanes.

Honest, I’m sitting there fidgeting like a spaniel with poop on its tail, my inner self frozen into Munch’s Scream mask.

“WHY DON’T YOU JUST GO?!  WHY WOULD YOU STAY HERE!? BEHIND SOME KIA SORRENTO AND THE OBVIOUS IDIOT DRIVING IT? THE LANE TO THE RIGHT IS WIDE OPEN! STAKE A CLAIM!!”

But you can’t say it.  So you keep it bottled up as she keeps swiveling her head around waiting for the definitive opening. And now you’re screaming internally, “That’s a tell! You’re showing your hand! That guy’s just gonna slam the door!”

Of course, I think I’m disguising my soaring anxiety – messing with the radio stations, flapping my visor up and down, sharing meaningless Tweets – but the signs of the inner struggle leak out just the same.

“What?” She says. “I see what you’re doing.”

“What?  I’m just sitting here.”

It’s brutal.
West Hollywood Santa Monica exit

Yet, as an adaptive primate, I’m learning. While she drove home from Thanksgiving I kept my mouth shut and my fidget under control the entire way. And afterwards Toya and her mom actually discussed the novelty of that approach after we arrived home.

“No, he was quiet the whole way.”

So here we go again for Christmas onThursday. And the inner battle will rage once more. Happy holiday?  I sure hope so.

Merry Christmas to all, and safe driving.

END

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