Passenger

I am a terrible passenger. I am writing this so that I will not look at the road and

snowy trees.jpg
Look at all that snow! Too much for March – terrible driving weather.

involuntarily wince as my husband passes trucks. It’s terrible driving weather – snow falling, temperature hovering near freezing, road deceptively black and mostly (hopefully) wet rather than icy. He’s a good driver, but I still can’t comfortably watch.

So far, to keep my eyes off the road and my hands from gripping the armrest, I have played Sudoku while listening to an audiobook, read an entire book aloud to our children, and scrolled through my phone (supposedly to read the newspaper). Now I’m writing. We’ve only been on the road for two hours. We have two and a half to go.

I wish I were a better passenger. I wish I could settle in and allow someone else to be in charge without second guessing, well, everything. When I think about it, I can feel myself sitting back and admiring the scenery. I can almost hear myself chatting breezily with my husband and not holding my breath as we round a curve. I relax because I’m not trying to hide by my ridiculous reactions. I imagine the mundane joy of showing someone how much I trust them by simply remaining calm.

But this is beyond my conscious control, and my subconscious desire to be in the driver’s seat comes with a cost: my reactions can make others less confident (or sometimes even angry); I end up doing the lion’s share of the driving; and I struggle to let go. And then there’s the emotional toll of trying to hide the irrational panic that grips me as we pass another truck.

I am a terrible passenger. It’s something I am working on.

But… after we arrived, I asked my husband to read this because I was feeling like a heel. He agreed with every word (harumph), but he swears that he only barely noticed me holding my breath once on this trip, and he says I need to add that I am a great driver. I’m pretty sure he’s not placating me. In case you’re wondering, he’s a fantastic passenger.

Slice of Life, Day 15, March 2018

Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for this wonderful month.

16 thoughts on “Passenger

  1. I am exactly like you — nothing you can do about it. Wait until you have to teach your kids to drive! I won’t do it – not fair to them. My one son is 18 and I still can barely get in the car with him. Don’t beat yourself up – some of us need to worry for the rest of the world! Hope you have a great visit or trip!
    Clare

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  2. I wonder if teaching reinforces our will to control or shape the outcome of our choosing? We have such power in a classroom, and even letting go of some control is in the classroom is a choice, so, in fact, we are still in control. And really and truly, fully and completely letting go control of our direction and destiny means we release all responsibility for the outcome, we surrender. That is contrary to our training; we never surrender because we feel this the remarkable power of control which then burdens our private lives.

    I’m also a very bad passenger with a generous husband.

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    1. What a great observation – I actually thought about extending this into the classroom as I wrote but a) I was tired (probably from all that passenger tension) and b) I was thinking about the students as passengers. But what you say actually makes more sense to me. Here’s a funny one for you: when my first was 10 days overdue, I took to telling my belly, “I am a teacher. You need to get used to being on time. Deadlines matter.”

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  3. Ugh- I see so much of myself in this! I have such a hard time relaxing when I’m in the car and other people (particularly my younger…more reckless…brothers) are driving. In the same breath, I get super nervous when other people are in the car and I feel like my driving is being evaluated. So, the moral of the story is I should just walk everywhere. Nice slice. Prompted self reflection on this Thursday morning. Brilliant. 🙂

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  4. Oh my goodness! I could have written this. I’m a terrible passenger too. I think that’s why I hate to fly. I have to give up all control and that’s not easy. I love your coping mechanisms: reading aloud, scrolling through your phone, playing Sudoku. You really are working on it!

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  5. Amanda, since I do not enjoy driving and my husband thinks I am a terrible driver, he does most of the long travel challenges. Driving in snow is definitely one of those tasks in life that heightens my awareness of those I’m driving with and those driving around me. I never forget the time when I was teaching in my hometown in Syracuse, NY and took a 180 off an exit. Thank God, I had enough sense to remain calm but now I find calmness goes out the window when I am driving in weather-challenging conditions. My best move is to sit in the back seat and try to work. Your ending put a nice touch to your slice.

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    1. Oh my goodness – I don’t know what I would do if I did a 180! I think I would be a nervous wreck forever. As soon as my kids are old enough for the front seat, I will become a backseat passenger for sure. It’ll just be easier.

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  6. Your first two sentences made me laugh. My worst case of passenger nerves was when my oldest started driving. My husband would ride in front with him… I would ride in the back seat behind my husband. I was accused of creating a vacuum in the car because I’d catch my breath so much and so hard. I swear, I could have kissed the mirrors of the cars we passed on our narrow city street. May all your snow and ice soon melt.

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  7. I loved every word of this–so vividly written and expertly paced, and I related to every word. I also get really carsick when my husband drives, so I took over all the driving a few years ago. Even when we drove cross country last summer, I did all the driving. I like to drive, and I think I’m good at it (of course who doesn’t think they’re a good driver?!), and my husband doesn’t seem to mind being a passenger. My first thought, though, was similar to Clare’s: wait til you’re teaching your kids to drive! Although I have to say, I am able to “chillax” as my son says and enjoy the scenery when he drives. He’s a terrible driver and my best bet is just to pretend it’s not happening and will my mind elsewhere!

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  8. Oh, I’m a terrible passenger, too, but I’m also a horrible driver. I used to say, “I’ve never had a major wreck, but I wonder how many i’ve left behind.” I can’t say that after hitting a child on a bike (wrote a slice about that). And your list of ways to appear relaxed and busy emulates my own. I find sleeping a good way to pass the time, but I don’t have children to attend to anymore.

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    1. Oh! I read that slice. If I didn’t comment, it was because I was deeply affected by it & didn’t quite know what to say. Keeping myself busy as a passenger is my best option. I bet I’ll sleep once the kids are self-entertaining.

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