Driving Places is Hard When You Don’t Listen to Your Brain
I didn’t get my driver’s license until I was 23 years old. I attempted it a few times as a teenager but failed the test miserably on all occasions and vowed I’d never drive a vehicular machine again in my life.
However, like all beautiful moments, motherhood hit me like a ten-pound bowling ball splitting open my midsection with alarming pain and intensity. I realized, along with the unfortunate fact that childbirth is the most horrible thing in the world, that a vehicle may be necessary as well. Having a car to drive around my brood would be more sanitary than a pack mule. Although the mule did sound intriguing, I wasn’t sure how readily available they were.
I would become a licensed driver.
Except, over the last few years, I had developed this complex about driving. I hated it. It terrified me.
The mere idea of driving anywhere other than my small hometown in which I had grown up sent a tidal wave of anxiety through me. When a group of friends and I would plan a day trip to the city, I’d avoid eye contact at all costs when the subject of who was to drive came up.
Instead, I’d quietly sit there, shifting my eyes back and forth, attempting to be inconspicuous in hopes that my people would forget that I existed until the conversation had passed and a designated driver was chosen.
In reality, I should have known that I was in the clear. Nobody wanted me to drive because I was no good at it.
Life carried on like this for some time — me dodging all opportunities of fun and furtherance in my life because I was too afraid to drive. That is until we decided to uproot our lives and move far away (not that far but give this hometown gal a break).
My family and I moved to a much larger city than our small hometown and was located four hours away. On this journey to our new homeland, one had to drive directly through the city of Calgary, Alberta, which is big and busy and basically my worst driving nightmare.
On moving day, we convoyed three vehicles, a huge moving truck and one scared and excited family to their new future. Luckily, I was not drafted to drive the moving truck. Again, I don’t think I was ever in the running for this duty.
The journey wasn’t so bad, because like I said, it was a convoy. And convoys don’t feel like you’re alone. They feel quite the opposite. After about three months in our new city, I was comfortable with the lay of the land and felt confident driving. I then made my first solo visit back to our hometown.
I was confident this drive would not best me. With all of the positive life changes I had made over the last few months, how could it? This was my thought process until I got lost directly in the downtown core of Calgary.
I had thought that it might be quicker to avoid rush hour traffic by travelling on the ring road that surrounded the city. That was, until my brain told me, “Nope, this is wrong! You’ve been on this ring road too long, my friend. You’ve missed your exit! You’re going the wrong way!”
The logical part of my mind said, “Just keep going, Lindsay. It’s supposed to be this lengthy. It is, after all, a road that stretches the outskirts of a rather large city.” Alas, my brain’s psychotic counterpart was not having that nonsense and continued to scream at me, “GET OFF THIS GOD DAMN RING ROAD!”
So I did. I then found that I was shocked out of my fear of driving by navigating downtown Calgary's busy streets during rush-hour traffic. I’d love to tell you the nitty-gritty details of how I found my way back to the main surface street, but in all honesty, it’s a total blank.
I have no clue how the random twists and turns I took while haphazardly reading the large green signs above my head brought me to where I was supposed to be. Call it intuition. Or maybe it was simply divine intervention. Whatever it was, it left me out of the equation and got me back on track.
In the present day, I’ve discovered that it is not so much the traffic and other drivers that freak me out but instead the idea of getting lost.
I am so afraid to get lost. I’m sure this must be akin to some kind of deep-seated childhood abandonment trauma or something. But I’m not self-aware enough to get into all of that.
So once again, I’ve found myself having to navigate from my current city to my hometown four hours away. Unaccompanied. Under no supervision whatsoever.
So there I was, back on the road again — my logical thoughts and manic brain about to go head to head in a battle royale.
I neared the Calgary city limits, and the familiar voices of my double-sided brains began.
“Go the ring road — you can do it this time. You need to prove that you’re not an idiot. Prove you can.” Whispered a slithery manic voice.
“No,” Said a much calmer part of my mind, “Why would you need to prove a thing like that? To whom do you need to prove that? Just go through the city on Deerfoot. You know that route. It only makes sense.”
“Ring road,” The slithery voice replied immediately. “It’s your only chance at redemption.”
“What the hell are you talking about? Redemption from what? Why are you doing this?” The calm voice asked bewilderingly as the ring road exit sign came into view.
A tense silence entered the car, separating me from my imaginary friends.
I took the turn. I did need redemption. I craved it. It was just so clear to me at that moment. I mentally high-fived the manic part of my brain while the logical let out a sigh of defeat.
“Yeah, screw you boring brain,” I said quietly. But out loud too, so I don’t know if I can be considered a rational human being anymore.
There I was driving, driving and driving some more. There’s a lot of construction around here, I thought. The road is pretty narrow, and, oh look at that, I’ve entered onto a dirt road now. That’s strange.
I thought it odd that a multi-million dollar freeway would morph into a tattered gravel road halfway through its course. Okay, don’t panic. Just stay calm, Lindsay.
Sign Ahead: YOU ARE NOW EXITING CALGARY CITY LIMITS. To be clear, I was exiting Calgary city limits on exactly the opposite side that I was supposed to.
With this sudden turn of events, my 4-hour road trip had turned into a five and a half hour extravaganza.
It was rush hour by the time I finally turned around on the seemingly abandoned secondary highway. I somehow traversed back to the main surface street, which I should have taken in the first place. It was bumper to bumper traffic with me in the thick of it. I was ugly crying and again talking to myself, asking the gods why I was so shitty at everything in the world.
Two days later, on my way home, I sailed through that city like sugar glaze on a hot cake. This was thanks to shutting up my manic brain and just taking the surface streets.
I want to say that I am better from the experience; that this was one of those times that will be a turning point in my life. From now on, I will attempt to conquer my fears and anxieties concerning driving.
Instead, I’m just going to stick with surface streets and maybe learn how to use Google Maps.