Last night we had dinner over at my Dad and Evil Stepmother’s (ESM) place and while we were hanging out digesting our yummy Thanksgiving in May dinner, the conversation turned toward driving in the city. ESM recently purchased a Garmin GPS for her car and was really excited to begin using it as she is a Real Estate Broker and constantly on the go; getting lost on the way to show a house does not bode well for financial gain after all. The purchase was made after they had attended a wedding reception in New Hampshire and got lost on the way out of the state. My Dad was upset because he was always known as the back road king with a perfect sense of direction.
My Dad was the first person to really teach me how to drive. We went to the parking lot of the now defunct Aku-Aku restaurant in Cambridge one cloudy day and I learned what it meant to drive a vehicle without power anything -- windows, steering or brakes. We rode around in circles in his navy blue Chevy S-10; or rather I attempted to drive he coolly reminded me that the brake was a best friend when approaching something I could not steer around. Luckily for me he had at one time been a driving instructor so he had the calmness of a saint on that day.
Years before that is when I really learned to drive however, sitting on my Dad’s lap at about age five behind the wheel of his blue and white striped van. He was probably only doing two miles per hour but I felt like we were flying as I attempted to steer a wheel that was even bigger than me while he worked the pedals. I do not remember a whole lot from the experience, other than my Dad saying stuff like “Good now turn a little to the right. No honey, this way.” These days while people like Britney Spears are condemned to hell forever for taking part in such an activity I remember it as one of the best bonding moments with my Dad.
Driving was a popular theme for making memories with my Dad. He picked us up in the van or the little blue truck every other Sunday after the divorce so either my sister or I got to sit in the middle. Unfortunately in the van that meant a milk crate, among lots of construction equipment, but the truck had a bench seat. We would go the five blocks from Mom’s house to Dad’s and in that short time he would end up seeing at least three people he knew; of course he would beep and wave but when we pulled over to chat with them he always called them “Guy” because just like my Grampa before him remembering names was not his strong suit. Luckily patience was.
Years later when I got The Apollo I was invited to go up to see some family in New Hampshire but that meant getting on the highway which I had yet to do and was petrified of (hey I grew up in Boston, the rumors of crazy drivers here are in fact all true). He told me we could go out and practice a couple days in advance. I definitely got up to speed on that on ramp and figured gunning it was the best, most appropriate way to fit right into the lane. I do not recall if anyone beeped or if we just happened to be lucky enough to escape near death, but even my Dad, the un-phased driving instructor, turned ghost white. In the most even tone he said words I will never forget “OK, honey you should always look in your mirror when you merge onto a highway to avoid an accident.” I do not think he could form any words other than that as he tried his best to hide his hyperventilating and we may not have spoken again until the car was safely parked back at the curb in front of his house. Now that I think back, I am not sure we took the highway home.
Last night we all talked about short cuts and back roads and the best ways to avoid traffic lights and laughed over the fact that we are so similar in the way we drive. I do like to avoid lights and traffic as much as possible and gladly accept him passing the back road crown on to me. Although neither of us are the lead foot types anymore we both still believe it is possible to get anywhere in Boston in just fifteen minutes. And it is, as long as Tom-Tom, not Garmin, is leading the way.