I can’t understand what evil genius devised those roadside information signs. Sometimes there’s a simple message: “Hurricane in the Gulf. Be prepared.” Or “Ice on road. Drive with care.” Usually, it is a silver or amber alert that reads like this: “Missing elderly. Male. Driving 2002 Chevrolet Impala. License plate XYZ112. Needs medication. From Houston. Believed to be heading to Rio Grande Valley. Call DPS if spotted.” (“Oh and the car is red with a dent on the left fender. And he’s wearing a blue plaid shirt. That is all.”) I end up with whiplash trying to read the entire message and wonder what I would do if Ollie Old Guy passed me. They never publish a notice that says what happened to the elderly soul, whether they’ve been found or perhaps were just visiting a friend and forgot to pass the word to the kids. Maybe they are just stopped on the side of the road or continuing to circle the city like some earthbound buzzard.
The same wishy-washy thinking that confuses me when making major decisions in my life can devil my driving. My indecision with signs caused me to fail my driving test the first time. I decided the Left Turn Only lane couldn’t really be the Left Turn Only lane because there was a car parked in that lane so it must be a parking lane and the turn lane must really be the center lane that looks like it isn’t but it is. Maybe it’s not. Oh, maybe it is.
When the DPS cop said, “That is the end of the test. You broke the law by turning from the wrong lane and that’s an automatic failure,” I tried to explain the confusion. He immediately looked like English was not his first language and all but put his fingers in his ears and started whistling “Dixie.”
The reality is that I am not a very good driver. I am so grateful for other drivers who pay attention that I ought to have a printed “THANK YOU FOR NOT CRASHING MY SILLY REAR” sign that I can hold up when I’ve nearly changed lanes into another vehicle.
I read maps and drive. Even slowing to 50 doesn’t make that a good choice. I turn my phone off when driving because I am so compulsive that I will answer calls and texts. It isn’t like I am good at returning calls. I just can’t hear the vibration of a message alert or the ring of the phone without grabbing it.
All this confusion and all my bad habits mean that I should not spend much time in the driver’s seat. But I do. It is a rare day that I drive less than 100 miles between leaving home and getting back for the night. That isn’t something that I just started. When Jack was rehearsing for a play, I would pick him up, take him to practice, come back home to Portland, and return to get him at 10. Long night.
The record for miles driven in a day is 315. That’s miles between my house, work, job sites from the office to Ingleside to Texas A&M-CC and back to the office, Portland, Del Mar, Portland, the Substance Abuse Treatment Facility, Del Mar, Portland. I thought about getting a chauffeur’s license or going to CDL school about that time.
According to FHWA, I drive more than a 35 to 54-year-old male, the age/gender category most likely driving a car. The average for women is about a third of the miles per year that I drive, but the miles I drive per year are about a third of the miles that a cross-country truck driver would drive.
Average Annual Miles per Driver by Age Group
When I was younger, I told folks that the only reason I would re-marry was to have someone who would drive me around. Cars can make me run screaming into the arms of a man well before any natural or man-made disaster. Cars sentenced to my ownership usually get 100,000 miles on them before they are 3 years old. I resent the fact that tires wear out or batteries go dead. One more of the nice things about Bob is that he preps my car for a road trip before I leave town. He’s diligent about oil changes and routine maintenance and gives me the hairy eyeball when I answer “5,000 or 10,000 ish miles, I think” when he asks how long it’s been since the last oil change.
Considering the mileage I cover on a yearly basis, I should have seen the entire United States two or three times. The farthest I’ve driven by myself is Shreveport, LA. That was once. Beyond that, I’ve been a south to central Texas driver and I’ve flown if I wanted to tackle a distance greater than 1,000 miles. And here’s the sad thing about my travelling life: I was born in Rockport, raised in George West and Bishop, and have lived my entire adult life near Corpus Christi. That means I haven’t lived more than 50 miles from my place of birth in my whole life. But I’ve driven that distance by noon most days.
Do I have a desire to get in my car and drive for miles and miles? Good golly, no! For me, one of the rings of Hades is one where folks are just driving and driving until they get home. Oops, got home and have to go to the store or pick someone up and drive and drive some more.
Wait. A. Minute! That’s my life now. Maybe I need to invest in Exxon or Valero.