My dad was good at a lot of things: writing, research, being a dad, etc. One thing my dad was not good at was driving.
Being absent-minded is a quality I inherited from my dad. For me, it manifests as getting endlessly sidetracked and forgetting obligations. For my dad, it manifested as… not being the greatest behind the wheel. That’s not to say that he was a danger to himself and others per se, but he had some bad habits that would preclude him from any driving awards, if there were such things.
For example, my dad picked me up from school a few days a week. At least once a week, we would be in mid-conversation, halfway home, when my dad would nonchalantly put down the parking brake. (To be fair, I would do that myself if my car didn’t yell at me for having the brake on while driving.) By the time I started driving his car, I’m pretty sure the parking brake was nothing more than decoration, its efficacy having been worn out by miles and miles of being used incorrectly.
One day, while my dad was apparently zoning out, he rear ended another car. I mean, not in a huge way–just tapped the bumper–but it was enough that the driver in front of us immediately threw on their blinker. I must have been in middle school at the time. My dad mumbled, “Shit.”
We pulled over, and before my dad got out of the car, he turned to me and said, “Just… don’t tell your mom, okay?”
Nothing came of it, so it was relatively innocent, like the rest of my dad’s driving infractions, and almost all of them happened on these after school commutes home (a drive that was probably three miles or so). My favorite driving moment, though, happened outside of this tradition. Once again, it involved Bonnie.
My dad and I were taking Bonnie home one afternoon. I was sitting in the front seat while Bonnie was nestled in the back next to a pile of empty boxes my dad had for his business. Toward the beginning of Bonnie’s road, there was a massive curve that was marked by chevrons and a huge arrow. We had navigated this road several times before without incident, but this time, we approached the curve with a decent amount of speed, went off the road into the gravel shoulder, and skidded to a stop perpendicular to the road.
Without missing a beat, my dad turned to me, and then swiveled around to Bonnie, who was lost under a mountain of boxes, and said, “Well, ladies. It looks like we ran out of road.”
What more is there to say after something like that, really? We continued on as if nothing ever happened, and we never spoke of the incident again. (Or any of the incidents, for that matter.) My dad’s driving habits were an implicit understanding.
Luckily, it seems I drive more like my mom. Mostly.