By Narcissa Lyons
I love to drive. I love everything about it, even the word, which sounds every bit like what it is. Drive that point home will you? He is so driven. She drives me crazy. It is the unstoppable drive of my team that let me win this election (who will say that this year I wonder?).
I learned to drive a year late since my parents thought that one year would somehow make the difference. I’m still alive so who knows? I liked to drive immediately and was good at it (this is an observation from several others that are not me), but my real appreciation did not happen until I experienced two things: 1) Being driven to the Columbus, OH airport by my friend’s boyfriend and 2) Being taught and then mastering a stick shift.
I went to Ohio Northern which is over an hour from any airport, the closest of which is Columbus. Ohio Northern is in Ada, OH and is known for only one thing, but a very important little fact regardless. This tiny town is home to Wilson Sporting Goods manufacturing and makes all the NFL’s footballs, and the only plant in the United States that makes leather footballs. Cool, no? Anyway, I was bringing Karen home with me for Easter break, home being Connecticut, and we were late for the airport. She made an emergency call to her questionable boyfriend, Jackson (questionable in that I don’t think he was faithful enough to be anyone’s boyfriend) and asked for a ride.
I have never even since then experienced a drive like that. I shit you not, he drove at least 100 miles an hour the entire ride there and it was not a ride without some traffic. He was amazing. I sat in the back seat and watched him handle his sports car, a blue Datsun something-or-other (who cares, didn’t matter, it was a cool car), his left arm straight and taut on the wheel, his right arm maneuvering the stick with what I perceived at the time as a racer’s talent. I was riveted, and yes turned on. He wove in and out of traffic, down-shifting purposefully, accurately, avoiding certain disaster at least five times on this journey. I thought we were going to die, and I know Karen and I screamed a couple of times. We got to the airport on time, just barely, but we got there – shaken, relieved, and absolutely exhilarated.
Then I learned how to drive a standard myself, and that changes everything. Hopefully I don’t limit my audience too much, but you’re not really driving unless you’re driving a standard. That’s it. I had to learn how since the car I bought after Lucille (she was enough of a character car for another article altogether) was a Renault and a standard. My sister Panni volunteered (maybe) to teach me, and the fun began. The learning was not easy, embarrassing and humbling, but at least Panni got to laugh at me legitimately a few times which must have made it worth her while. My first real test was a steep, muddy hill at a reggae-fest where it is possible I begged one of my co-riders to drive instead. Memory tells me that I remained the driver and eventually succeeded in climbing the hill without stalling or backing into any other car. After that I never bought another automatic.
The thrill and confidence you feel while you manage your car is a certain kind of sexy. Inevitable and thorough. The music is loud, your head tilts during curves and there is a breeze through the windows. This may be received oddly, but it is also a masculine feel. How would I know that? I don’t. But somewhere deep down I do, and that does not make it a bad thing, just makes it so.
Comes the regularity of driving to work, of driving to the store, of driving someone somewhere, and you get mixed up with myriad cars and even more sins of those that are only driving to get from one point to another. I admit that finding perfection in driving on a 22-degree day within bleak territory isn’t the easiest, but it happens. And being in a car that you drive well makes it possible to be like a flying bird. “Precious” by Depeche Mode during a thunder storm will bring you to an alternate universe. And “Sweet Disposition” by Temper Tramp will make you feel like clear skies are above if you want that, or add light to the edge of thunder if THAT’s what you want. Driving in and of itself is enough for some of us. If you appreciate or wish for auditory sweetness, then that will just add to the addiction. Drive, drive, drive.
I wish I could relate a singular driving experience to prove my point but I cannot. It is random, but when it hits there are thrills throughout and also what I have come to call beauty shivers. Beauty shivers are what you feel when you hear, see or feel something so profound that it hits you physically. I don’t know what chemically happens, I just know that there is a head rush, and you get “almost” goose bumps all over your body, seems like in your blood. It is prickly, electric and moment-striking.* So weird. I am feeling them as I write this. I will be shifting around a corner, happy not to see sirens or signs of speed monitoring, and I will without exception hit the accelerator, find the song and just keep going.
And then when you get to drive long distances, say over a few hours, you witness others driving. You see normality, observance to some laws, a shit-bang load of bad driving, but on occasion you see a driver better than YOU. The person is possibly initially labeled an asshole because of the weaving and the speed, and “he is putting others at risk”, and “if someone were to brake”…but somewhere you are envious of that kind of skill. How’d he DO that? How did he have the GUTS to do that? And I think of the airport ride, gently sigh in a not unhappy way.
They say that if a woman knows how to dance, she knows what she’s doing in the bedroom, and I suspect the same is true for a man who can dance. But if you ever meet a man who drives like Jackson, I suggest you take him home.