Our oldest son was absolutely stupefied the other day when I told him I didn't need him to go into extreme detail over where the conference center in downtown Cleveland was.
I've been there. I used to drive my Mom and Grandma to the home and flower show every year.
"You drove?" he asked incredulously. Yes, I drove. I wasn't always like this, you know, scared to leave the driveway if I'm the one behind the wheel.
I used to be like every other teenager. I loved to drive. The farther the better. Get home, turn around and go out again. Good thing gas was cheap back then.
Maybe I loved to drive because I had to wait so long to get my license. My Dad was the problem. He didn't want me out on the roads by myself. So no license for me. And no rest for him.
My Mom made his life a living hell with "honey-do's." The minute he got home, she'd send him back out again. Of course, she waited until he got his shoes off first and sat down in the easy chair.
And she always ended her request with "You know, if Laura had her license, she could be running these errands for me." Eventually, he cracked and I couldn't wait to hit the highway.
I was fearless and invincible, just like every other teenager. After I got married, I drove the freeway every day to work. No big deal.
Now, I literally cannot drive on a freeway. I'm a menace to myself, whoever had the bad luck to have to ride with me, and all those other drivers out there who pass me on both sides like I'm going backwards.
Like I told our son, I wasn't always like this. About 25 years ago, I had a horrifying experience on a freeway that over the years has festered into a true phobia.
My husband, Dave, was in truck driving school in Cincinnati for two weeks. We'd only been married a couple of years and that long of a separation sounded like an eternity. So I decided to drive down and spend the weekend with him.
I had to promise my boss the sun and the moon for the time off because my shop was on mandatory seven days a week overtime.
Dave was sure I was going to have a flat tire (or two), so he made sure I packed a second spare tire behind the driver's seat. That turned out to be a bad thing. I also had a CB radio. Hey, it was the '80s and listening to the truckers' chatter made time go a little faster.
I was supposed to take the loop around Columbus, but I missed the turn-off and went straight on through. Sort of. I only made it about halfway.
I passed a sign that said to watch for stopped traffic. What kind of baloney was this? That's the point of a freeway. You don't stop.
While I pondered that thought, I noticed that the guy in front of me was getting way too close. I started slowing down, but not fast enough. Good God, he was stopped. So I locked up the brakes and slid a little sideways, but I didn't hit him. Or anything else. Whew. That was close.
In that split-second, it occurred to me to check my rearview mirror and then I braced myself for the impact. The woman behind me never touched her brakes. She plowed into me and my little 1978 Dodge Colt with absolutely no mercy.
My chest hit the steering wheel, my face hit the rearview mirror and the spare spare-tire hit me in the lower back. I looked up and thought the windshield had shattered. Nope. I just forgot to put the lid on the cooler and all the ice flew out.
I tried using my handy-dandy CB to summon help, but the antenna had been knocked loose. I was all by myself with a wrecked car in the middle lane of a freeway with traffic whizzing past me on both sides. (Yeah, right after we wrecked, the blockage up ahead had cleared.)
I limped my car to the side of the road and waited. After a while, I went to the next exit and flagged down a cop at a gas station. They got the other lady up there and we filled out the report.
She was crying because her car was only two weeks old. It still had the sticker in the window. Maybe her dad should've made her wait to get her license.
All in all, my little car held up pretty well. It had a broken tail-light, a smashed-in bumper and the tailpipe was dragging. Her brand new car needed a brand new front clip.
Dave had packed me a spare spare-tire, but what I really needed was a hacksaw to cut off that tailpipe. I couldn't drag it all the way to Cincinnati, especially with that little gas leak my car had.
Dave wasn't really supposed to leave the motel during school, but he wasn't supposed to be having a guest for the weekend either and we were already planning on breaking that rule.
So, he got his roommate to drive him up to get me. While I waited for him, scared and alone, I spent an hour and a half on a collect call to my Mom from a pay phone at a Church's Fried Chicken in the middle of Columbus. When that woman's insurance company settled up, they had to pay the $78 for that, too.
I spent the night with Dave at the school motel and half the next day at a Med Center. When I got up in the morning, my head was laying on my right shoulder and I couldn't move it.
I had whiplash, a messed up lower back and a little cut under my right eye where my sunglasses dug in when I hit the mirror.
I got two weeks off work on medical leave, which sent my boss into anger overload, and six weeks of physical therapy, which Miss New-Car Lady had to pay for, too.
Twenty-five years later, I go into an anxiety-induced asthma attack at the mere thought of getting on a freeway. Even with somebody else driving. I hope her rates went up.
Copyright 2013 Laura Nethken