I Need Driving Lessons

Babe, I really think you need to learn to do the airport run.

Once spoken, this simple sentence had the power to strike paralyzing fear into my heart.

Did I mention we live in Mexico City, one of the largest cities in the world? And where there are, apparently, driving rules that only apply to foreigners?

I feel I must preface this post with an admission that I have never been a great driver. It's true that I haven't been pulled over in 15 years. And it's true that I haven't been in an accident with another car in over 20 years. But the absence of traffic violations or accidents does not a good driver make. And I must also acknowledge that Mexicans are in relatively few traffic accidents---at least as far as I've seen.

I think it's because they've grown up with it. Merging from six lanes of traffic into one is normal. An every day occurrence. Muscling your way into a space the size of a toothpick is a piece of cake. Dealing with bus drivers who, because they each own their own bus and are in business for themselves, will whip in and out of traffic WITH ABSOLUTELY NO NOTICE. Circumventing minor mountains known as speed bumps. Motorcyclists who will squeeze into the most infinitesimal spaces possible between a bus and a semi just to get around a slower moving vehicle. And understanding that sticking your arm out the window will almost always guarantee you the lane change you desire where a turn signal may as well be nonexistent.

I, on the other hand, was born in semi-rural Iowa. I learned to drive on roads overlooking cornfields. I had one parallel parking lesson in driver's education (parallel parking is HUGELY popular here) on the day of my 17th birthday. I biffed the orange cones so badly they were a tad misshapen after my lesson. We moved from Iowa to Jackson, a much larger city than the little town we'd previously lived in. There was an interstate that intersected the town and something called a Frontage Road on either side of it. I can't even tell you how terrified I was to drive on either when we first moved there.

But then I got over it.

Yes, there were always times of days I avoided driving--rush hour. Countyline Road at most times of the day (but especially at rush hour and on the weekends leading up to Christmas). And yes, there were the crazies on crotch-rocket motorcycles who would literally pop wheelies at ridiculously high speeds on a crowded interstate.

But it was my normal. For the most part, people stayed in their respective lanes. The buses did not dart into and out of traffic without warning. Speed bumps--especially on the road we lived on--might've been a nice thing to have.

Now here on the other hand...

I have to give myself a little pep talk each and every time I get behind the wheel of the car. There is no such thing as a relaxing drive "just for fun". I have said more than once that if we could afford it, I would gladly hire my own personal chauffeur. Dealing with all of the annoyances other drivers who have either (1) lived here for a long time, or (2) grown up with is enough to ratchet up the stress level. It wouldn't surprise me to learn that my blood pressure skyrockets every time I must drive anywhere. Throw in unannounced construction with lane closures and you may as well shoot me now.

I have agreed to learn the airport run because it's something my husband feels I should do.

But if I'm ever to feel confident about driving, if I'm ever to feel comfortable behind the wheel of the car, it will take a major miracle of God.

That, or driving lessons.

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