I let my son drive to the Guest House of Milwaukee last night in our Hyundai Santa Fe. We wanted to give him some downtown freeway driving practice. He's been harping that he wants to go to Milwaukee, (specifically to Ian's Pizza) for a few months now, so we thought this would give him a taste of the construction, congestion and traffic that lies between Waukesha and Milwaukee.
Now, I want to state one thing up front, right out of the gate. He did a good job, an admirable job, for a first timer.
Having said that though, I have to confess to my entire family that I now understand why they say I am a scary driver. It's because it's a WHOLE different world from the passenger seat, let me tell ya. Oh my goodness. When I'm driving and (seemingly) in control, things do not seem nearly as dangerous, fast moving, perilous, close or frightening as when I'm in the passenger seat. I see things and situations from the passenger seat that are absolutely NOT THERE when I'm driving. Or at least they're not the issue that they are from the passenger seat.
I still stand by the adage that "I didn't know I was a bad driver until I got married." Ever since, I've been constantly reminded of my driving limitations, shortcomings and aggressiveness. Come to think of it, my Mom did a pretty good job of pointing those out too. (Maybe it is me.) While Donna tries to remain cool - after all, she's been driving with me for 25 years - she's still a door handle grabber and does freak me out sometimes shouting "Jim!" when I'm brutally aware of what she is going to point out. She usually apologizes, but after yesterday, I now know where she's coming from. It's that Passenger Seat Fear Zone thing (PSFZ). You're a helpless passenger in a vehicle so everything seems like a threat.
Ben did a few things that were borderline frightening, but I blame them on the PSFZ thing. One of them happened every time I told him to move over a lane when he got a chance. From where I sat, it sure looked like he started moving over before he checked his mirrors in a sort of, "I'm comin' over dudes, get outta the way," maneuver. Of course from the driver's seat everything's cool. From mine, well, he was shoe-horning.
Then there was the time he was still accelerating less than 50 feet from a red light. "Stop, Stop, STOP sign up here, Ben."
He says, "Dad I see it. Relax!"
And I'm thinking to myself, Oh my gosh, I've turned into my wife.
When, in actuality it's just that from the passenger seat, Objects Seem Closer Than They Appear.
He'd seen the light all along, but from my spot in the PSFZ, he might as well have been driving with his eyes closed. Or so it appeared.
Oh, and that pokey speed limit driving kid I knew six months ago? Yeah, he's not around anymore. He's been possessed by a speeding maniac who seems to think you must get up to the speed limit in less than three seconds or something will happen. At least that's how the acceleration seems from the Passenger Seat Fear Zone.
So, now I understand when my wife hits the imaginary "chicken brake" on her side of the car. She also grabs the door handle and I'm not sure what that's about. I don't think bailing out at any point during the process is better than riding it out. In my old Honda Civic she had what she called the scream bar which was right above the door by her head. Maybe the door handle is the new scream bar, I don't know.
And so, I'll try and be more conscientious (if I have to) of what people in the passenger seat are experiencing. I'd even go as far to say as I'll be a better driver from here on out. But with driving habits at nearly forty years in the making, that's probably not going to happen.
So, scream away. And don't blame me for doing the same when you're driving.