Considering the fact that I spend 55% of my day driving, without much exaggeration, I feel compelled to tell you about my driving history. The soundtrack to this entry could be "Behind the Wheel" by Depeche Mode, which I listened to incessantly at age 19, when I first was learning to drive.
I began taking driving lessons during my Junior year at Smith College. An older male driving instructor would pick me up in the driveway of my dorm at Capen House, once a week, the entire academic year, in rain, snow or sunny weather. I eventually got my US driving license and received a Volkswagen Golf from my parents in my Senior year.
Who doesn't remember his or her first car and keys to freedom? I commuted biweekly to Boston,feeling the rush of freedom as the skyline of the Hancock and Prudential buildings appeared in the horizon and the Northampton's forests disappeared behind me. I would hold my breath on my solo drives as I overtook trucks on the highway, still glad not to be on Greyhound bus of my pre-car days. Owning a car also allowed me to cross register at nearby Amherst College, escaping the sometimes suffocating all-women atmosphere of my own college. Having a car also meant more responsiblities: I woke up daily at the break of dawn and ventured into the snowy parking lot in my pajamas to move my car to liberate the spot for early rising professors.
Exhilarated by the techie stockmarket bubble (prior to its popping), my father upgraded me to a shiny beautiful green 325i BMW when I was in graduate school. That is when I "moonlighted" as a taxi driver for friends, siblings, cousin, visiting grandparents and even the honorable professor Edward Said. Those passengers would willingly exit the car and fill my gas tank (something I have not learned to do till this day). However, I did acquire other skills: calling the BMW rescue team for a flat tire or turning my car battery on and off before and after summer vacations.
That car took me to Maine for outlet shopping, to Cape Cod and Martha's Vineyard for some East Coast Island hopping, and to Eastern Massachusetts and New Hampshire for foliage viewing. I even got caught in a hail storm once on my way to the Norman Rockwell museum. I drove to Vassar College, Poughkipsee and Philadephia to visit my brothers many times. I also contested speeding tickets in many of these counties' court houses.
I pride myself in my parallel parking skills (probably as a result of my Lebanese descent) on Newberry street in Boston, and I filled the meter diligently with quarters ( avoiding the dreaded fluorescent parking tickets).Valet parking the "Yazz" plated car every thursday night at Club Nicole was my weekly frill. After one such evening, as I drove home across Mass avenue Bridge, a car came out of nowhere and collided into mine so powerfully that I feared I would end up in the icy waters of the Charles River. I luckily walked out of the totalled car, protected by the air bag, without a scratch.
In Dubai, until recently I drove a Volswagen Touareg, reminiscent of my Golf years. The big difference is that I now have a family composed of three kids, who, diligently, like termites, ate at the car, killing the airconditioning, wiping all the stickers off the stereo system, breaking the side window controls, turning the once beige interior into a dark gray one. This time it was my husband, understanding my qualm, who generously upgraded me to his own large silver BMW sedan, reminsicent of my green Yazzmobile days...