Saturday, March 22, 2008

Newspaper column

Sometimes I wonder whether I missed my calling in life.

Because I think I would've made an excellent race car driver.

When I was little, my dad took me to a race in Watkins Glen, N.Y., which isn't too far from where I grew up. My little brother, Sean, and I were allowed to pick a car, and my dad placed a small bet for each of us so we'd have someone to root for.

I vividly remember the bustle of the place and holding onto my bet stub as if it would magically turn to gold. After getting a few bags of cotton candy -- pink for me, blue for my brother -- we made our way into the stands and found our seats.

The place certainly was loud. Sean held his hands to his ears to muffle all of the engines revving in succession. I tried not to do the same as I watched the preparations and shouted an uninterrupted string of questions.

By the time the checkered flag waived, I was sitting on the edge of my seat. Around and around they went, wooshing past us one by one. Knowing I'd get to keep any money my car choice produced, I was standing on my feet and cheering in no time.

Years later, I don't remember which number car I picked, or even what color it was, but I do know that I walked out with about 20 bucks -- much better than gold at the time. It also instilled in me a deep interest in driving. I almost couldn't wait to see what it felt like to get behind the wheel and experience that kind of exhilaration myself.

Judging by the number of speeding tickets I racked up in my teen years, this probably would come as no surprise to my mother. Driving turned out to be every bit of fun as I'd imagined it would be.

My first car was a Geo Metro, otherwise known as a roller skate with doors. My friends used to joke that it didn't need gas, I just had to wind it up in the back and give it a little shove. It didn't help that it had smaller tires than most riding mowers, either.

But I loved that car. When I got in and turned the key, I could go anywhere -- and sing as loud as I wanted in the process.

Maybe it's because I grew up in a populated area, but driving in heavy traffic never bothered me. Despite my tiny car, I felt comfortable making my way around much larger vehicles, taking in my surroundings and planning my next move.

Even now, I prefer to drive when given the option not to. There's something wonderful about the hum of wheels on pavement and watching the scenery fly by. And even though I've slowed down now that I'm older -- and hopefully wiser, I constantly resist the urge to see how far I can make my speedometer spin.

Just once I'd like to go to Germany, rent a luxury sports car, hop on the autobahn and push the pedal to the metal.

Then I snap back to reality and my family-accommodating mini-SUV that easily holds two adults, a car seat, a dog and even a few bags of mulch if need be.

Besides, there's something wonderful about being a writer.

Words can take me anywhere I want to go, too.


Sheryl said...

Ahhhhh---Watkins Glen! My grandfather raced and won there many times when he was a young man. Perhaps that's where I get my love of speed.

I haven't commented a lot lately, but I read regularly. It's like getting a few minutes with a friend . . . thanks for always sharing your life!

Ray said...

Nice post. I'll be twenty-one next month and I'm sad to admit that: "I don't have my driver's license." Not even my permit. But I hope to change that very soon. And I'm the opposite of you, I'd have to get a big car. A big car for fear of being toppled by accident. By those trucks that just speed by without notice of anyone around them.

Driving is so important though. With it comes to freedom. Freedom of going anywhere the road takes you. And that must feel incredibly liberating. I can't wait to feel it. And to one day drive and have the choice to never stop, if I wanted to.

Being a race car driver would rock, but you're a great writer. I had dreams of being a famous race car driver. I don't know any famous woman drivers and I'd love to be one. But that's just a pipe dream that we had when growing up. Though I'm still growing up, hehe.

Well, take care.

Anonymous said...

"Words can take me anywhere I want to go..."

That's what keeps me writing. Knowing I can escape the now if I need to, or write about the now if I should. No matter what's surrounding me, it's only as crazy as the words I can find to describe it, nothing more. I am made up of experiences, but I am not defined by them; writing reminds me of the truth.

You encourage me more than you know, so thank you again.

LeslieAnn said...

I love this column because I can completely relate. I love driving (especially since I bought my first "new" car last month so I'm finally not driving a POS) and I've always had a car. Even if I were in a large city, I don't think I could stand to be without a car. I would just feel so trapped. I just moved to a more populated area (D.C.) and although driving here was intimidating at first, now I love it. :D

Also... I've had three tickets in six years. I'm doing better now though.

"A.J." Plainsman said...

Weeeeeee! Great column on driving, should appear as a guest column in Car and Driver magazine. Yes, that good.