I used to get anxious the night before a long interstate drive. It was probably a holdover from childhood car-sickness; I think I was twelve before I could get into a car for a long drive without feeling nauseated. Since we were an Army family and moved about every year and a half, this was a definite liability. I used to dread the day when we all piled in the car and took off; the scent of the car’s interior was enough to make my stomach churn, and the smell of a brown paper sack (which my mother provided me in case of emergencies) can, to this day, make me feel queasy.
I often wonder why I got carsick; I expect I was an shy and anxious child (I have an elementary school report card stashed away somewhere, whereon my teacher wrote “Cries Constantly” alongside the Behavior section). We always seemed to move after school had started for the year, which meant that when you arrived, the various cliques had already formed and you’d be on the outside for the balance of the school year. I know a lot of my anxiety about moving had to do with math; I was a poor math student and it seemed like every new class was ahead of the one I just left. I remember taking a math test shortly after arriving at a new school and being presented with my first go at long division – I hadn’t a clue what I was supposed to do and kept sneaking frantic looks at my fellow student’s test papers as they worked the problems. All those “carry the ones” – what in the world were they doing? They looked like they were drawing little fences across their papers.
I learned to drive in high school – passed the road test with flying colors but lacked any real driving experience. We moved to Hawaii shortly thereafter and my brand-new license eventually expired, barely used. I had to practice driving again in order to pass the driving test, which in Hawaii was on open roads, rather than the closed course I’d driven in Kentucky for my first license. The only time I could get any practice was at night, when my father would take me out to a deserted barracks area at Hickam Air Force Base, and I would drive around cautiously. One night we were driving home, with me at the wheel. I’d had my brights on when driving around the barracks and had forgotten to turn them down again, and neither of us noticed. An oncoming vehicle flashed its lights at me; I thought I’d turned the brights down but apparently my nervous fingers had executed a Hi-Lo-Hi. The result was that the driver of the oncoming vehicle, which was a Air Force Security Patrol car, decided that I was a drunk driver and did what you should always do when a drunk driver is approaching: he pulled in front of me. I slammed on the brakes before I T-boned him, but it frightened me to death and my father was absolutely livid with anger. He jumped out of the car and a major altercation ensued, which resulted in more SP cars arriving on the scene, my father pulling some major rank, tears from me and eventually a ticket for unsafe driving, which the supercilious jerk of an SP who’d started the whole thing told me was my father’s fault – he would have just let me off with a warning.
It’s a wonder that I care to drive at all after such a promising beginning to my automotive career, but like shyness and Crying Constantly, one tends to get over those things as one gets older. Any vestiges of interstate driving nervousness were finally blown away by the weekly back-and-forth when I was doing The Dinosaur Musical in Philadelphia over the recent holidays – I would jump in the car after the final Sunday show and drive the two and a half hours home to Virginia to spend my day off with John. I’d have about a 20-hour turnaround before I had to get back in the car Monday night so I’d be ready to do a 10:00 a.m. show Tuesday morning. You do that often enough and you get to be quite blasé about it.
So it’s down south I go, which means that I won’t be posting for a few days. Oh, Margaret has the internet and all that, but I doubt I’ll be in the mood for writing. Don’t worry, I’ll have plenty to say when I get back.