Emotional Health · Lifestyle

Winter Driving: A Meditation

My driver’s license turned two years old this past weekend.

Not my dad's, but close enough.

After decades of being a bicycle commuter—with varying degrees of smugness over the years—I finally learned to drive at age forty. I did it the old-fashioned way, taking lessons from my father in his pickup truck. When you learn the hard way, then the easy way just gets easier.

I relied on those five months of hard lessons in dad’s Tacoma this past Sunday, when I was driving in the snow and sleet. My driving test was actually taken during a wet, sloppy snowfall, and I’d earned some off-the-paper points from the examiner for being brave enough to take my test on a day dominated by no-shows. He told me that I drove like I’d been doing it for years, which only renewed my impression that northeast Philadelphia produces some of the nation’s worst and scariest drivers.

The dry Sunday snow wasn’t the instant slush I’d experienced two years ago, but it was falling mere days after a blizzard that still hadn’t been fully cleared from most of the Philly streets. The so-called “Snowpocalypse ’11” is still piled in drifts as high as my sedan’s trunk, and on the side streets of Germantown and Mount Airy the roads are icy, rutted tracks.

My neighborhood in snow. (Photo: Alan Tu, Newsworks.org)

Even if I turned my wheels in an attempt to jump the ruts and make my own path, I was carried along in the wake of those who’d driven in warmer moments. It was like being behind the wheel of a replica Model T at Hershey Park, being pulled along a groove by a metal rod, with my only choice whether to steer with the chain beneath the road or bounce and shudder along heedless of it. Doing that latter is what made my father remark, when I was twelve, that I was not going to ever drive his car.

So thirty years later, I followed the path carved by giants—or at least SUVs—and got bumped and shuddered for my troubles anyhow, because the ruts were a moonscape of impromptu potholes, with ice at the top and street at the bottom, shifting in new directions every time I went over them—much like the vertebrae in my neck. (There’s a big bottle of ibuprofen in my glove compartment for such moments.)

It’s nice to have a relaxing morning with a cup of coffee and a keyboard after a weekend of being on the road, especially after a hot, muscle-restoring shower. I took what was tossed at me, made it through unscathed, and my reward is a morning of geeking out with the cat climbing on my chest. There’s a similar kind of proud relaxation in being a late bloomer. I got my B.A. at thirty-seven, and learned to drive at forty. And in my car, showing off my gray hair and City College window sticker, nobody can tell—unless they’ve read this.

Seems I’ve learned a little Zen the hard way, too.

Join the conversation

  • Judit February 26, 2017 at 4:01 pm

    Thank you for writing this.Its an encouragement and inspiration to me. I feel like I am a late bloomer too. Everything at the right time:):):)

    Reply
  • roz warren February 3, 2011 at 7:00 pm

    What a lovely piece of writing this is. Thanks for a good read on an icy cold day.

    Reply
  • MamaKat February 3, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    Your words know how to drive down the street too.

    Reply