I'm the best driver I know — and I hate driving.
I learned how to drive out of necessity. I had a summer job that was miles away from my house. Of course, I grew up in a rural area, so most things were not within walking distance. If I wanted to go shopping, visit the library or see a movie without parental supervision, I had to drive myself.
I am the firstborn in my family, so I could not hitch a ride with an older sibling or ask my younger brothers to take me anywhere.
I held out until I was 17 before getting my driver's license. My dad taught me how to drive, making me get on and off of the highway at every exit until I was comfortable with accelerating up to a white-knuckled 70 mph and merging into traffic.
Did I mention the family car was a 15-passenger van?
Being somewhat vertically challenged, I appreciated being able to look out over traffic from the van's driver's seat — but then I had to learn to navigate parking lots with the behemoth.
My loathing of driving did not abate when I acquired a much shorter 1977 Ford Thunderbird. By "shorter," I mean that it was not as tall, but I am convinced the two-door car was just as long as the family van.
I do not know why I have never enjoyed driving. Perhaps I resented having to give up precious reading time to have to pay attention to the world around me. Maybe it was my apparent ability to cause a car to break down simply by looking at it.
Then there was my naive bafflement at the drivers around me appearing to constantly flout traffic laws. Couldn't they read the speed limit signs? Didn't they know not to turn into the far lane? Had the turn signals on every vehicle in America burned out at the same time?
My brothers laughed at me for keeping my hands at "10 and 2." I laughed when they had to tell our parents that they had gotten speeding tickets. (Bring on the driverless cars — I'll be the first to hop in one and the first to laugh when they give habitual speeders no option but to obey the speed limit.)
I recently attended a defensive driving course, figuring it had been too long since I had brushed up on my driving skills. The car I drive now is very different from that old Thunderbird. It is much easier to park, thank goodness, and has airbags as well.
I took away some good, up-to-date safety tips from that course. It is now recommended that you drive with your hands at "8 and 4," which makes sense as it does not place as much strain on your arms and shoulders.
When stopped at a railroad crossing, I am going to keep my car far enough away from the tracks so that anything that flies off the train will not end up going through my windshield. And while sitting there — or in any line of waiting traffic — I will turn my wheels so that if I get rear-ended, my car will be aimed towards the curb or ditch and not at the semi in front of me.
I still do not like driving, but cars and I have come to a truce. I have learned that preventative maintenance really does pay off. Time in my vehicle gives me a place to sing as loud as I can to some Broadway musical or laugh my head off at one of my favorite podcasts. The hundreds of miles I drive each week give me an opportunity to visit interesting people and places and see many beautiful sunsets.
If you see me driving down the road, please be courteous. It may be a small thing, but I would really appreciate it if you would use your turn signal. I promise, it will help make the world a better place.