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Driving is a very weird thing.

It's one of the most dangerous things we do, and when I rented a car yesterday for a short beach break, I was a little worried about doing it again. It's been at least six months since I was behind the wheel.

I was worried about traffic, navigation, and operating an unfamiliar vehicle. I was concerned that my driving skills--never above average, frankly--would have vanished. The magnitude of what driving a car really is--piloting a ton and a half of fossil-fueled metal cocoon at deadly speeds among thousands of other idiots doing the same thing--has become more vivid to me the longer I've stayed away from it.

So I was nervous. But as soon as I turned the key in the ignition and took the car out of park, I found the controls. Downtown traffic was what downtown traffic has always been. Getting on the freeway was...you know, getting on the freeway, same as usual.

It really is just like riding a bike.

Nevertheless, I was cautious heading down the road. No music, full attention, phone off, hands at ten and two, absolute adherence to speed limits, etc.

Today I'm making the two-hour return trip. There are 50 miles or so of pretty much nothing--national forest and the long and winding road, right?--and I suddenly realize that I'm doing 80, I don't even feel like I'm moving, I'm perfectly comfortable, and my sense of danger is just a mild background hum in my mind. I had reassimilated into the drive-hive-mind in one trip to the beach.

As I approached Portland city center again, I felt a twinge of obligation to "take advantage of having a car" by, I dunno, buying flatpack furniture at IKEA or the 24-roll toilet paper at Costco.

But no. It was too much trouble. I dropped the car off four hours early, retrieved my bike, and gratefully returned to my little orbit, where 12 miles per hour is the top speed.

Good to know, though, that the car-rental thing isn't as big a hurdle as I'd feared.

Crossposted from Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 10th, 2013 11:58 am (UTC)
Almost everything we do is weird, too - if you think too hard about how you stand and walk you'll probably fall over. And riding a bike! That's really quite difficult.

I remember when I was learning to drive and found it difficult to remember which gear I was in when I was also thinking about steering and braking etc.. I couldn't believe that it would ever become automatic (inadvertent play on words there!), but now I get bored if i don't have anything interesting to listen to while I'm driving.
Jul. 10th, 2013 07:36 pm (UTC)
Very true, but hardly anything we've collectively accustomed ourselves too is as statistically deadly as driving.

I have a vivid memory of the moment when driving a stick shift suddenly clicked. I was 15, and I can tell you exactly which intersection I was at, who was in the passenger seat, which car I was driving. There's nothing quite like the combination of multi-sensory, mental+physical ah-ha! moment of grasping something as complex as driving.

Apart from the operation of other complex machinery, I'm not sure there's anything quite like it. You're right, though: the balance required in riding a bike belongs in a different category. It's amazing that anyone ever thought to try it in the first place!
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )



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