Dedicated to My Ford

RIP

I blame my road rage on the sidewalk cracks I stepped on when I was younger.  When I accidently let my Vans touch their weedy divots, I promised to receive anything that came my way.  So long my “gift” wouldn’t break my mother’s back.  Well, whoever grants ‘sidewalk crack’ punishments, gave me the worst gift besides M&M brownies laced with heroine; inevitable road rage.  Therefore, whoever grants ‘sidewalk crack’ fortunes- you are an oozing sore on my side.  The frustrating while driving I’ve dealt with on a daily basis since then, has been excruciating.

My road rage started softly.  I small, weak flicker of anger the size of a Glade Peppermint candle flame sprouted in my chest.  When I was sixteen, I would only curse occasionally – when a very unintelligent human would pull out in front of me and then travel the speed of a Fast and Furious movie in 2040, when Paul Walker is eighty.  However, my license was shiny and brand new.  I was happy to drive my friends around.  I was happy to drink my Chai Tea while I pulled into the high school parking lot in the morning.  I was happy to merge on to the highway miles from the mall.  I was happy to sit in parking lots during thunderstorms and have deep conversations with my girlfriends about dying and how life would have been different if we decided to leave right then, instead of ten minutes later.  I was happy to be on the streets, alone – listening to Avril Lavigne at my leisure and discovering brand new obsessions; car eating, car talking, and car singing.

Car singing held me up from my road rage for a few years.  If I ever felt the urge to get mad, I would merrily take the pipes out of hiding and hold my own personal Mariah Carey concert in my Ford Escort.  I would grip the steering wheel, let the veins pop out of my neck, let a light shade of purple wash over my face, and belt out notes men couldn’t reach if I squeezed their balls.  I loved car singing.  Car eating kept me busy whenever I had a pang craving for a McChicken and a boxed apple pie, and that was often.  My obsessions lasted two, strong years.

When I was twenty, my small candle flame flicker started tripling in size, and small black puffs of smoke flickered from the top.  Car singing was no longer an obsession, but a mere distraction from the pulsating anger. My eating obsession sizzled when I realized McChicken McDonald’s mayo had the same constancy of McCum.  That alone, made me angry.  One can only imagine; my road rage was growing.  I fed the fire with small coals of anxiety.  By the time I turned twenty, I had an annoying need to always feel like I needed to go, go, go.

If I wasn’t going, I felt like I had cheated the system somewhere along the line of my life.  I couldn’t handle sitting in one location for too long, in fear a brand new opportunity was sprouting somewhere on Interstate 35, begging me to hit the fast lane and go for it.  I wasn’t the type of person to sit back, listen to some Steely Dan and let everyone around me turn into complete piles of shit on the road while I surrendered in the slow lane.  I couldn’t have that.  I was the best driver.  I knew where I was going.  As far as I was concerned, people sucked at everything they tried to do in life, and putting them behind a steering wheel wasn’t helping.  Don’t even get me started on people with Iowa license plates.  I needed to get where I was going, and faster than a tractor.

In fact, I couldn’t get to each destination fast enough.  I was ridiculous. The worst was when someone pulled out in front of me.  I would lay on my horn, pound on my dash, or attempt grinding my teeth.  The F-word felt like syrup whenever it slipped out my lips.  I would scream, “Suck a big dong!” out my window, and flip them the bird in my crotch like a true passive aggressive Minnesotan.

The most frustrating part about my excruciating anger against the assholes on the road was my confusion on where it was coming from.  I was normally such a calm, laid back, totally boring person.  I was the type of person who couldn’t look another person in the eye at the grocery store if I stepped in front of them to grab the last box of Apple Jacks.  I was the type of person who sweetly grabbed one Butterfinger from the neighbor’s jack-o-lantern bucket on Halloween.  I even had a weird nervous laugh, tried to save everyone from awkward moments thus putting myself on a vulnerable pedestal, and never went a day without feeling the anxiety of thanking my Follow Fridays on Twitter.  I was a people pleaser.   I wanted people to be happy when they were around me.

But once I got into the frame of my Ford, I turned into a monster.  I was done making people happy.  I had worked in retail, I’d gone to elementary school, and I had gone done and seen it all.  It was ‘my time.’

Therefore, the combination of a ‘go, go, go’ attitude, and the fact I never smoked weed in high school, were the reasons for my recklessly aggressive driving abilities.  When I was really angry with someone’s driving, I would drive so close behind them, I didn’t want them to see my hood in their rearview mirror.  If someone passed me in a two-lane highway, I would speed up and freak them out because I was angry they were going faster than me.  The first time I flipped someone off and hurt my knuckles on my window, I knew I had a problem.  Or, the first time I yelled at a farmer going thirty-five in a forty.

He was driving a spider tractor.

As if more rage was possible, I was so worried I had a problem, my road rage got worse.

I kept thinking; Do only unhappy people have road rage?  If I was happy, wouldn’t I just be content?  Does Taylor Swift have road rage?  Does Taylor Swift flip people off like her finger is going to rocket into outer space?  I bet she doesn’t.  That makes me a terrible person, doesn’t it?

     Since I was perpetually going insane, and couldn’t stop imagining a curly haired Taylor Swift driving past the farmer and waving with that cute little Jolly Rancher pout, I would become angry easier.  I was loose, and terribly confused.  That was about the time I got into iced Venti black coffees.  This, as one can imagine, turned me into an absolute physco on the road.  I looked like long haired, blonde Cruella Duville, jet-setting the roads in my Sweetie Bitch Bitch mobile; hunched over my wheel, and seething through my teeth like Old Yeller post rabies.

Somebody needed a reality check.

Mine came one cold, December afternoon on a downtown Minnesota highway.

I had just waltzed out of a great interview at a magazine and I was feeling pretty chipper.  To top it off, I was wearing a size four business suit, drinking coffee, and had straightened my hair that day.  I felt skinny and on top of the world.

And we all know nothing can beat a skinny, successful woman.  Well, besides Chris Brown anyway.

As I looked up into the snow-threatening sky, I promised God, the Care Bears, and my Great Grandmother that I was ready for a soothing, non-life threatening, and friendly ride home.  My Escort welcomed me with its Blasian inspired looking headlights and I winked at its cute little silver bumper.  I dusted the small layer of dust that had accumulated on my dashboard in a sweet hast, and started the four-cylinder engine.  I let my fingers lace through the purple, silk threads of my tassel.  I felt graduated, grown up, and at peace.

I began driving.

The roads were clustered with assholes because an upcoming snowstorm threatened difficult travel.  I tried not to be bothered.  I turned up the Christmas music on my radio, praying the Christmas Shoes song wouldn’t ruin my day.

It didn’t.  But a bright orange Aztec did.

I was so proud of myself because I was exactly two-seconds behind the driver in front of me.  But, in a slow motioned version of two seconds, I was spanking that Volvo ass so hard, I felt like I was in a T.I. music video.

As quickly as Justin Bieber’s first sexcapade, I had my break pedal chaffing against the floor of my car.  The car in front of me went from sixty to the speed a coffin gets set into a hole in the ground.  I held my breath.  And for one teeny second, I knew I was going to ram the Volvo from behind going fifty.

BOOM.  My cute, frontal bumper tee-peed the hood of my car as we stroke metal.  The airbags in my car exploded in my face, and dust particles infused my car.  They smelt like burnt chips and mysterious fuels.  I was convinced my car was going to light on fire, and I was going to endure in my biggest fear; burning to death. The impact of the airbags hitting my face made my temples pump red blood vessels and let off aromas of fear in fart version, like those lady bug beetles when my mom vacuums our windows in the summer.  My car died on impact, and I started balling.  I was shaking in places I didn’t know I had nerves, and the weirdest part of it all, was the intense vulnerability I felt.  I would compare it to the way it feels in gym to get hit by a ball in the head.  The image of my face, airbag contact made me feel….stupid.   I cried more because of it.

I let my car float to the inside median, as I bawled like a moron.  My iPhone, placed tightly in my gorilla grasp, called my Dad automatically during the hit, which I filed under cruel and unusual punishment for my stressed father.

“I WAS IN A CRASH!  OH MY GOD, I JUST HIT SOMEBODY!”  I screamed into the speakers, as I slung open my door to let the smell of airbag dust seep out of my windows.

“JESUS BRITTANY, ARE YOU OK?”  My dad’s booming voice pierced my ears.

“I’m OK, I’m OK.  I just…hit somebody.”  Was I in denial?

A sheriff was already at the scene, which was extremely convenient.   He was a ginger and had lots of freckles.  I got out of the car, still trying to console my father, and myself.

“Miss, please get off the phone.  Are you alright?”  The sheriff put his hand on my door.  I was so happy to see another human alive; I put my hand on top of his palm.

“I’m OK.  I’m OK.  Dad, I have to go.  I’ll call you back.”

“Good Christ Brittany!  Call me back right away!”

Turned out, I was involved in a five-car collision.  An orange Aztec had pulled out into our lane, stopped, avoided getting hit, and drove off after four other cars played a game of dominos with one another.  Everyone involved was OK, the officer claimed no one was at fault, and although my car’s windshield was nearly shattered, the frame was bent, and my airbags were hanging out, it was OK to drive home, “It doesn’t seem like you have anything leaking –  you’re good to go.”

Since the snowstorm was already building like my cholesterol level after a Twinkie, Taryn’s boyfriend, Sean drove my car to my house for me.  I drove his car and followed.  We stopped at a gas station near my house so I could drive my pile of shit car home.  I only had liability insurance on the car, so we couldn’t get a tow company without paying up the ying-yang for a trip.  My Dad understood I was OK, and the only scratch on me was an airbag burn when I punched it on impact.

By the time I was driving down the street near my house on my way home, it had been snowing for a solid hour.  The roads were slick, and threatening, but I was confident I’d make it.  My windshield wipers worked, and the crack on my shield only shivered slightly when they swept over them.  I called Taryn to reassure her that Sean was on his way home,

“It’s all good.  I’m almost home.”  I told her as I came up to a stop sign.

“Oh Thank God.  I hope you’re OK.  Man, what a day for you!”

I nodded, “Tell me about it, I’ve never spanked a bitch so hard in my life.”

I wistfully checked my rearview before I drove forth, felt happy in knowing I was already using humor to tell my story, and spotted a car coming towards me.  I sighed.  Then, without further notice, I realized the car was coming towards me sideways.  It was a black SUV.  And, it wasn’t stopping.

BOOM. My cute, back bumper was pushed in as the SUV spanked me from behind.  I started screaming.  My car and I were pushed into the intersection unscathed by any others.  I started crying like a baby.

“YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME.” I bawled in between labored gasps.  Then, I started laughing.

“What happened!?!?  Did you get hit again?” Taryn sounded afraid.  Turns out; crashes do not transfer well over telephone conversations.

“I got hit!  I got hit!”  I was screaming like I was in a bunker somewhere in Vietnam.  I was crying and laughing at the same time, which turned out to be refreshing. “I have to call you back!”

The man from the SUV came to my rescue immediately.  He was old, and by the number of wrinkles on his face, had done this numerous times before.  The hallow airbags, duct-taped steering wheel, and shattered windshield threw him off a little.

“I didn’t hit you that hard did I??”  He poked his head in my car and twisted his neck around.

I was hiccupping between sobs, so I made it hard to effectively communicate,

“Nah…no.  I-I-I wah-was hit an hour ah-ago.”

*                           *                      *

Weeks later, my Dad came downstairs and told me he had sold my cars parts for $200 and it was going away on a tow truck, “Did you want to say goodbye?”

I suddenly felt the same emotions the children on Beethoven felt when their father took Beethoven to the pound, so the crocked veterinarian could conduct studies and set the dog on fire.  As far as I was concerned, my Ford was my friend. I had been driving him for seven, long years.  I had great conversations in that car, great make out sessions, great moments alone…angry moments alone…

“No.”

I watched him walk upstairs and imagined my car being taken away.  I thought about its cute little blasian headlights, navy blue stitched seats, sticky cup holders, the mirror with my lipstick mark from high school, and the phone number someone wrote with ballpoint pen in my backseat.

And I started crying.

I felt grateful to be alive, and no longer felt the need to ‘go, go, go.’  I wanted to stay put.  I wanted to cry in my basement.  I wanted to relax.

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Categories: Uncategorized

Author:bechaffee

University of Saint Thomas graduate. Minnesota-bred and happy to talk about the weather any time you’d like! Strongly believes any situation can be bettered by a slice of generously buttered toast or Phil Dunphy. Would get arrested to touch Justin Timberlake’s face. Always trying to be a better person by not wishing horrible karma on people driving slow in the fast lane. Hear more: @twitter @instagram

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