There’s tons of anecdotes, sayings and jokes I think have been exhausted over the years, but there are only two that really get me riled; blonde jokes and the mistaken belief that women can’t drive.
I grant you that my perception on these two subjects is biased, as I’m both blonde and a woman. Yes there are blonde women that are legitimately dumb, and there are some women that are really bad drivers. But blondes aren’t the only idiots out there and women aren’t the only bad drivers. We do however seem to be the only one’s assigned these labels without any justification.
I happen to be a really good driver. A little fast maybe, but still good. I haven’t had a ticket or an accident since before my kids were born, and my oldest is nearly a teenager. I drive to match the road conditions, and I’ve navigated some pretty treacherous conditions. I go only 5-10 miles over the limit, I don’t weave in and out of traffic and I use my turn signal more often than not (although sometimes in the neighborhood I do slack on that a bit). I’ve driven the same car, Betty, for over a decade, and while much of that is due to the fact that she’s a magnificent truck some of that is due also to me not being an idiot behind the wheel. Until today.
I didn’t do any of the things that would make you a bad driver, like speed or drive recklessly. I didn’t ignore the road conditions, which were icy. I wasn’t distracted by food or my phone or anything. But I did get frustrated and do something impulsive. What’s worse, my kids were in the car to witness it.
Traffic had to merge to one lane, and I sat in virtually the same spot for nearly ten minutes watching people in line behind me jump out and drive down the open lane until the last second when they’d dive over into my lane, effectively halting any progress. I know they say the proper technique is to use both lanes right up until the merge, but whoever did that study clearly wasn’t watching the line of cars behind him leap frog into a better position while he or she sat helplessly still wondering if their swelling bladder would hold out until they finally got a turn or traffic disappeared entirely making the merge a non-issue, whichever came first. So in that moment I found that study a complete waste and decided the only way I was ever going to move was if people couldn’t leap frog me anymore, and I pulled into both lanes making it so no one could pass me.
My little protest was more symbolic than anything because even good old Betty wasn’t large enough to completely block two lanes and keep everyone behind me so the traffic in front could clear out, but at the time I felt justified, or just too stubborn, to put myself back in one lane. The kids wanted to know why the car was sideways and in one of my worst parenting moments ever I said I wanted to give the people waiting in line their turn to get past the merge. And because their kids and they think everything should be fair they thought that was a perfectly acceptable explanation. And I realized I had just jumped both feet into the bad driver category I fought so hard to disassociate from.
What was I thinking? People have been shot for pissing off other drivers, and I certainly pissed some off. Wanting other drivers to be fair and considerate was not justification enough for trying to direct traffic with Betty. Being too stubborn to correct myself in the moment wasn’t justification enough for the horrible example I’d just set for my kids. I tried to turn it into a good lesson, telling them that I let my frustration get the best of me and how you shouldn’t let your frustrations lead you to making bad decisions like I did, but I’m not sure they’ll ever remember my words as much as my actions.
What is it about traffic that takes us from normal to completely irrational in a matter of seconds? Traffic jams, erratic drivers, slow drivers, even the kiss and go lane at school; I can get riled by any of these situations, and thanks to Facebook I know I’m not the only one getting annoyed, even over something as mundane as the kiss-and-go lane (which somehow always ends up as a parking lot and becomes one more thing to navigate).
There’s nothing I want to write more than a good defense for losing my shit over traffic, but there is no excuse, especially when my kids are watching. There will always be people who go too fast or too slow, who don’t share the road or who aren’t paying attention. And while I’d like to think I don’t fall into to any of those categories, chances are I do in someone else’s mind. Being good at driving is different than being a good driver. I’m good at driving, but it turns out I still need more practice to be a good driver.
Don’t mistake that statement as an admission that women are bad drivers, or that I’m a bad driver. In fact, I’d venture to say that acknowledging my faults makes me a better driver because I can learn from my mistakes, and I bet other women can too. So lets agree that women aren’t universally bad drivers, and we might even be good drivers if we’re willing to admit our faults and make an effort to correct them.