As a kid I was fortunate enough to tag along with my grandparents on a number of road trips.
From the Rocky Mountains to Yellowstone National Park, I viewed some of the Midwest’s finest attractions from the backseat of their used, blue Cadillac.
Shortly after merging onto the interstate, my grandmother would reach into her purse, and pull out rosary beads. Together we’d recite an hour’s worth of Our Fathers, along with a handful of other prayers about virgins, ghosts, and abject suffering thrown in for good measure.
Depending on where we were headed, she’d sometimes wrap it up with the Stations of the Cross, ensuring that we were up-to-date on our devotions just in case God planned to kill us off before we reached Mount Rushmore.
In retrospect, I’m fairly certain that she also prayed because after years of riding shotgun with my grandfather, she recognized that divine intervention was the only thing standing between them and a hearing in divorce court.
It wasn’t that he was a bad driver, they just didn’t see eye-to-eye on a few basics like navigation, direction, steering, passing, braking and parking.
I can still remember my grandmother admonishing my grandfather for his lead foot, among other things.
In a clipped tone, she’d simply say, “speed,” a couple of times, before becoming annoyed when he didn’t actually slow down.
At that point she’d disapprovingly say his name, elongating each syllable to let him know she meant business.
“What?” he’d finally bark at her.
“Watch your speed!”
And for a short time, he’d oblige.
Eventually, however, the lure of the gas petal proved to be too much, and the speedometer would creep back up, starting the whole thing over again.
The reason I bring this up is that while my husband and I seldom argue, when we do, it’s almost always in the car.
While possible that it’s a heredity thing, the more likely explanation is that, of the two of us, I clearly have a superior command of the road.
Even from the passenger seat.
Though I’ve repeatedly tried to make him aware of this, he still ignores my driving tips and the constructive criticism that I like to volunteer when he’s behind the wheel.
In fact, sometimes it makes him mad.
Once, after politely requesting that he leave enough space to insert a slice of American cheese between our car and the one in front us, he blew up, for no apparent reason, and accused me of having a “stunning” lack of depth perception.
In that moment I could have retorted that when it comes to noticing stuff that needs to be done around the house, he suffers from the exact same disability.
But instead I chose to be the bigger person.
And, in glacial silence, allowed him to reflect on his words for the remaining seven hours and 43 minutes of our 8-hour road trip to Canada, and into the next day before finally receiving a begrudging apology.
Another time, after pointing out that his driving was providing me with a near-death experience — tunnel, lost relatives, white light and all — he snapped that if I didn’t like what I was seeing, I could shut my eyes.
Since at least one of us needed to watch the road, I felt like I should keep mine open in case he decided to make any further life-threatening decisions in an attempt to find a parking spot.
This particular exchange resulted in a nuclear winter lasting until we could both agree that he was wrong and would take any future driving “suggestions” under consideration without getting upset.
After all, I’m only trying to help.
Besides it’s good for him to be reminded that a ride to The Home Depot for light bulbs shouldn’t require a box of Dramamine, that coordinates can be entered into the GPS before leaving the driveway, and that, although most highways have a left lane, we don’t always need to be in it.
Also, the lure of the gas petal sometimes proves to be too much for him, so you’d think he’d be more appreciative of my vigilant monitoring of the speedometer, ensuring not only our safety, but that of everyone else on the road too.
Except he isn’t.
Hopefully one day he’ll realize the full extent of my benevolence.
Until then, there’s always the rosary.