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WHERE'S THE NEAREST OFFRAMP?

18 January 2002

I have a horrible feeling that my freeway phobia is starting to build again. This growing sense of panic on freeways is starting to creep in from time to time again.

It wasn't helped at all by my trip with Dr. G to the luncheon yesterday. The next time he wants to do something like that, I'll meet him there.

He picked me up at the office and we headed toward the freeway. Dr. G does so much working on call at hospitals around northern California that he essentially lives in his car a good deal of the time. So he's perfectly comfortable doing routine things while driving. I am not.

We started driving 40 mph down the road that runs from the office to the freeway (5 mph over the speed limit). The speed wasn't the troubling thing (though that was part of it), but while he was exceeding the speed limit, he was using both hands to attempt to attach a pin to his collar. He was also talking to me and he seems to be unable to talk with someone without making eye contact.

So here we are. I'm not wearing a seatbelt because the seatbelt in his car won't fit around my bulk (yet--just give me a few months). He's driving 40 mph, with no hands on the wheel, and he's looking at me!  Not at the road--at me!

Then we got onto the freeway and he did, at least, put his hands on the wheel as we sped (over the speed limit) toward the neighboring townl, though he continued to look at me as he talked.  His cell phone rang, so he started weaving in and out through the big trucks while carrying on a conversation on the cell phone. I think that might have been preferable to when he got off the phone and continued talking to me, looking at me all the while.

By the time we got back to Davis after the lunch, I had vowed I would never ride with him in a car again. I don't care how safe a driver he thinks he is.

But freeways are starting to bother me again. I've become what my father made fun of--a little old lady creeping down the freeway in the slow lane at 55 mph.

I went through many years terrified of driving on the freeway. It got so bad for a couple of years that I would get off the freeway when I could and drive from offramp to offramp through the town. The drive from here to San Francisco is an hour and 20 minutes. In those years, it would take me over 2 hours because of driving through town whenever I could.

I haven't gotten to that point yet, but I can feel the old fear creeping back in. It doesn't help that we have had many accidents in this area, the kind which have long been my biggest fear--semi's going out of control and toppling over onto the car in the next lane, killing its occupants. We've had at least three accidents like that in the past two or three months. And then there was the other day where there were so many accidents in the heavy fog that it tied up I-5 all day long and involved several fatalities.

I don't see as well in the dark as I used to. It's not as bad as Walt's mother, who quit driving at night because she'd developed night blindness, but I'm not as comfortable driving after dark any more.

I'm also more jumpy when Walt is driving. I'm so much fun to have as a passenger. I clutch the handle of the door and tend to gasp at inopportune moments, causing Walt to jerk and say "what? what?" It's just me having a panic moment.

The best thing for me to do in order to ride in a car without driving myself and everybody nuts is to sleep. Or feign sleep. Or read. The theory is that I can't panic about something that I'm not seeing. It sometimes works.

Besides, when that semi topples over and smashes me flat, it will be instant death, won't it? If my eyes are closed I won't see it coming and won't feel a thing.

I just hope I'm not driving at the time.

 

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Created 1/17/02