As I was driving to the store this morning, I got to thinking…about driving. I doubt there isn’t any driver who doesn’t remember the first time he or she took the car out…alone! Driving is one of the more incredible experiences of human existence. This is because, when you think of it, driving mirrors life itself. No wonder we invented the car and learned how to operate it on a mass basis. It all happened quite naturally since driving simply mimics every normal stage of our lifecycle. No really, stay with me. I think I may be on to something here.
If you take the basic stages of driving an automobile, then compare them with the same stages in life, well, you’d be surprised how much driving a car is like going through life. Come! Take this road trip with me:
STAGE ONE: Getting Started
Driving: Learning how to handle the car: how to steer, how much gas to give, how hard to press on the break, how many directions and objects to look at…how to shift gears if you are in a car with manual transmission…how to coordinate all these tasks into one highly sensitized, alert and responsive occurrence.
Living: Learning how to handle the body: how to sit up on your own…how to crawl…how to climb…how to balance…how to walk without going to fast or in the wrong direction…not bumping into anything or knocking over a lamp…how to look where you’re going and plan how you will get yourself there while coordinating all these tasks into one highly sensitized, alert and responsive occurrence.
STAGE TWO: Nothin’ To It
Driving: Now an experience driver for several years, you can easily complete all the necessary functions and thought processes without thinking about them. Getting into a car and driving off is second-nature; it involves no real conscious effort on your part. Many of you do things you’re not supposed to do while you drive. You talk and drive, smoke and drive, text and drive, drink and drive (not booze, of course) and maybe even pet the dog sitting in your lap while you’re driving. Your subconscious can take over and drive for you, so much so that you may zone out for several miles and suddenly realize you’ve arrived to where you wanted to go but have absolutely no recollection of getting there—you were too busy thinking about something else. But not to worry, your subconscious and habitual driving mechanisms got you there safely…this time.
Living: Multi-tasking is not a problem. You can get through all the mechanical, environmental and social functions of the day without giving any of them much thought or attention. Most everything you do is second nature by now and you control your tasks as if you’ve been doing them forever. You can take care of yourself, take care of others, shop, cook, lay a hardwood floor, take a shower or transplant a heart and it’s all in a day’s flow and it all goes down without a hitch…this time.
STAGE THREE: Park and Lock
Driving: So now the road signs have gotten harder to read or the person who erected them has them pointing in the wrong direction…your reaction time to the car in front of you stopping is not as quick as it once was…those pedals on the floor sometimes interchange in function and while you know you definitely stepped on the brake, the car sprang forward at a tremendous speed, stopping only once inside at the nail polish display in the drug store. Others in the car—the folks who used to be engaged in their own conversations and ignoring you as you drove—are now fully focused on you and completely at ease with warning you about every upcoming stop sign, red light, pedestrian or squirrel in the middle of the street. Your spouse is sitting in the seat next to you—yep, the same person you used to snuggle with and maybe even get a little frisky with while you tolled down the highway at 65mph. Now, as you look over, said spouse has a vice-like grip on the ceiling strap above the window, is especially vocal about the space between you and car in front and breath-stokes every time you change lanes, make a turn or fail to realize the speedometer has a red needle poised over the “90.” At some point in time, the official at the DMV takes your license and doesn’t pound that heretofore automatic “renewed” stamp on its face. Nope, your keys are turned in and your garage door is closed…for good.
Living: The food smells good in the restaurant, but you can’t see the menu because someone turned out the lights and left only a small candle on the table. Beside, if it were light enough to read the menu, you’d have to hold it against your nose to see what it says because, as usual, you cannot find your glasses. It’s okay, because you are pretty much in your own world now anyway. Folks around you are engaged in their own conversations and ignoring you for the most part until you haphazardly launch a fart just as the room noise hits a slight lull. But you are still active and that is good. You make at least six trips to the restroom, usually embarking on a new one just as you’ve returned from the previous. Dessert is especially good, just like you remember how good it always was when you were a young child. When it is time to go, everyone is there to help hold you up, get you going in the right direction and making sure you don’t crash or collapse into anything expensive. At some point in time, you wind up staying home for all your meals. In fact, you pretty much stay home and don’t do anything anymore. You’ve been ask to hand in the salt shaker and that jar of hot peppers has disappeared. Your food supply is limited to cans of Campbell’s chicken noodle soup and a box of oatmeal or cream of wheat. Pointed utensils like forks and knives have been taken away from you. Soon, the cupboard doors will be closed…for good.
And so it goes…you drive; you live. And, as you go through each function, you find that there really isn’t much difference between the two. Fuel goes in, energy and movement come out. You learn how to get from point A to point B and then do it successfully for the better part of your life. In the end, you find a nice parking space under a shady tree. No sweat. Why it’s as easy as driving Miss Daisy to the Piggly Wiggly.