Health Business

The Freedom and Frustration of Cars

Canadian here eh.

When I was a kid, my mother used to joke that it was a miracle that neither I nor my younger brother were born on a back road. Dad’s typical car comment was “Let’s see where this goes.” And I’ve inherited that driving gene from my dad.

I was born in Whitehorse, Yukon, and then we moved countless times, all over Northern Ontario, and then the family settled in Ottawa. Driving was a rite of passage for my generation, back in the ’60s and ’70s. The group I was part of for about five years was completely car-centered—rallies, demolition derbies—and gas was so cheap then, so a recreation item was to drive half an hour out somewhere, and then back, to accommodate parental deadlines. Of course, it was only the boys who were driving; the girls’ appropriate role was to sit in the stands, or the passenger seat, look sexy, and admire.

I moved on. My first husband had been a car buff for years, with a car sitting in the backyard waiting for his 16th birthday. Several months before, he developed glaucoma in one eye and went down to 10 percent vision. His charming grandfather convinced him that he would never again be able to drive any kind of motorized vehicle. We got a car, and I drove us everywhere, until it died of old age.

I love driving—my husband used to call me Stirling Moss, and told everyone that if you wanted to know the longest distance between two points, just travel with me. Freeways were efficient, but I always preferred the scenic route. My dream would not have been to be a ballet dancer, or anything like that—my dream was to be a stock-car racer. And, until I got older and some smarter, I had a very heavy foot. Whee! Traffic circles? Bring ’em on, and let’s see how fast we can do them.

We parted, and my next partner was an anxious driver, and an even more anxious passenger. We took a number of travel vacations around Canada—out to the west coast to British Columbia, and then out through the Atlantic provinces on the east coast, and eventually on a road tour of Newfoundland. We were good driving companions. And of course, each of us drove to and from our separate jobs every day. He had a truck, and I had (still have) a small car—and that’s pretty standard here.

I will never understand what changed for him, but his anxiety escalated, to the point that all he could do was drive into town once a week to pick up groceries and various supplies. I’m 74. And now he’s gone, and I want to take road trips again—there are little parts of Ontario, and Canada, that I’ve been longing to see or revisit. I don’t know anyone, among all my friends, who would be the kind of traveler I am, though, and it’s not as much fun to travel alone, with no one to share all of the “Oh, look at that”s.

Cars are freedom. If you’ve never heard Dory Previn sing about screaming in her car in a “Twenty-Mile Zone,” well, that’s another aspect of it. That little self-contained universe, all your own. Turn the volume up to 12. Sing along—the car doesn’t care if you can’t sing worth beans. Belt it out. Cry if you need to. Laugh at the things on the side of the road. Bliss. Always has been. An encapsulated adventure, or therapy, or joy, or whatever you need. Cars are a glory.

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