On the Ordeals of Driving

I am a reluctant driver.

Much of this has to do with the fact that in the ten plus years I’ve carried a driver’s license, only three stand out as remarkably uneventful—and these were the years I spent as a commuter in Singapore. The rest of the time passed as what can only be described as an exhaustive exploration of the world of vehicular failures. These include, among many others, the following:

•  Blowing a tire while driving (at least once)

•  Finding my gear stick stuck while driving (at least once)

•  Losing my windshield wipers in the middle of a blinding squall while driving (at least once)

•  Overheating my engine (at least once)

•  Swamping my engine while driving through knee-deep flood waters (at least once)

•  Driving without side mirrors (at least a week)

•  Driving without windshield wipers (at least a week)

•  Driving with my car smelling like a sewer (at least two weeks)

•  Locking myself out of the car (at least twice)

•  Getting into parking lot collisions (at least thrice)

•  Getting into roadside collisions (at least twice)

•  Returning to my parked car and finding a flat tire (at least four times)

•  Returning to my parked car and finding the side mirrors stolen (at least once)

•  Returning to my parked car and finding the battery dead (at least four times)

•  Returning to my parked car and finding a major scratch or dent (too many times to count)

•  Returning to my parked car and finding it floating away (at least once)

The collisions, thankfully, were all confined to my first few years as a relatively inexperienced driver. The rest can only be attributed to some variety of vehicular karma. (Perhaps I was an auto wrecker in a past life.) After all, I have my car routinely serviced for preventive maintenance; I have the brake fluid, coolant, oil, water and tire pressure frequently checked; I have the exterior and interior regularly washed and vacuumed; and I always maintain a serviceable spare tire. I have, to my knowledge, done what most relatively responsible car-owners know to do.

But none of it seems to have made any difference in helping me avoid dozens of car-related embarrassments. One of the most recent incidents, which happened a little less than two weeks ago, involved finding my battery dead and then locking myself out of the car (which, of course, had everything including my house keys and mobile phone inside). My brother arrived fifteen minutes later, and with a remarkably restrained snigger, greeted me saying: Man, just when I thought nothing else could happen to you and a car . . .

In the end, my brother’s—and by extension, my family’s—amusement, is, perhaps, the only consolation I can possibly derive. Many a family gathering has had the ice broken by a story that began with the line: Did you hear about the time Eileen was driving her car and . . . ?

Apparently, I’ve begun a saga that may never end.*

* Two days after the dead-battery-and-locking-out incident, I returned to my car after a late night event and promptly found the front-left tire absolutely flat. Later on, it turned out that there was something wrong with the valve. Amazingly, the exact same defect turned out to be present in the spare tire. It’s karma, I tell you, karma.


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