I used to think city driving was difficult. It didn’t take me long to discover that rural driving has its own unique set of challenges. Let me elaborate…
“A New Year’s resolution is something that goes in one year
and out the other.” – Unknown
The truth is I’m a terrible driver. My driving record includes an assortment of speeding tickets, accident reports and fender-benders. And so, each January 1st, I resolve to become a more conscientious and capable driver.
I used to think city driving was difficult. Traffic jams, one-way roads, multi-lane highways and underground parking lots were nightmares. When I moved to the country I thought my driving woes would be over. What could be easier than coasting down sideroads with the summer breeze blowing through my open window? It didn’t take me long to discover that rural driving has its own unique set of challenges.
Allow me to share some advice:
1. Animals: Be on the alert. You will encounter critters of every size and description – some dead and some alive. You’ll be forced to share the road with wild animals, livestock, and pets. They will fly, gallop, crawl, and pounce onto the roadway.
I’m not talking about the odd dead raccoon or random squirrel. You will be startled by renegade wild turkeys, flocks of wayward sheep, runaway horses, and confused chickens. And, most rural drivers, at some point, will find themselves locked into a staring competition with a cow standing in the middle of the road. Mooooooooove!
2. Farm Machinery: Be prepared to follow tractors, balers, combines, sprayers, and plows. If you are in a hurry, a large potato truck will appear in front of you. It is not even possible to blow off steam by venting a little road rage. How can you gesture, swear and scream at someone who happens to be a neighbour? All you can do us smile meekly and pretend that you enjoy driving at 15 km/h because you don’t need to be anywhere soon.
3. Fresh gravel: On a dry hot day, freshly laid gravel creates dust. The faster you drive the more dust you create. Eventually you find yourself surrounded by a large cloud of billowing brownness and you begin to feel like Pig-Pen in the infamous Peanuts comic strip.
Driving with reduced visibility requires concentration. Gravel also has magical powers. If you drive too quickly, those hard little stones jive with the rubber in your car tires and create a “rolling marble” effect. At first you will feel slightly airborne and the next thing you know, your unsuspecting vehicle will proceed to glide like Michael Jackson, moonwalking into the nearest ditch.
4. Mailboxes: Rural mailboxes are the bane of my existence. I have managed to scrape the side of my vehicle several times while retrieving the mail. Do you know that if you stop to get your mail at the end of your laneway and then (unconsciously) put the car into reverse, the resultant effect is that the driver-side mirror becomes violently wrenched from your car?
If this should ever happen to you, the only logical reaction is to continue driving up the lane, listening to the remains of the mirror flopping and thunking against the exterior of car door. Attempt to ignore the howls of laughter coming from passengers.
5. Cedar rail fencing: Why do folks place these structural snares at the sides of driveways? Cedar rails don’t present a problem when you enter the driveway, but when it’s time to exit (and darkness has descended) you will be presented with an unwelcome challenge.
As soon as you place your car into reverse, the fencing morphs into a menacing magnetic monster. The sound of cedar colliding with metal is a little unfamiliar at first, and so, because you don’t recognize what you are actually hearing, you continue to backup. This unnerving sound continues to grow louder (like nails on a chalkboard) for the entire length of the car.
Eventually, it will be necessary for you to admit your side panel has indeed made contact with the fencing. The best thing to do at this point is to place full blame on the fence. It will be necessary to feel indignant and disgusted. These emotions will help you deny your feelings of shame and stupidity.
6. The Rural Wave: Country folk have a very unique greeting style. They use a very specialized waving method when they are behind the steering wheel. It took me a while to understand this. City dwellers wave like lunatics. I think this is because it is difficult to be seen and heard above all of traffic and congestion. Urbanites bounce their upper torsos and wave their arms like windmills. They honk their horns, and yell out, “Hi—Hi—Hi”.
Country folk keep their hands firmly on the steering wheel and raise a solitary finger in greeting. This is accompanied by an ever-so-slight nod of the head. The face remains passive.
It’s difficult to drive when you have to be prepared for the fact that, at any moment, you may need to greet a rural neighbour. You should probably practise this simple country Hello while you’re driving, but be aware that this multi-tasking can be distracting.
Also, sometimes people give you funny looks. The single finger wave can be easily misinterpreted – so work on some variations by using two and three finger waves.
This January, instead of blaming my driving habits on my surroundings and on other people, I am going to accept the fact that my behind-the-wheel inadequacies are merely symptomatic of other issues that I have. I have absolutely no sense of direction. I have no spatial reasoning ability. This makes parking, turning corners and reversing problematic. I am also chronically late. This bad habit necessitates a need for speed and results in lack of focus. This is the year that I decide to admit defeat and be honest with myself. I will never be a good driver.
I am going to choose a new resolution for 2014; I am going to resolve to be a better passenger. This is actually a perfect choice, since nobody lets me drive anymore. I will concentrate my efforts on providing stimulating conversation, yummy snacks, Tim Hortons’ coffee and gas money.
Is anyone interested in car-pooling?
Do you have a rural driving (mis)adventure to share?