Close up Hands Tea x

Sit a bit and hear some observational stories I’ve been steeping.

Car Tunes and Talk.

There is something about a car that allows for the best conversations.  Perhaps it’s being in a confined space, where the forced intimacy draws people closer together or the fact that indirect eye-contact makes it easier to be brave with topics or statements.  Or, maybe it’s just the lack of decent ventilation and all that re-circulated stale air that breaks down a person's defenses.  No matter.  I truly enjoy time spent in a car chatting with someone.


A couple of days ago, my children were in the car, bickering as usual (and here I thought that putting almost four years between their birth dates would prevent sibling rivalry – if anything, it made it worse).  My daughter, who had finally had enough of the torture tango, snapped at her little brother saying, “Who died and made you boss?!”  My little guy paused and tipped his head with the weight of the world on his shoulders and replied, “Grandpa.”  Oh, autism.  A manner-less taskmaster, to be sure, but it will speak its mind.


Many times the car radio is the impetus to deep discussions on the road.  My son and I often have the radio playing quietly in the background while running errands.  The satellite service I subscribe to is kind enough to display the artist, song title and year – which isn’t always a good thing.  Especially, if I’m not really paying attention to anything but the road and the buzzing that goes on in my brain.  For example, the day my son asked what Candida was – my long, drawn out answer about it being a genus of yeast that can upset your intestinal tract was probably not even remotely close to what Tony Orlando or Dawn originally had in mind (okay, maybe Dawn did, but why have Tony sing about it?).


My daughter likes to save most of our “big” conversations for the car, because she knows that A) she doesn’t have to look me in the eye when divulging sensitive information and B) I am foreced to retain my cool behind the wheel regardless of whatever bombshells she drops.  Genius on her part, really.


The car has also often turned into the Cone of Frosty Silence over the years as warring camps took sides, whether passenger or driver.  The car isn’t really a very good place for bickering or shouting, I’ve found, as the acoustics are not quite right for getting your point to stick.  I’m Teflon, you’re glue, what you say rolls off of me and sticks to you.  Apparently, logic good enough for the playground, somehow applies in the automobile.


Over the years, the car has also been beddy-beddy good to me when confronting my daughter’s boyfriends, which on occasion had to happen.  There is nothing like the fear in a young man’s eyes when he’s trapped in the front seat of a locked 250 horsepower, 3.5 liter vehicle with his girlfriend’s red-hot-poker-angry mother and her engine’s running.  Trust me.


Some of my best car conversations involve police officers.  I haven’t had a ticket in nearly 20 years, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been stopped.  A lot.  In 1999, I was pulled over by a very nice policeman who asked me why I neglected to turn left from the left-hand turn lane, even though the light had changed twice.  I sheepishly admitted to the polite man with the badge that I had been reading.  I showed him that it was a really engrossing article that had me absolutely captivated.  He asked, sweetly, to see the magazine and informed me that he had that very same article sitting at home on his kitchen table, which is where he reads.  Not in his car.  Well, of course not!  He’s an officer of the law, duh!  Keep those eyes on the road mister and do your j.o.b.  We shared a hearty chuckle and he sent me on my way.


America has had a love affair with cars since they first hit the road in the late 1800’s.  Myself?  Over the years there have been cars that I have loved (my 1980 baby blue VW Rabbit “Stanley”) and loathed (Honda from Hades who overheated on San Fernando Valley 110 degree days making me run my heater) and been embarrassed by (no petite teenage girl should have to drive a 1975 Ford LTD, the largest station wagon known to man).  There have been parking tickets (apparently there aren’t enough quarters in the world when you’re in Beverly Hills), speeding tickets (2 in my 20’s) and a few crunched fenders (we’ll talk about ripped off side mirrors another time).  If I had a calculator to add up the hours of my life spent in a car, I’m certain the numbers would run in the thousands.


Elizabeth Drew said, “Too often travel, instead of broadening the mind, merely lengthens the conversation.”  True that may be, but spend enough time engaged in conversation with someone and you will discover their true selves (oh, the road trips we could talk about, right?).  Spend that time locked in conversation in a two ton vehicle with them and you just might discover a thing or two about yourself.

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