Backseat Driver

backseatIt’s getting harder and harder to back seat drive these days, but I get a lot of practice with life in the fast lane while commuting to work every day. The speed limit on the Interstate is 70 miles an hour, but that seems to be merely a suggestion. The actual speed limit is as-fast-as-you-can-go-without-hitting-the-car-in-front-of-you. This offers excellent backseat driving opportunities.

When I see red tail lights coming on, I somehow have the idea that our car should be slowing down instead of accelerating. Mentally willing the car to slow down doesn’t work well, and we fly up on the car in front of us before screeching to a stop. Sudden braking episodes make me draw in my breath quickly and nearly choke, just one of the hazards of backseat driving.

People from out of the area seldom drive fast enough. They probably think the speed limit is actually the speed limit. I hold on the seatbelt with one hand as it hurts my shoulder when it clinches. I’ve not figured out what causes it to do this, but it seems to have something to do with fast braking.

My backseat driving skills are challenged the most when brake lights on a car in front come on, and I’m not sure whether they intend to stop or are just aggravated because our car is too close. Usually a car will pull over and get out of the way. A few of them refuse and have to be tailgated mercilessly.

I really hate it when the brakes on my side of the car don’t work, probably because there aren’t any. I’ve tried stomping the floor with both feet and nearly standing up, but the car just keeps right on going. Backseat drivers are so powerless.

I try to concentrate on something else: the lines in the road, the trash along the highway, the cloud formations, anything other than how fast we are going and how quickly we could stop. I try not to grind my teeth, but the tight muscles in my shoulders give me away. I look into the right side rear-view mirror and watch the car behind to see how far away it is. Not many cars can keep up with us.

Then there is passing. The idea is to get as close as you can to the car in front and swerve suddenly into another lane, narrowly failing to hook the bumper of the car while holding your breath. That should be a familiar move to any backseat driver.

Playing the radio is another good way to keep a backseat driver annoyed. Preferably the radio should be a rock station so that the steering wheel can be used as a bongo drum. After all, if you have to be in the car for 30 or 45 minutes while commuting, you might as well enjoy it. If the radio is loud enough, it will cover up the backseat driver’s screams of terror.

I am absolutely certain that the only thing that has saved my life so far is holding onto the car door as tightly as I can. If they ever find me in the wreckage of a terrible accident, I’m sure they will say, “If she had only been holding on to the car door tighter, this wouldn’t have happened.”

Another challenge for the backseat driver is waiting until the last minute to get over to the exit lane. Moving over into tight spots between speeding cars in time to get off is really harrowing. I have practically passed out many times. We probably save a whole 2 or 3 minutes by not getting over ahead of time.

I’ve tried to keep my eyes shut as a way of blocking it all out, but somehow that just doesn’t work. As soon as I feel sharp braking, my eyes fly open. I guess if I am going to die I want to see it happen. Backseat drivers don’t like surprises.

Another day, another commute — it couldn’t possibly be as bad as I think it is. I haven’t died yet, so I have to think my backseat driving must be better than I think it is.

Copyright 2010 Sheila Moss

About Sheila Moss

My stories are about daily life and the funny things that happen to all of us. My columns have been published in numerous newspapers, magazines, anthologies, and websites.
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4 Responses to Backseat Driver

  1. Sheila Moss says:

    I hate to say this, but I suspect it may be a man thing. My former husband was a terrible driver and died in an auto accident. I’m probably more nervous because of this… but, honestly, you would think I could pick someone more careful the second time around.


  2. cat9984 says:

    I empathize with you. My husband drove almost identically to your driver . One times he yelled at me for involuntarily gasping. I told him it was a survival instinct. I don’t think he appreciates it


  3. Lois says:

    I totally understand where you are coming from Sheila. My husband tends to drive like the hounds of hell are chasing him. I will be giving up my drivers license next month, due to a stiff hip that keeps me from applying the brakes. This of course is another problem, I can’t use the real brakes or the passenger brakes. At least I know that someone out there understands me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sheila Moss says:

      Oh, dear, I don’t know why they do that. You would think our muffled screams would clue them in, but it seems to go unnoticed. I got so mad at one point that I would not ride with him, but it seems silly to take two cars everywhere, so I suffer through.


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