ON MY MIND: Alive and thriving

On My Mind | Maureen Burns

A man was driving and his little girl asked him. “Daddy, before you were married, who told you how to drive?”

Oh, yes, the backseat driver is alive and thriving. We have two of them in our house.

Do you have any at your house?

Before you get all high and mighty on me, I read that there are two kinds of back seat drivers — men and women. So, apparently this is not a woman thing. It is a people thing.

We were driving home from Chicago recently. Two of my daughters and I were in the backseat playing scrabble. My husband was driving and my son-in-law was riding shotgun. All of a sudden one daughter said, “I can’t play anymore. I can’t play scrabble and drive at the same time.”

We laughed at the absurdity but we knew it was true. She was working hard at backseat driving her dad, the poor guy. If it isn’t one of us, it’s another.

Back seat driving is a real phenomenon. There are even blogs about it. I don’t read them. I don’t need to. I do it from instinct. When my husband gets behind the wheel, I go into high alert checking his every move, his speed, his attention. He loves it. Well, he doesn’t really, but he is kind enough to return the favor when I drive.

Somewhere along the way, we have made the astute observation that our partner definitely needs help driving. It is reminiscent of when my husband retired and he began to feed me wisdom. “Dishes will clean better if you soak them first.” There were lots more like this. But I find when I remember them to write them here, I get irritated all over again. Somewhat like he does when I “help” him drive.

My husband drives alone all over. I drive alone all over. We do just fine on our own. It is when we ride together that the problem arises. Why, oh why? What happens to some drivers that they feel others just aren’t up to the task of being behind the wheel?

One guy got stopped by the cops. Every time the cop would ask him a question, the wife would answer. Her husband would then tell her to be quiet — in harsher words. After a few times, the cop said, “Does he always talk to you like this, maam?”

“No,” she replied, “just when he’s drunk.” I think they call that touche.

Once my husband said, “When you start in, I never know if you are going to say I’m driving too fast or driving too slow. Sometime you should just say, ‘Don, you are driving just right.’” So I do. Lately I have been saying that a lot as he is maneuvering these icy roads and drifting snow. He has been doing a great job. In fact, he is doing so well that I might not need to back seat drive so often.

Which leads me to a new dilemma. What will I do with myself when I don’t back seat drive so actively? Read a magazine. Look out the window. Have a conversation with my mate that is not about his driving. Who knew such a big block of time could open up, if and when one decides their back seat driving is no longer necessary.

Maureen Burns, a Greenville resident, is a professional speaker and author. Her e-mail address is maureenburns@maureenburns.com.

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