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Speed Demon Meets Mr. Slow Ride

When I was dating my husband — all starry-eyed and flushed with relief that it was possible for an over-age-50 woman to find love again — our driving styles were the last thing on my mind.

As time has gone by, the adrenaline rush of new-marriage, new-season-of-life has worn off, and the less visible irks exposed by living together are beginning to unfold

One small, tiny irk is my consternation over our different driving habits.

I am somewhat of a female Paul Newman, and have always loved low-slung, road-worthy vehicles that will effortlessly hug a corner and then accelerate to 60 mph in 5 seconds flat.

I inherited a love of fast, hot automobiles from my dad. My father always kept us in new, trendy vehicles and traded them in every couple of years. When I was 16, he bought me a 1966 Mustang GT Convertible.

I was  the envy of every single student in my high school. When I was 18, he bought me a 1969 Pontiac Firebird, Formula 400.

I could make the hour and a half trip from my college dorm’s parking lot to Memphis in 59 minutes.

My husband comes from a kinder, gentler automotive background. His family drove practical Chevrolet sedans and hung onto them until they wore out.

In his early 20s, he owned an exceedingly cool 1973 Dodge Charger 400, 4-barrel. His hot-car-owner days skidded to an abrupt halt, however, when he found himself with a wife and children shortly after graduating college.

From that point on, sadly, he drove nicely-maintained but decidedly uncool family vans and SUV’s, none of which lent themselves to an exhilarating driving experience.

My driving style is fast, efficient, and pushes a little to see what the car will do. My husband’s driving style is much more relaxed: meander, enjoy, and don’t wear out the tires. This approach drives me crazy.

One of his driving penchants includes taking corners at a slow, wide arc. When I finally asked him the other day why he persists in this maneuver, he responded that he felt it was easier on the tires, and used less steering effort. This is a completely foreign concept to me. I want to hug that corner as smoothly as possible, and then accelerate like mad. I call it “efficiency.” He calls it“speeding.”

I vacillate between respect for his adherence to speed limits and squinty-eyed, double-dog-dare-you. I mean, who can resist a tiny pushing of the speed limit on miles and miles of a straight, endless, deserted highway? To me, speed is exciting. To him, speed is a policeman crouched on a motorcycle behind a billboard.

My habitual response to his driving behavior goes something like this:

Me: Fidgeting in seat, trying to keep my mouth shut. Finally, I erupt in exasperation, “WHY are you going so slow! You are driving like a grandpa!”

Him: Unperturbed, eyes on the road,.hands at two and ten. “Well, what’s the speed limit?”

Me: Resigned sigh. Slumping in seat. “Around 30, I think.”

Him: Glancing at speedometer. “I’m going 29.”

Me: Silence. I cross my arms. I know further discussion is futile. My irritation is perplexing to me. I know he is right, but somehow, a jointly-shared, satisfying vehicular experience dangles just out of reach.

Him: “Oops! Yellow light!” He slowly glides to a stop, and I watch a bright red, 2009 Camaro scoot through the yellow just before the light turns red.

I cover my eyes with my hand and try to control my rapidly escalating hot-car lust. I remind myself to be grateful for a completely paid-for Pontiac, even though it is 7 years old, and has never even thought about scooting through a yellow light.

I do not think our different approaches to driving should cause too much marital concern. I am learning to appreciate his regard for speed limits and well-maintained automobiles, and he is learning that white-knuckling it when I am driving is actually kind of fun.

But I am thinking that trading his Pontiac Bonneville for a late-model Mustang GT convertible would go a long way toward resolving our disparate driving issues.

It is impossible to drive like a grandpa in a Mustang


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