A Sweet Ride
One of the highlights of Cupcake’s and my thirty year marriage was certainly the time I taught her to drive. If ever an activity tested the bonds of matrimony, that was it; even worse than “team wallpapering”. Cupcake was a…challenging student and it was decided at the time it was best if she were to take her test in the fine municipality of Thorsby since it lacked such tricky testing devices as lanes, traffic lights or, indeed, traffic. The idea was that she wouldn’t really need the license apart from driving around Calmar which, although twice as big as Thorsby, has exactly the same amount of traffic lights and farmer-intensive traffic patterns. She mostly got her license to act as my designated driver, from my perspective, although I had told her it was to spread her wings and become actualized as an independent person or some such drivel.
Ultimately, Cupcake got her license and over the course of two decades, became confidant enough to brave the streets of Leduc and even the very periphery of Edmonton’s environs; South Edmonton Common and West Edmonton Mall to be exact. She never dared go farther for fear of an accident, not just in her vehicle, but also in her pants.
Cupcake was content to be contained by her fears of the big bad city. I said if she can drive to West Eddy, she could drive anywhere. City streets are well marked with obvious lines for traffic flow, just like in Calmar or Leduc. She was unconvinced, however, and was certain Edmonton roads were designed to be some kind of elaborate joke waiting to be played on her. She used Edmonton’s traffic circles as a glaring example.
I didn’t mind, of course. Being The Man, I invariably drove whenever we made a major journey (more than, say, three blocks) since I am uncomfortable being a passenger and am particularly frustrated with Cupcake’s poky ways behind the wheel. (“I like to maintain a distance of thirty car lengths between me and the guy in front.”)
I was happy to give into her fears, which allowed me dominion over the steering wheel until an eye issue caused me to lose my license and Cupcake to become my major source of transportation. My life partner, my soul mate, my lover, had suddenly become my driver who has a phobia about changing lanes.
I give her credit, though. Despite Cupcake’s palpable fear, when I needed to go to the university area deep within the heart of Edmonton for a CT scan, she was game to give it a go. My mistake was taking her willingness for confidence.
“What lane should I be in? Quick!” squeaked Cupcake nervously as we braved the peril that is Yellowhead Trail.
“You’re doing fine, Hon,” I said soothingly, aware that if she detected the slightest hint of doubt in my voice, she would immediately panic and hit an abutment or a semi or something. “Just stay in this lane and everything will be all right.
I was confident my decades of experience around the streets of Edmonton would stand us in good stead. Although I’ve not driven in about eight months, I figured it would all come back to me, just like riding a bike, except without all the pedaling.
With knees knocking in unison, Cupcake and I headed down dreaded “Groat Road”; a steep, narrow thoroughfare that looks like something out of a rally race. Suddenly, my navigating confidence was shattered when I realized she was in the wrong lane to take us across the river to the University area. Instead, the lane I’d told her to use actually went along the river and then to Edmonton’s bustling downtown core. The opportunity to change lanes was gone and Cupcake began to panic when I confessed my error.
“Where am I going? Tell me quick! DON’T POINT!” she screamed.
“Uh… Uh… Uh…” I gulped frantically. “Just keep going along River Road and I’ll figure something out…”
“There’s a bridge ahead… should I go onto it? It’s going across the river where we want to be,” Cupcake asked hopefully.
“NO!” I gasped. “That bridge is a one way! Oh, look out for the lady with the walker!”
We finally ended up on the south side of the river, approximately forty blocks from where we would have been had we been in the correct lane. Although I was now fairly certain of the way there, Cupcake had developed a serious case of “If I don’t find a gas station in two minutes, I’m going to pee my pants”. Her normally poky driving behavior was exchanged for something more closely resembling Shirley “Cha-Cha” Muldowney’s.
As we were being swept along by the flow of traffic, suddenly the entrance to the facility was beside us.
“TURN RIGHT! NOW!” I bellowed.
Cupcake cranked the wheel so hard, I am sure her vehicle went up on two wheels. She careened toward the entrance and slammed on the brakes leaving me in a “No Parking- Violators will be shot” zone as she made a mad dash for the closest ladies room or broom closet, whichever came first. Luckily she made it back to the car before the parking police had a chance to attack.
Once my appointment was over, I suggested we go for a nice lunch and take a stress break from the heart-stopping journey.
“Not a chance,” Cupcake intoned grimly slamming the car into gear. “We’re making like a defenseman and getting the puck out of here.”
The ride home was thankfully uneventful. I was proud of Cupcake for facing her fears. A few more trips to town and she’ll be cutting off people and zipping through yellow lights just like a pro.
The Depends, however, will be for me.
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