I miss driving. You wouldn’t know the pleasure of driving until you stop it for a while and then you are allowed to drive for just one day! I had this opportunity recently when I was asked to drive my friend’s car back home as he couldn’t, and the feeling was so tangible!
Driving, I have always felt, is like an orchestra. The driver is an orchestrator and the drive is the musical performance. The passengers are the audience. Figuratively speaking, you are actually playing upon the emotions and the feelings of the audience. Frankly speaking, you have their lives in your hand. And at the end of the performance, the orchestrator should have the satisfaction of a nice standing ovation.
There are many finer points to driving that are so subtle to notice for the common eye to take notice. The start. Avoiding the jerks when braking. Going over the humps. Treating co-drivers. Following a car. The talent to know the boundaries of speed. Going in a curve at over 90 mph. The knowledge of one’s coordinates, and more importantly tracking other car movements. Parking the car between 2 closely spaced cars with finesse. The control. The concentration. The overall temperament and composure. The final stop.
An uncle of mine has a crisp knack that makes you want to imitate. The way he sits, the way he holds the steering wheel, the way he turns it, changing gear, the general etiquette while driving, the music in his lips – it’s a treat to watch him drive! And the comfort factor that nothing is going to happen.
I have seen some people drive where the passengers are numb with fear, holding onto whatever possible for dear life and ruing sitting in the car. The fright shows in their eyes and they are looking hither and thither to see where you will get hit. Perhaps the driver might think its great to drive fast and its thrilling to drive recklessly but if there is no control, and if the audience loses faith in you, you are a bad performer.
The other day I sat with a friend of mine who is learning to drive car. Its truly one of the scariest things to do. Perhaps a trainer will not feel this because he might have brake pedal at the passenger side too but a normal layman has to live on wit’s end to suffice the journey with a new driver. It would seem so simple and easy but yet the learner finds it so tough to turn, so easy to go over the curb, to cross into other lanes. It will seem like rocket science to them but it will make the seasoned drivers think ‘Is it really so difficult?’
Driving is relaxing if you have a nice vehicle, a nice road and very few traffic with multiple lanes. I had one such experience when I drove from Pittsburgh to Detroit. It was a straight road with 3 lanes and speed limit of 70 mph. It was a nice Mercedes Benz car and a superb road. I put the car on cruise control, went onto the middle lane, relaxed the leather seat and drove comfortably for over 3 hours in the almost non existent traffic without even bothering to check the rear view or the side view mirrors. It was one of the most memorable drives for me. Music would have been a topping but unfortunately I had none.
And then there was this other day when I was going way way over the speed limit for over an hour. I crossed 100 mph and was so alert all the time, looking out for cops, steering clear of slow moving vehicles and handling the car excellently well. And then I got caught! After that it was always way below the speed limit. The mind slept off, and nerves were no longer on edge and it was fascinating to know how much thrill the mind gets just by being illegal!
There have been many more memorable drives for me. The overnight drive to Pittsburgh from Boston in heavy snow. The drive back from Keywest to Miami with its innumerous ocean bridges and a sudden downpour which made visibility zero. The road trip from Boston to Chicago and back to Boston, especially my last stretch at dawn in which, just to fight off sleep after a sleepless night, I set a target of covering 150 miles ridded with New York state police in 120 minutes, but lost with 5 miles to spare. The 45 km drive in a towed car in Bangalore which needed enormous amount of concentration to ensure that the rope was neither taut nor loose by controlling only the brake pedal, and also maneuvering the turns.
Whenever I speak about driving, I always remember Mithun driving 40 miles, just like that, on a state road at 1 am on a Saturday night with me and Ash. It was one of the craziest things we have done! “Just for a drive.” When I first heard this phrase in a soap opera, it didn’t make much sense then but it sure does now. After a long day, a long nice drive is all one needs to get rid of the frustration. Its like relaxation, in spite of all the concentration, and its amazing how it boosts the morale!
Just like music…