By Miranda Lightstone-Styker
As I cruised along the open highway between Montreal and Ottawa this weekend, I came upon a kind of vehicular epiphany about driving (and I blame the boringness of highway 417 for my wandering thoughts).
“I’m going for a drive.”
We’ve all said it, or heard it said, at some point in our lives.
But what does it mean for the individual who utters those 5 simple words?
For some, it means time to gather one’s thoughts, escape the chaos and mess of home. My husband has uttered those words on the rare occasion we’ve argued. He knew that in order to clear his head and gather himself he was better off leaving he scene. But why not go for a walk, or stand on the front porch? The act of driving can be soothing, lethargic and comforting. Going for a drive when you’re angry or upset gives you something rhythmic and “known” for you to do. Often, anger or sadness is a random, zig-zagging emotion that can twist and turn anywhere. When you go for a drive, you’re in control.
Sometimes going for a drive isn’t about calming yourself but another smaller family member. I’ve known plenty of new parents who’ve resorted to going for a drive to sooth and calm their screaming baby. There’s something about being in a moving vehicle that causes a baby’s anxieties and discomforts to disappear. Perhaps it’s the white-noiseness of the tires on the asphalt, the hum of the engine and the constant movement. Whatever it is, going for a drive with a crying, screaming baby isn’t just a trick for some new parents, it’s a necessity.
I’ve gone for a drive just to enjoy the scenery. When I was surviving as a full-time freelance writer, there were afternoons or mornings where I found myself free of an editorial deadline, free of interview appointments and free to do what I pleased. And I often chose to go for a drive in my tester. Usually, I’d cruise slowly on Lakeshore Dr., my city’s most scenic, waterside road. Other times I’d head out on the highway or the backroads to my parent’s place. It didn’t really matter in the end, as long as I was driving and enjoying my surroundings as I went.
We often look at our cars as just a means to an end — large metal boxes with wheels that take us from point A to point B, nothing more. And yet, it’s clear that they really are more to us than that.
As my journey continued to Ottawa, I tried to imagine a life and a world without cars at all — a journey back in time. And I realized that we’d probably react the same way, and probably did, with a different means of transportation.
If I had a horse instead of a car as my primary means of transportation, I think I’d “go for a ride” just to enjoy the scenery, or if I was angry, or sad, or anxious, or nervous. If I owned a calm horse and a reliable, steady carriage and my baby was screaming, I’d take the banshee child out for a carriage ride and sooth him with the movement, the rhythmic sound of the hooves.
It’s almost a comforting thought to think that for all our technological advances and changes, we really aren’t that different as human beings (at least I don’t think we are).
The next time you go for a drive, consider what it means to you. Why do you turn to your car for support in certain situations? Did you realize your car was more than just a glorified shopping cart? More than just a people carrier?
I’m going for a drive now to enjoy the final oranges, reds and yellows of fall and clear my head before the week starts up again.