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Honoring my Mother | Confessions of a backseat driver

The appeal of a road trip for anyone regardless of specie is very much like that familiar tingling sensation of sugar rush. While dogs may jump up and down in silly anticipation at the sight of the front door slowly opening, most of us hoomans, at the sound of the car engine starting, foresee the beautiful countryside sights ahead in our mind, like seers inventing images in a crystal ball.

Alas for this oldie-farty, who is neither a kid, a turbaned con artist or a dog, and totally bereft of their keen sense of adventure, a three-hour road trip to the next city is surely a study in tummy tightening exercise, especially if he happened to be put on the spot to assume the role of the poor passenger sitting behind a student-driver at the wheel.

The sit-up exercise position as translated in this instance is precisely that; to sit upright, in a cadet-like tense manner, but with both feet occasionally stepping on imaginary brakes and two hands clutching tightly at the front and rear seats. This awkward routine is then often interspersed with involuntary music voice lessons of sorts, with “left, left, brake, BRAKE!” as the accompanying thug rap lyrics.

At the end of the ride, there is even a tone down exercise when all is over and you have finally reached your destination. It entails sitting in the car for about five minutes while everyone has left, breathing deeply until one feels the pulse slowly steadying to a regular beat, in sync with the car engine as its hums (more like purrs) to itself for a job well done before being turned off to chill.

Quite an experience really, one that has made me masochistic to a fault, because it had been no other than my son who, for parts of the trip, did the driving. Things one does for love I guess. Thinking back, I had thought, why should I worry, he had gone through two official driving lessons in two cities, with more than twenty-four hours of flying, er driving time. In comparison, all I have ever done in my life and experienced at the wheel was starting the car and revving up its engine once or twice. Plus a little actual driving experience in bump cars and computer games.

My first time at the back seat many weeks ago had felt like I had run a mile. Back then, when I alighted from the car, my legs felt like heavy rocks and I had to drag them to the sofa whereupon I fell asleep in utter exhaustion. Relief can do that you know and the anticipation of the next ride tired me even more just thinking about it.

The more bumming and equally unnerving experience however had been the irritable honking from some impatient drivers behind you, whom you know had started out as student drivers themselves, yet now have the audacity to honk at their past doppelganger driving in front of them. At this, we have never failed to always remind our son never to be like them, with that discourteous attitude, when he has become more adept at driving.

All in all, however disconcerting the whole experience may have been, not only do I look forward to the next drive, I look at it as a lesson for me as well. I hopefully see myself as coming in terms with learning to be cool the next time, sitting contentedly and appreciating the sight of the countryside finally, instead of sitting like a pet rock, conscious of every bump and every turn as my adventurous driver makes his way towards the open highway.

My only wish is that for our son, with his instinctive ability to smell fear coming from his old-school dad, to never use his new-found power of being at the wheel, much less being in control, as a weapon to defiantly proclaim. “Take that, and that…”

Then I can really look out that window, as houses and farms swish gracefully by and perhaps stick out my tongue for a while, as a dog would.

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