If you hadn't figured out I'm a huge Springsteen fan yet, then you either haven't been reading enough of the blog (disgraceful) or haven't been paying attention (only marginally better).
I've been thinking about the practicalities of driving and the need for a car in terms of a post for The Retired Bridgeburner after discussing the topic last weekend. My original plan on moving to York was to let the car go - I thought I could get along well enough without it and it would be saving plenty of money on insurance, tax, petrol and unsightly repair bills. The lack of those unsightly repair costs alone would probably also have done wonders for my nerves.
Yup, KvltKa is nearing the end of her road life. Fairly obviously she's a Ford Ka, and she manages to be a particularly fine example of all the things wrong with the model. Being the bottom of the hierarchy the parts are comparatively cheap but don't last, and at ten years old she's very definitely succumbing to the model's infamous issues with rust. However, I grumble affectionately. I really do love that car.
(KvltKa: raised by wolves in deepest darkest Norway, master of all things ice and snow.)
Upon moving to York in the middle of what proved a long winter by British standards I soon found that the car was a necessary evil. Whilst I do relatively well throughout the months when it's warmer, the Fibromyalgia does not enjoy the cold. Even a fifteen minute walk to the shops for supplies was beyond me on far more days than I'd like to admit to. I forced myself outside as much as I could (stubborn Northerner that I am) but I was painfully aware that certain necessities would have been impossible had I not kept hold of KvltKa.
As I'm sure many readers will be aware, the act of driving itself can be fraught with issues. If I'm completely honest I have the potential to be a proper petrolhead - I love driving. That is, I love driving when I can drive properly. I crave nothing more in the world than a great big windy 60 road with nobody else on it. As many of us have complained and will do so again: other drivers tend to take the fun out of driving.
However, I'm now far more reluctant to drive alone than I ever was before. I've had a couple of very painful episodes whilst driving - mostly due to being stuck in traffic and unable to stretch already overworked muscles, but it makes me tend towards having a passenger where possible. I'll drive familiar routes alone - between here and both parents' houses, for example, because I have all the places I can pull over and stop if necessary memorised. The necessity of travelling on new routes tends to find me sitting around doing much Googling and much reading of the Ordnance Survey to try and alleviate the necessity for panicked searches for stopping points.
Sudden movements by other cars can set the edges of my sensory overload off - I err on the side of caution and I'd rather cover my back in case the idiot *is* going to pull out without looking than choose to not react and suffer the consequences. However, whereas this is all normally a part of hazard perception and nothing to get excited about, these things can now make me jump and I remain jumpy and on sensory-overloaded edge for the remainder of the trip. I've never been a perfectly even-tempered driver, but this sort of thing certainly tends to make me more irritable.
I have been known to utter a few of the sort of "GET OFF MY ROAD!" curses which would make Jeremy Clarkson proud.
I try to combat this by leaving sufficient "non-driving" days in between necessary longer trips. Generally the worst of the overload comes at the end of long journey when I'm starting to get fed up and a little tired. I know my own energy levels well enough to know the difference between this sort of tired and the tired which requires me to pull over, but the former does tend to be the forerunner of jumpiness and a feeling that the cars moving around me are coming too close too fast.
I'm learning to recognise this and combat it slowly. I'm quite proud of my driving and it's something I like to feel I do well, so I treat this as a new obstacle to learn my way around effectively - it keeps me on an even keel with it rather than becoming upset at the problem.
(Current favourite driving music... and the windows mean that nobody knows how ineffective my singing along is.)
I try and remember to always have something to drink in the car (lesson learnt from my disastrous trip mentioned in Fate is Inexorable) and I'm fond of driving with music on. Whilst it doesn't distract me from driving (I rarely change CDs whilst driving, that's what passengers are for) it can distract the sensory build up a little bit. It's not for everyone, but I've found singing along to something (thank heaven nobody but me has to listen!) can not only interfere with the build up of overloaded senses, but can also prevent you from getting too worked up too.
However, following a particularly sluggish trip back down the A64 this morning due to traffic, the next dozy fool who doesn't pay attention to what's happening in front is in danger of receiving the sort of language my parents (and many friends) don't think me capable of.
There's also the fact that lots of driving leads to lots of arm and leg ache. It's a sad inevitability (and believe me, my car steers very lightly indeed) but it's very much the lesser of two evils on a day when walking would prove just as problematic if not more. In my own experience I've never had the episodes of disorientation while driving that I know others have experienced, but if they ever do start to happen then it's going to require a lot of thought as to where we go in the future on the subject. Long may the lack of such continue.
I might not be over fond of the need itself, and it causes problems of its own also, but I found personally that a car was an invaluable ally in my independence and being able to still do as much as possible. Even if it is old (er, "experienced"), was raised by wolves and doesn't understand clouds.
(Full marks if you clocked that reference! Image courtesy of hayabusa.org)
Has anybody else found themselves in a similar position? Do you have any issues with driving? Feel free to open up discussion!
Wishing you all many spoons