First Time.

My wife and I have two different vehicles: a van and a smaller car that still has plenty of storage space in the back. I only drive the smaller car and have plenty of junk in the trunk even when the car is otherwise empty. The van is used mainly for transporting the dogs, or at least it was when my wife was still regularly going to dog shows, although she’s been able to get back to some small training classes, and the occasional trip to the vet for a checkup. The van also carried us across the country, from Tennessee to California, twice, when our dogs qualified for the National Agility Championships two years in a row. Since I’d never driven the van we talked about me taking over the wheel for a while on some of the straight, mostly empty stretches between Amarillo and Albuquerque, but that never happened, in part because the dogs got diarrhea–four times–and we also got stranded in a snowstorm in Kingman, Arizona, although that only happened once. And also I think my wife decided it wouldn’t be a good idea to let me drive the van because if I were in charge we’d stop at every little roadside stand and tourist trap along the way, but that’s another story. The van and car are also both Hondas and pretty popular vehicles in our neighborhood. In fact, once, when my wife was gone to a dog show and I was on my way home from work, walking home from the bus stop in fact, a car just like ours sped past me and I wondered if my wife had forgotten something and was coming back to get it and, furthermore, why, if that were the case, she didn’t stop to give me a lift. And then I remembered that she would have taken the van and just as I was thinking that a van just like ours sped past me.
So last week my wife took the regular car to the store for her weekly shopping trip. This is a habit we started when we first went into quarantine and have stuck with because it’s worked out pretty well. Those little trips I used to make to the store every other day to get something we forgot or didn’t realize we needed don’t happen anymore, mostly because it turns out the things we didn’t realize we needed aren’t that needed after all, or at least they can wait. It also works out better because she’s a much more organized shopper whereas I will stop and look at every roadside stand and tourist trap in the grocery store aisles.
I was working away while she was at the store. The phone rang. It was my wife.
“Can you drive the van?”
Theoretically I can do almost anything, but this didn’t sound like a time for long answers so I just said, “Yes.”
“I left my purse at home. Can you bring it to me?”
It turns out when you’re buying groceries money, or a payment card of some type, is one of those things that is needed, so I pulled out the spare key and went to open the van. And I had a moment of panic because it’s got one of those fobs with the lock and unlock button but the spare key hadn’t been used in so long the fob no longer worked and I wondered how I was going to get the van open until I remembered that the key could be used in the lock. I was pretty nervous about driving the van.

Source: Tumblr

The van is quite a bit bigger than the regular car, bigger than any vehicle I’ve ever driven, really, unless you count that time when I was a kid and climbed up into a bulldozer on a construction site, but I didn’t really drive it; I just pretended it was a dinosaur.
There’s a saying that there’s a first time for everything. Strictly speaking that’s not true. There are a lot of things that will simply never happen. But I knew that sooner or later there was probably going to be a time when I’d have to drive the van. And it worked out just fine, and I got there quickly, mostly because there are no roadside stands and tourist traps between our house and the store.

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  1. BarbaraM

    You could have left the van for her to load with groceries and drive home since it was there anyway. I am assuming you remembered to bring her purse, or at least a means of payment. We used to have vans for my husband’s use for at least 25 years – I have yet to get behind the wheel of one, and will not. No nerves. Let me rephrase. Shaking nerves.

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I did leave the van with her to load with groceries, so really I’ve only driven the van once. And I’m okay with that. Once was enough.

  2. Allison

    I remember the first time I drove my father’s Jeep Cherokee, I felt like I was going to have a panic attack. I was in my 30s. Several months later, I came down to see them and he asked me to drive it again – the difference was that in the intervening months, I had started taking an anti-anxiety medication (Effexor), and I didn’t even flinch – and then when we got to our destination, I realized the meds were working.

    My biggest feat to date is that I have driven in NYC. Like, downtown Manhattan. My Miracle on 34th Street is that I once DROVE on 34th Street.

    Van on, friend. Van on!
    Allison recently posted…Frog Hair, Split Four WaysMy Profile

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Driving in New York is a boss-level challenge. That’s seriously impressive. Although I think my next big thing is taking a long road trip. So far my longest solo trip has been a little over an hour. One of these days I’ll probably have to make a much longer drive.

  3. Jay

    I had only ever driven (and owned) VW Bugs until they recently stopped making them, at which point we looked for another fun little convertible for me but we had some pretty sexist encounters looking at sports cars and Sean loved his Mustang so much he convinced me to get one also. I’d never driven his because his is manual and I’ve never learned. It was definitely a shock to be driving a wider, longer, and much more nose-heavy car. And when we take the 4 kids for a weekend, we switch cars with my sisters, who of course has a van. She is so happy to drive around in my 2 door convertible for the weekend and we cope with a chug a lug van without nearly so much zip or power.
    Due to health issues, I haven’t really been able to drive myself for the past 6 months, and during lockdown we haven’t driven at all except for grocery and prescription outings undertaken by Sean about every 10 days or so. So we’ve parked his in the garage and taken the insurance off, and he’s driving mine (which we opted to use in case of emergency as it’s the only one I CAN drive).

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Car dealers really need to get over their sexism. Well, some have but too many haven’t. I know what you mean about never driving a manual too. I’ve never learned to drive a stick either and fortunately I’ve never had to. And I definitely prefer a smaller car. Our smaller Honda is a CRV so it’s not exactly tiny, but I think I’d be okay with something even zippier. No more vans for me.

  4. M.L. James

    Mother necessity has moved all of us to do that which we’ve never done before, I suppose. I remember the first time I had to drive my husband’s new Mercedes. He was out of town and my car wasn’t working and so I had to drive his car. I was so freaked out that the paint would get scratched or someone would bump into me. Even though it’s 31 years old now, I still don’t like to drive it. I’m an SUV girl all the way. One that I can haul stuff in and I don’t have to worry about nicks and scratches. Glad that all went well and you got there on time, since there weren’t any roadside distractions. 🙂 Mona

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I don’t think I could ever drive a Mercedes. Like you I’d be worried about nicks and scratches. It would be really nice to have a nice car but when it comes down to it I’m happier with something that’s just big enough to carry all my stuff and me from one place to another.
      Oh, and there are roadside distractions everywhere. I’ve just trained myself to be less easily distracted.

  5. Ann Koplow

    I think you could win an agility championship, Chris.

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Fortunately I was very agile with the van.


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