Joanne Palmer: Whatever you want your car to be
September 20, 2011
If you want to find out what is going on with your mate, your child or perhaps even your dog, just go for a car ride.
What is it about cars? They seem to function less as a means of transportation and more as a confessional, business incubator and karaoke studio. As soon as you pull away from the curb, your passenger will either start "helping" you drive, tell you about every sad thing that ever happened to them or, if you are lucky, go to sleep. Read on, dear readers, to see if any of these situations sound familiar.
Asking your mate not to drive from the back seat will not work; you may have to resort to gently placing a piece of duct tape across his or her mouth. Here's why: They are firmly and deeply rooted in self-preservation and are determined to stay alive at any cost. Can you imagine? Your mate will not recall the 99 times you transported the two of you safely to your destination. They will only remember, in alarming detail, the one time you pulled out, perhaps a wee bit early, in traffic on a busy road. There was no accident, and no one was hurt, but your mate experienced a momentary "fear flash" that haunts him or her every time you get behind the wheel.
These personal dramas are not covered in your "Rules of the Road" handbook, but they should be. So what can you do? Before you even put the key into the ignition, say something like, "Are we making this trip as partners or not? Are you going to be helpful or not? If not, could you possibly ride the bus, dear?"
Or let them drive.
Car as a confessional
There's something that happens in a car that can often transform it into a confessional. Nighttime offers the dark, cave-like setting many men crave. During the day, there is no eye contact. Either way, you have a captive audience, and the other person has to hear you out. Perhaps your passenger will decide now is the perfect time to tell you they lost the $5,000 check you are on the way to the bank to deposit. Did they say "lost"? What they really meant is they took the $5,000 check to Vegas to see if they could double it.
There's a certain disconnect that happens in a car. The lack of distractions and eye contact causes people to open their mouth to tell you that, oops, did they forget to mention they were married once before, or oops, your mother-in-law is due to arrive in 24 hours, or big oops, they forgot to pay the car insurance and right this hot second you are not covered.
The car is a great place to brainstorm. One friend reports spending the entire trip from Lake Powell to Steamboat hatching a business plan for waterproof purses. As soon as you hear this sentence: "Oh, have I got an idea," listen closely and see if you can come up with that million-dollar idea.
Car as karaoke studio
Singing in the car is essential. Songs carry memories, and it would be terribly disrespectful not to sing along to honor your first kiss, the party where you met George, the vacation where you twisted your ankle, your favorite Zumba song, etc.
Car as closet
True story: My girlfriends and I once were turned away at a fancy restaurant because we were dressed inappropriately. We had just finished a shopping marathon, so we went back to the car, changed our clothes in the car and waltzed right back into the restaurant.