Driving Miss Tracy

I don’t have a driver’s license. It expired quite some time back already. When it did, it felt like another piece of my identity had been lost forever. It’s devastating, knowing that there is no way I can ever get it renewed.

Yet this week I became the proud owner of a brand-new vehicle – registered in my name. It says so in black-and-white on the document. Vehicle owner: Ms Tracy Lian Todd.  That’s big. There’s something about being able to say the words, “my car.” It says I’ve arrived. It speaks of dreams come true. It represents true independence. It means that I can go wherever I like, whenever I want to. Or so it should.

Sadly, I don’t have the ability to drive myself. In fact, I haven’t been able to drive a car on my own for almost 16 years now already. Being dependent on others to drive me is not always easy.  Thankfully, I have some willing drivers, most especially my dad. I’m not sure who’s been more excited about getting the new car – him or me?

The new van came about through the generosity of some incredibly kind-hearted people in the Lowveld community for whom I have no adequate words to express my deep gratitude. I’m spoilt. Just too spoilt.

It’s a Ford Tourneo. It’s big. Beautiful. White. We’ve always been a white-car family. The space inside is incredible. There’s more than enough room for me, my wheelchair, all my paraphernalia and entourage. I reckon we could even fit the kitchen sink in.


As we drove the van off the garage floor for the first time – me in the back in my wheelchair with dad in the driver’s seat – I wished with my entire being that it could have been my hands on that steering wheel and my feet on the foot pedals. I wanted to touch everywhere, press all the buttons and feel the power. Trying to savour the moment, I inhaled deeply. There is nothing better than a new-car smell.

I wondered silently if I could still drive, had I been able to, not doubting the answer for one second.  I reasoned that driving must be much like riding a bicycle – once you’ve learned how to do it – you never forget it.  Right?

Just then, I ached to climb into the driver’s seat to prove to the world that I was still a good driver.  Perhaps, it stems from my own insecurities because women are often knocked by society for their driving skills and constantly made to feel incompetent behind the wheel of a car.  Or, maybe, it is my primal need to prove my worth to humanity in spite of my disability.  I don’t know.  But, I’ve never known a man to admit that he was an awful driver – or a clumsy lover for that matter.  I think women could learn a thing or two from that arrogance confidence.  Don’t-ya-think?

Anyway, just the mere idea of driving a car again got me thinking all melancholically, leaving me feeling like the bug on the windshield.  Doesn’t life just suck sometimes?

Daily newsfeeds on Facebook or Twitter are filled with raging status-updates from frustrated people trapped in so-called rush-hour-traffic, despite the cars not being able to move very far for hours on end.  In a sense, in those times, they probably feel as stuck and confined as I do.  And yet, I would give anything to swap places with them.

To me, owning and driving a car represents power, freedom, privacy, independence and more – everything I could ever wish for as a quadriplegic strong, liberated woman. 

I miss being able to pull up to the red-traffic-light, right next to a drop-dead-gorgeous guy in a fancy sports car, look him sassily-dead-in-the-eyes over the top of designer sunglasses, rev the engine and drop a gear-or-three before screeching off at top speed.  Yes, I can be a flirt.  But, only when I can get away – fast!

The competitor in me misses the challenge, accomplishment and satisfaction of skilfully reversing out of a difficult, no-freaking-way-out parking space or manoeuvring into a tiny, how-the-hell-did-you-do-it gap without so much as a scratch on the paintwork.

The adrenaline-junkie in me misses the flutter in my tummy as you press your foot down on the pedal, accelerating shamelessly to go just a little faster, knowing that you are already over the legal speed limit and hoping you won’t get caught.

The rock-star in me misses the wild, head-banging through an ear-splitting rock song on the stereo as the car pulsates through the traffic and the other drivers shake their heads at you in pity.

The next “So You Think You Can Dance” finalist in me misses the opportunity to do the oh-so-sexy-upper-trunk Salsa to the crooning voices on the radio.

The pop-star-wannabe in me misses turning up the volume louder-than-you-can-sing, on the more-expensive-than-your-car sound system, to drown out my horribly-out-of-tune voice as I belt out my favourite song, so that not even Mr. Simon Cowell will deny that I have the X factor.

The Dr. Phil in me misses counselling all the people with bad driving disorders using a sign-language involving a very effective middle finger.

The Oprah in me misses having deep, meaningful conversations with a most profoundly-persuasive inner-voice, which only seems to come out in the privacy of a car. Then in discussions in the real world you are left at a loss for words like a bumbling idiot.

I miss the privacy of the car as a place to express my deepest emotions – my joys, hurts or anger – and to just be me, without judgment from anybody.

I miss… Oh my word, this is driving me crazy.  Take the keys.  Quick.

And yet, I remain incredibly grateful. I have a brand spanking new van. What more could I ask for? It doesn’t matter that I can’t drive it myself. As long as I have the means to get out and about – to live a full, meaningful life, is all that matters. After all, I don’t see the Queen or Presidents of countries driving themselves. I’m part of the chauffeured elite of society. That makes me kind of special, doesn’t it? And I get special parking spots too.

If you enjoyed reading my post, go ahead and share it. Please.

**A special word of thanks to all the individuals (some of whom I don’t know) for contributing towards my van.**

About Tracy Todd (Brave Lotus Flower)

Author of Brave Lotus Flower Rides the Dragon – an intimate and inspiring memoir of a quadriplegic. Inspirational Speaker. Teacher. Counsellor. Wife. Mother. Animal lover. Although I need a wheelchair to get around, it is most certainly not what defines me.
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23 Responses to Driving Miss Tracy

  1. Where did you go to learn how to write as well as you do?
    I’m going to setup my own site and start making a living from this.

  2. sakie says:

    i was heart brocken when i read about the broke down you had when you were driving between middleburg and witbank in a cold winter. im so happy for you Tracy

  3. Irma Collyer says:

    Hi Tracy
    Thank you for sharing your feelings with us. Have heard a lot about you – I know Anandie Oosthuizen and her mom quite well – and would consider it a huge priveledge to maybe meet you one day.
    You are a true inspiration and I take my hat off to you!

    And by the way, you are not a “wannabe-writer”. I was spell-bound. You are a WRITER!!!
    Please keep writing!

    Kind regards

  4. Estella says:

    You go girl!! Estella Potgieter

  5. Carl Muller says:

    Tracy good luck and G-d bless you with your new car. Go for it….

  6. Anne Nell says:

    What an amazing being you are and make me feel so quilty for complaining about mundane things may god bless you and continue to give you the strength and courage to inspire other well bodied people.
    Kind regards

  7. That’s a nice looking upgrade, Butterfly! You are a more pragmatic person than I am. Perhaps it’s the saving grace of your ability to appreciate and celebrate small victories. I simply can’t quit dreaming, getting as lost as possible in imagination, even though tech changes take decades to ripple through society.

    When I was a kid I fully expected petrol-powered cars would be obsolete by the time I was a teen. I had read there were steam-powered carriages by 1800, and battery-powered electric vehicles by the 1840s. In 1928, 1/3 of the cars on the road in America were electric powered! I didn’t understand how much people resist change, or how habit and fear restrict innovation.

    Well, 50 years later we finally have cars that run on bio-fuels, natural gas, EVs, fuel cells and hybrid combinations. Vehicles with alternative controls for those with missing or inactive limbs are ordinary. At car shows over the past few years, I’ve seen two kinds of “concept cars” that apply to you. One is self-driving cars, based on GPS destination data, and radar controlled safety features. You speak or text where you want to go and leave the rest to the car. The other is drive control via chip embedded in the driver’s brain. It’s all about engineering new interfaces to express intent without reliance upon physical operation. Your brain is the “on” switch:

  8. Entronet says:

    U amaze me more and more everyday. An absolute angel who can still see the good in things and appreciate what u have on life. Some people have everything in life and yet they always moan and complain. At least u have a sound mind and wonderful sense of humor. U are an inspiration to each and everyone of us, God bless and stay as sweet as u are. Love Entronet

  9. antoinette says:

    Hi tracey work for ford and had the honour in seeing u leave with your new baby! Njoy every moment!!!

  10. Jane Littlewood says:

    I am so happy for you Tracy. My dad stopped driving in his early nineties! Can just feell the horror of fellow motorists ! 🙂 plus he has artificial arms! More horror! He misses it every day because when he was in that car driving around, he was, at least he felt he was, on a level playing field with the rest of the world. It gave him his independence, and he was always the first to offer lifts etc! He chauffered my sons and their school friends everwhere. Panicked was the child who didn’t know in adance that their lift home had hooks! 🙂 so I can imagine how you feel in this instance. Certainly my dad knows how you feel, I can see how much he hates no longer driving! He was unable to drive fot years after his arms were blown off and once he got his artificial arms I remember sitting in the back of the car while he painstakingly taught himself to drive! By the way he never had an accident in all those years! Happy motoring, no more worrying about breaking down on the roadside! X

    • Tracy Todd says:

      Thank you, Jane. I know how your dad feels about not being able to drive himself anymore. The scary thing is that most people will get to that stage when their children or some authority decide that they are no longer fit to drive, taking their keys away and stifling their independence. Your dad was lucky to drive into his 90s. Some people never get that privilege. 🙂

  11. Wilma says:

    You are one amazing woman, Tracy. I love your blog and always come away with so many thoughts running through my head.

  12. You are special and well deserving of such a wonderful gift Tracy.
    Beautifully written post.
    Have a happy week ahead.
    🙂 Mandy xo

  13. Andy Smith says:

    Dear Tracy,

    thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings with us.

    I am absolutely delighted at the news of your new car! I hope they have removed the front passenger seat so that you can sit up front.

    I know those feelings (perhaps not as strongly as you do) when I watch a squash game, instead of playing it, the desire to run up a mountain slope, swing a golf club etc

    Because I have had to accept that I cannot do those things I try my best to glean some of the enjoyment that others get by doing those things and so I hope that you glean some of the enjoyment that your father has when driving you around.

    Best regards

    • Tracy Todd says:

      Thank you, Andy. I do get a lot of enjoyment from seeing my dad driving the van for me. Just his pure excitement this last week has given me a warm-all-over feeling. 🙂

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