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.**