REAL LIVES: MAN'S WORLD

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Indy Lifestyle Online
THE THING about me driving the car with my wife and three children is that it's rarely me who drives. My wife does the driving for the both of us. Apart from the way it looks, this suits me down to the ground. I don't really like driving, but I do love riding around in the car. My wife is happy to drive, so everything works out fine.

But I see how it looks. It looks like I can't drive. On long journeys I sometimes take over the wheel for the last stretch, so I'm driving when we arrive at our destination, but usually I'm in the passenger seat map- reading. Our friends wave "Hello!", but they mean "Why doesn't he drive? What's wrong with him?".

There is nothing wrong with me. True, when I came to Britain from America some ten years ago, I found driving on the left difficult. But in America my driving was considered normal, by which I mean it was stately and rather hesitant, although it was still too fast for my dad. I never took to the British way of driving, and after a few years gave up trying, selfishly giving in to my natural desire to be chauffered. With my wife at the wheel I can let go of the dashboard and abandon my unattractive habit of phantom-braking. I can relax, read the paper or fall asleep.

My wife, as you might have guessed, thinks I'm a terrible driver. She rarely misses an opportunity to tell me so, though she usually likes to wait until we're in a roomful of people. While I'm willing to accept that on a strictly cross-cultural, attitudinal level she may have a point, there are few things in our relationship I find as hurtful, or which move me so quickly to anger.

The idea that I am bad at driving strikes at the heart of my notions of competence and self-esteem. Occasionally I admit to some incompetence to demonstrate I have a sense of humour about myself, but neither is true: I do not have a sense of humour about myself and am extremely competent. Who, for instance, built the plinth which lets the refrigerator fit in its slot? Me. Who reconstructed the door latch on the microwave using fibreglass resin and a nail file? Me. Who knows how to put the travel cot together? Me and only me.

And who, pending the birth of his first child five years ago, took enough lessons to teach three people to drive, then passed his test first time so flawlessly his instructor declared he had not seen a test sheet that clean "in a very long time"?

That's right, Mrs: me.

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