My dad drives with both feet. He uses his right for the gas and his left for the brake. I’ve seen him do it for years, and he’s the best driver I know. But you can’t pass the road test using two feet, so he didn’t teach me to drive like that. He didn’t teach me much of anything when it comes to cars. I never really wanted to learn.
I’ve picked up a few things about batteries and tire pressure along the way, and I get my oil changed every five-thousand miles. But I always just wanted something that would get me from Point A to Point B.
I got my license in December of 2007. Because of my black 1999 Hyundai Tiburon’s appearance, I named it the Batmobile, even if it couldn’t handle conditions like snow, heavy rain, or strong gusts. My whip sported a black cover on the front-end (sometimes called a bra, or more appropriately a mask) and sweet silver pinstripes across the sides. These, of course, came with the vehicle I’d “inherited” from my father (for the price of $2000).
Once I got more comfortable driving, I took full advantage of my sporty, all-black coupe. Late at night, when nobody else was on the roads, I used to turn the lights off and reenact that chase scene from Batman Begins. I have always been against texting while driving and I realize the hypocrisy here, but this type of danger was a rush for me. Cops and deer aside, I considered this a calculated risk and it made me feel cool as hell.
On the way back from a sweet sixteen party, I got into my first accident. Thankfully, it didn’t involve any other cars — just myself, my passenger, and the Batmobile.
I pulled up to a five-way intersection, on a road that I’d never driven at night. At this point, I had only been licensed for about four months. A few streetlights were out, making it difficult to see the road in front of us. The street forked ahead, split by railroad tracks that ran through the center of town.
As the driver, all I had to do was choose either left or right of the tracks, but apparently I couldn’t make that decision. The Batmobile wound up directly on the train tracks, wedged in a spot I had originally suspected to be asphalt.
My car had to be towed, suffering two flat tires and a bowed front axle. My dad arrived about five minutes after my passenger’s mom left and about ten minutes after the cops showed up.
The police stayed until the tow truck guy hooked up my car to his winch. They didn’t even ask me if I had been drinking — I guess my face told the whole story.
“You’re probably the 40th or 50th person I’ve towed from this spot. They should put more lights around here,” the tow truck guy offered some reassurance. “But then I’d probably go out of business.”
The commotion attracted one intoxicated man from the corner bar, located less than fifty steps from where my vehicle was stuck. “I hope you’re not drunk, man. You’re in a lot of trouble if you are.” I wasn’t. Just young and stupid.
We pulled over to a stretch with no streetlights, in between two houses. There were no lights on in the house in front of us, and the one behind us appeared devoid of life.
This wasn’t the first time she said “I love you,” and it wasn’t the last time I said it back. But it was the first time I’ve tried to have sex in a car—and perhaps the last.
Sliding over the center console, my pocket caught on the E-brake (maybe a sign of things to come). We were veiled in the shadows of the darkest road in town, yet in such a secluded place, I felt anything but alone. She ran her fingers up my leg and undid the button on my shorts. I returned the favor because I’m fair like that. As we began to slip out of our skin, a flash went off outside the car.
“What the fuck was that?!” We panicked.
I jumped into the driver’s seat and turned the key, shorts barely on. The headlights shined on a woman walking a tiny dog. She squinted to see who was in the car, but I sped off before she could make us out. My girlfriend worried that we had almost hit the woman; I worried that we’d almost hit the dog. Then we both wondered if the woman had photographed my license plate.
Fresh off a breakup, I was driving around with my best friend. On our way home, I slowed down at the top of a hill. It was one of those nights I wished I could just hit the gas and take flight, to hover over my moonlit town.
My friend looked down at the gear shift. “Dude, what’s L?”
“L? I don’t know, I’ve never noticed it before.”
“Maybe it’s levitate…”
We were both pretty sure it stood for low gear, but neither of us said it out loud. That type of negativity wasn’t welcome in the Batmobile. You know when you’re aware something’s not possible, but you want it to happen so badly that you kind of hope you’re dead wrong?
I took one last look at my friend before shifting into L and gunning it towards the hill.
When we reached the bottom of the slope, tires still on the ground, we shared a laugh and a shrug. He opened the glove box and checked my car’s owners manual to see what L really stood for.
“Is it low gear?”
I’ve driven two cars since I traded in the Batmobile — an SUV named Sophia and a sedan I call Nancy. The names change, the passengers change, the ways I tell the stories change, but the habits don’t. Things I used to double check, like the positions of my mirrors or making sure my lights are off, have become second nature. Mindless rituals, instilled in me since that first car, force me to think that maybe I’ve learned more than I wanted to. Sometimes I’ll look down and notice I’m driving with both feet.