At some point in my psychoanalysis…or more precisely, psychoanalyses…I learned that driving a car can represent life’s unfolding or direction in dreams and the subconscious. Well, whoop de doo, I say these days. Or more soberly, what does it say about my life’s unfolding that a real life Dodge Caravan-type car can consume as much energy as it does? And, no, we’re not talking gas-pump-type energy. We are talking human.
On Sundays, San Francisco’s traffic calms considerably. Crosstown torrents become trickles. Parking becomes possible. Driving lightens, mood brightens. Actually, this is just Sunday mornings. By midday, everything begins to revert to its urban state. But never mind. We are talking early, 9 AM, and I have rolled into place behind the wheel of my mighty Dodge. I press the sequence of buttons (quadriplegic drivers being not only clueless but keyless) to start the car. Instead, all I get is a staccato of clicks.
The battery is exhausted. I simply don’t drive the thing enough to keep it charged. I know this. I try, but not enough. Fortunately this Sunday, Jane has not quite hit the pulpit. She is just leaving for church though, and I give her some bad news. I am trapped. To drive my van, my wheelchair slots into a metal anchoring device on its floor. A bolt built onto the bottom of the wheelchair keeps me locked in place. Electronically locked in place. And when electronics fail, vis-à-vis batteries, it turns out that you stay locked in place. Frozen in time, as it were, living in the immediate past, five minutes ago when you rolled behind the wheel.
Not that I wasn’t already dreading the driving experience. But that’s me, or me at this particular stage of my anxious life. I deal with lots of dread. In fact, dread has become a sort of cottage industry. But one thing I haven’t dreaded is getting locked into place in my van. Dreadlocks, let us say. I phone my neighbor Jeff.
He arrives in a jiffy with an unbelievable device. Jeff and Beatrice live right across the street. Their assistance can be invaluable. At the moment, it is beyond astonishing. Jeff has a lithium-battery-powered car starter. Or battery jump-starter box. Like everything electronic these days, it is surprisingly small and effective. The car roars into life. So do I, disengaging myself from the wheelchair lock down, closing the car and vowing never to go near it again.
This sends me into a wrenching internal struggle. Sunday mornings with their traffic-free lightness come but once a week. I need to drive. I need to drive anywhere, such as this neighborhood, around in circles, which I increasingly do on Sundays. When it gets boring, I know the drive has been a success. Because along with boring comes automatic, my feet shifting into the proper position, acceleration and braking occurring reliably.
But not this Sunday. I am slightly demoralized and already disgusted. I give up. Until tomorrow, Monday, when I get behind the wheel and go for a brief morning drive. Just once around the neighborhood, not, say, three or four circuits which is what I really need to get in the automotive swing of things. But then with a change in social plans and the advent of the next day’s street cleaning, dammed if I’m not back moving the car in midafternoon. That’s two drives in one day, you will note. Okay they are minuscule, these outings, but they are. Someday the car and its demands may actually shrink within my psyche. For now, things are what they are.