GARDEN STATE PARKWAY, N.J. — My girlfriend is nice and sweet and somewhat quiet until she gets behind the wheel of car. Once there, she morphs into a cross between Mike Tyson and Tony Stewart, and it seems as if she’s always running late for something really important.
It used to scare the crap out of me, her driving. I used to grip the sides of the passenger seat until my knuckles hurt. I used to instinctively slam my right foot on the floor where the brake pedal would be. I used to close my eyes to block out the fact that she tailgated so close that I could count the hairs on the head of the driver in front of us.
For the sake of good communication, I’ve told her several times that her driving make me want to buy suits of armor on eBay. She’d laugh, reassure me that “it wasn’t that bad,” and then she’d floor it.
A change of strategy was in order.
It came on the day of the Super Bowl — not the Superbowl — on the way to a party about an hour away in Jersey.
Our journey began like most others. She ran a red light (1), yelled at a livery cabbie for driving in two lanes, whizzed past the cabbie, cut in front of him (2), and considered her next move as she drove in two lanes (3) on Broadway. I, as per usual, soiled my underpants.
We made a left turn and she played her game of Pedestrian Chicken, where she feels emboldened by the right of way and speeds up toward folks who walk into the street against the blinking red hand. It’s kind of like watching a bowling ball curve toward a single-pin spare, except the pin always jumps out of the way at the last second and gives the bowling ball the middle finger as it rolls by.
Then, she yelled unflattering things at a man she swerved to miss because he was walking on the street instead of the icy sidewalk.
This is where I’d usually close my eyes and wish I was wearing a football helmet. But this time, I egged her on.
With “Come with Me” blasting from her iPod, she whipped around a shaggy-haired fellow in a green BMW who had the audacity to cross the George Washington Bridge at only 10 m.p.h. above the posted speed limit. (4)
Her: “I get a little angry when I listen to this song.”
Me: “Start it over, baby. Oh, and pump up the volume, would you?”
She calmed down until a Ford Expedition with a Steelers bumper sticker was going too slow for her taste. She passed him, but not before craning her neck, fixing her eyes on the driver of the Expedition, and mouthing “are you serious with this?”
Her: “You douchebag Steelers fan!”
Me: “He’s texting!”
Every time somebody pissed her off, I responded by getting indignant. My outrage in support of her outbursts seemed to have a calming effect. And before you know it…
Her: “It’s all sunny and nice. I like it!”
Sure, she still bobbed and weaved like Rocky Balboa all the way to our destination. But thanks to this new coping mechanism, I only wanted to piss myself twice, which counts in my book as a victory.
UPDATE: I am a journalist, after all. So, for the sake of getting the other perspectives in this story, my girlfriend wants to set the record straight:
1.) Yellow light.
2.) I did not cut in front of cabbie.
3. I was NOT driving in two lanes.
4. Not 10 mph over… UNDER, with his left blinker on while on the bridge, where you can’t turn.
— 30 —