Man Behind the Wheel

John's column for Feb. 9, 2013

We live in a new age in which traditional gender roles are quickly changing.

Women are now doing many endeavors once considered exclusively male. And men have accepted this. Interestingly, as women increasingly take on traditional male responsibilities, men are not taking on traditional female jobs -- which means men are actually doing less work.

It makes you wonder who is being liberated?

But, there are two areas where men are refusing to give up control: the TV remote and driving the car.

Years ago when our children were young I made a courageous decision: on long vacation trips I would do all the driving.

It was either that or I'd have to sit in the front passenger seat and take care of the kids, break up their squabbles, get everyone snacks and play My Father Owns A Grocery Store for 10 straight hours.

Maybe it wasn't so courageous.

There's no doubt about it. When we have young families men choose to drive the car because it's easier than taking care of the kids.

It's also a smart idea to take the driver's seat when seven relatives are all going to the same place and they want to take one car. Only one person is going to be comfortable sitting through that trip.

Relative: "We can fit four of us in the back seat and two can sit in the front passenger seat. It's only a couple hours. Who's going to drive?"

Me: "It's a tough job but I'll make the sacrifice."

But what happens when the kids are grown and gone and the parents are retired and it's just them?

My wife and I drove to Florida and back this winter.

Wife: "This is going to be a long trip. Let me know when you get tired so I can drive while you rest and take a nap."

Me: "That won't be necessary. I can do this."

Wife: "You're not going to give up that driver's seat are you. So basically you'd rather drive tired and risk falling asleep at the wheel than to have your wife drive the car."

Me: "Do you remember what happened last time you drove on vacation?"

Yes: "Yes. You refused to sleep. You stared at me the whole time. You said 'turn here,' 'exit there,' 'stay in the left lane,' 'look out for the semi'! 'Don't take that from that car, go after him.' You made me a nervous wreck."

Me: "Right. And you don't want that to happen again do you?"

Many religious leaders require young couples to go through extensive counseling before they will marry them. I think this is completely unnecessary.

They just need to put the couple into the car, tell them to drive to Florida and back and when the trip is finished if they still want to get married so be it. And good luck to them.

Boredom is always a problem during long trips. My wife reads while I drive.

Me: "What are you reading?"

Wife: "It's a self-help book called Why Your Husband Has Control Issues and Won't Let You Drive or Hold the TV Remote."

Me: "Maybe it would be a better idea if we talked."

Wife: "Good idea. Now that we're retired I've been thinking we have time to do some remodeling on the house. Let's talk about that."

Me: "Let's play My Father Owns a Grocery Store instead."

Everyone who drives to Florida from Indiana knows the three biggies on the trip: traffic congestion in Nashville, Chattanooga and Atlanta. We got through the first two with only one minor incident caused by a crazy guy with road rage.

Fortunately, I finally settled down and my wife took a long nap and it might have even been longer if I hadn't accidentally turned the radio on full blast and woken her up.

I needed a snack from the cooler in the back seat.

Wife: "What are we doing in Augusta, Georgia?"

Me: "I'm not sure. I was wondering that myself."

Wife: "You were supposed to follow the signs to Atlanta."

Me: "I might have missed something awhile back. Maybe this is just the Atlanta bypass."

Wife: "This is Augusta. We're 150 miles from Atlanta. Doesn't that sound like kind of a huge bypass? If we bypass Atlanta any more we'll be in South Carolina."

If the GPS says the drive will take 19 hours we always add an additional hour for stops and three more hours for wrong turns.

We finally got back on route and I finished the drive. As we pulled into our destination in Ft. Myers, Fla., my wife complimented me on the job.

Wife: "I have to admit, you are an excellent driver."

Me: "Thank you. But what makes you say that?"

Wife: "Because you've been successfully driving me crazy for 34 years."


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