Scenario: A lovely autumn day. Husband and wife are heading out to run errands. They switch the TV to Animal Planet for the dog, lock the door and go. As they walk down the steps, wife hands husband the car keys.
Surveys show that when couples travel together, about 75 percent of the time hubby drives. Unless it’s my husband, who insists on driving 99.9 percent of the time, even in my car.
Widdle Baby would rather scrub grout with a 104-degree fever than let me drive. Once, from behind the wheel, he actually said, “I’m a better driver than you.” Then he didn’t understand why I got mad and refused to look at a cornfield he got lost in at age four.
I only “get” to drive on long trips, when he has interstate overload and starts to twitch and foam at the mouth. Then he heaves a desperate sigh, coasts into a rest stop, moves to the passenger side and reclines the seat so he won’t have to watch me careen into the median or drive into the side of an oil tanker.
This attitude infuriates me. In 52 years I’ve never had a wreck that was my fault, except once I sneezed at a traffic light and tapped the Toyota in front of me. The guy just waved and laughed, so it was no big deal. Thank God, because—I’m not making this up—he was dressed as a clown and I am terrified of clowns. If he’d stepped out of his car I’d have died before he reached my window.
Widdle also says I don’t keep my car clean enough. Sometimes, he even complains that it smells funny. I admit my ride is often littered with library books, newspapers, bills, magazines, plastic bags, empty vials of dog medicine and hairy blankets. This is because I like going to the library, enjoy reading newspapers and magazines, go to the post office daily and constantly take the dog to the vet. See? There’s a reason for it all.
But two weeks ago, I decided to surprise Widdle. I had my car detailed at the dealership. Three hours and $35 later, I drove off in a vehicle that gleamed inside and out. Widdle was thrilled. I even left the paper floor mats down for a week.
Until last Sunday…
We were driving down Central Avenue, headed to the drug store. I was reading a church bulletin and Widdle was chatting idly. A split-second later he hit the brakes to avoid a truck that stopped suddenly up ahead. Our car swerved sharply and jolted to a screeching halt... and a small projectile shot from under the back seat into the passenger floorboard.
I didn’t make a sound. I never do when I’m scared. “Man, that was close!” Widdle exclaimed.
I fixed him with a deadly look and blurted, “What the @&#$ is that by my foot?”
The object on the paper mat was… furry. And shrunken. And a weird bronze color.
I raised my feet and kept them raised until we reached the drug store, where we peered at the gnarled object again.
It was, without a doubt… a petrified potato.
My husband cracked up. “I told you something smelled funny!” he hooted. That potato had been wedged under the back seat since my last grocery run weeks ago. Even the auto detailer hadn’t seen it.
Widdle chortled as he wadded the wizened tater up in the paper floor mat and tossed it in a garbage can.
Let him laugh--now I have another excuse not to grocery shop.
Julie R. Smith, whose favorite ride was a 1972 orange Gremlin, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.