Fun fact: You can drive with a Canadian drivers license in most states in the US.
Other fun fact: I wasn’t anticipating doing any driving until I reached Virginia.
Third fun fact: The dust a U-Haul truck kicks up on a dirt road can really mess with visibility if you happen to be following behind it.
My oldest brother is F’kir Eldercake, who makes music under the name Dream Shovel, and today I was visiting him in Nevada City. Back in August, he and his girlfriend, Tiare Tashnik, made this music video:
At the same time, F’kir also bought a house and they moved in. I mean, making a music video makes the U-Haul make sense already but, adding a move into a house on top of that makes a U-Haul inevitable. And, at some point, said U-Haul needs to be returned to its native habitat.
That day was today and, since I had my drivers license with me, F’kir asked me if I’d be up for following behind in his truck.
In my head: “Oh my gosh that’s in miles per hour and that definitely won’t feel like any speed I’m used to.”
And: “what if I lose him at a corner and I get lost and I have no idea where I am and there’s no way in heck the shoulders on these roads could fit a car (who makes shoulders these tiny, anyways?) and what if he speeds because I can’t afford fines so he better pay them if we get caught because I can’t lose him by being too slow.”
And: “I’m not insured for this- what if I get in an accident and stuff happens and his insurance decides not to pay for anything and it’s all my fault because I was the one driving and oh my my goodness I hope he thought this through before he asked me this.”
Out of my mouth: “Sure.”
Later that day, I found myself getting into a truck with a little electronic Tibetan Buddhist prayer wheel turning away on the dashboard (remember, I’m a Christian and grew up Christian, and the only other time I’ve seen this was in China so this was a bit surreal for me) next to a machine from which came a woman’s voice from time to time, telling me things in another language*, and hoping it wouldn’t take me too long to get used to this vehicle because I was about to follow the U-Haul along dirt roads at speeds defined in miles per hour in a part of the world I’ve never been in before today.
As I began to drive, I learned all the ways in which F’kir’s truck is different from my car. For context: my car is a blue 1990 Chevrolet Corsica with all the quirks you’d expect of a car that old, including peeling paint and copious amounts of rust (it appears briefly in The Tree Remembers as Minerva’s mom’s car, because if you can’t immortalize your own crappy car in your books, why write at all?). One of those quirks is brakes that take some encouragement to do their thing.
So imagine, if you will, what happens when a timid new driver is trying to figure out the brakes. The awkward jolting stops. The wide-eyed look as it slowly dawns on them that this vehicle won’t do a gentle stop just because you want it to. You have to be gentle with it, which is exactly the opposite of what you feel like being during the sheer terror of being in control of a three thousand pound metal death trap with wheels.**
That was me for the first few minutes of turning around to get onto F’kir’s driveway. I am not used to normal brakes.
Then, as we’re driving out along these dirt roads (he lives on an acreage outside of Nevada City), I’m so worried about losing him that I’m following a little closer than is probably safe under normal circumstances. I was counting on normal circumstances. But the thing about dirt roads is that they aren’t what someone used to driving in the city would call “normal circumstances.”
So there I was, discovering the joys of dust clouds and wondering if maybe I should give my brother a little more space so I could actually see him enough not to hit him from sheer anxiety.
Add into that the fact that he was probably, almost definitely going about five miles per hour above the speed limit and I could only convince myself to do the same thing for temporary spurts, until my desire to follow the rules grew stronger than my desire not to lose track of that U-Haul on the twists and turns of country roads.
I did get used to it after a while, and was feeling pretty good until we parked at the U-Haul place and I went to get out of the truck. Like a responsible person who has locked her keys in her car on more than one occasion, I went to take the key out first.
I couldn’t get it out.
I told the woman speaking through the machine next to the prayer wheel that, if she was trying to help, it would be much more effective if she did it in English or, at the very least, French.
I eventually gave up and sat there until F’kir got back. As it turns out, I was supposed to push the key in first, or something simple like that. He drove after that, and it was much, much better for my nerves.
*I learned later that the machine is the Russian model of a thing that detects speed traps. And also personal security systems? Apparently, you can buy it online direct from China, if you have a hankering for such a device.
**For the record, I love driving. I was also scared out of my mind the first time I drove my mom’s van in the empty school parking lot, thinking of all the possible methods of fatal dismemberment we’d endure if I made the slightest mistake. Having a vivid imagination is both a blessing and a curse.