Our car died a day before I was supposed to take a trip to visit my family. “Died” is a strong word I guess, I should say my car had some kind of terrible attack the day before my trip so while it convalesced at the auto spa I drove a rental with Michigan plates.
I drove a minivan with Michigan plates from TN to Ohio. I do not normally drive a minivan. We have done well, even with 4 children in tow to avoid the minivan phase. We’ve also managed to avoid having any and all references to Barney, the purple dinosaur in our house. I feel pretty good about that.
Not only did I drive the minivan, I drove it poorly to boot. After driving a ’96 Suburban for the last 10 years the little snub nose family car of choice was like driving a sports car. That coupled with my stress of “getting there” in one mental and emotional piece, since I was driving on my own with the four children mentioned above, I admit I made some tactical errors. I drove too fast, cut off too many people, nearly ran a red light…the list is somewhat embarassing to continue to disclose to be honest. I do not truly know what came over me and all this before I even got out of Tennessee.
Then, it dawned on me…those Michigan plates…it’s possible all of the people I had just pissed off might actually think I’m from Michigan. I know that I do it. Someone drives erratically and I look at the plate, “Oh, city people” I think…or “Oh, Texas…hmrumph…” I began to wonder what kind of picture people had gotten of me, this half crazed mother in her minivan, children bickering, hair and glasses askew, driving like a maniac, Michigan plates. “Go back to Michigan,” I imagine them shouting at me through their closed windows, fists pounding the steering wheel to punctuate the sentiment.
I’ve been to Michigan, know a number of people from Michigan. Nice place, nice people, decent drivers. I felt horribly guilty for smearing their good name and at the same time I had a strange sense of freedom, anonymity if you will and then I rounded it out with feeling shame for driving so very badly and hiding behind my Michigan plates.
Day in and day out people are going to form opinions about who I am based upon information they gather about me; my driving, my car, my behavior, my clothes, my children, my words…sometimes their perception is off, sometimes it is right on the money. I would like to think that what I leave behind me on the road though is not quite the impression I left that day driving with Michigan plates but I’m working on it.