So Here’s the Thing About Driving…

Driver’s Ed taught me many things:

  • maintain at least two car lengths behind the car in front of you at all times
  • always yield when making a left turn
  • never casually toss your strawberry Hubba Bubba gum out the window while driving 70 mph
Dangerous to your hair.
Dangerous to your hair.

But my dad’s sage advice proved to be the most valuable.

“Darla,” he said, “never ever under any circumstances back up your car with your door open.”

It was a steamy summer day in 1988; I was 17 and proudly washing my very first car — a powder blue 1982 Buick Skylark (aka The Blu-Ick) — in our driveway. My boom box blared the sweet strains of Van Halen,  the cold water from the hose flowed freely and the Aqua Net on my head seeped deeper into my feeble brain.

So here’s the thing about driving —  it’s a well-known fact most accidents happen within a few miles of your home.

Or in my case, within a few feet.

Singing, “Go ahead and Jump! JUMP!” with reckless abandon, I hopped into the car to back it up closer to the house so the hose would reach. My horrible depth-perception combined with my pathetic head-banging David Lee Roth impression would prove fatal. I oh-so-casually left the driver side door open the tiniest crack as I whipped my head around and slid my beloved Blu-Ick into reverse.

Time slowed down. Things got hazy. The chemicals in my hairspray intensified. I glimpsed my father wildly gesturing to me in slow motion from the porch, his mouth twisting into a silent scream. “Nooooooo!” he mouthed, the lit menthol Marlboro cigarette falling from his lips. Next a sickening crunching noise, like a can of tuna fish slowly peeling open, cut through David Lee Roth’s wails: “You’ve got to ro–oh-oll with the punches,” [CRUUUUUNCH!]and get to what’s ree-yull! JUMP!”

Oh, shit.


I abruptly stopped the car, but it was too late. I turned back around to see empty space where my driver’s side door used to be and my father sadly shaking his head at me from the porch. I was now the proud owner of a squeaky-clean car with a crumpled powder-blue door hanging off the side by a thread like a loose tooth.

My Driver’s Ed teacher and my dad had both wisely taught me to always be wary of other drivers and pedestrians.

But they’d failed to warn me of another lesser-known road menace:

Picnic tables.

Darla Buick

Have you ever had a fender-bender that was purely your fault? Have you ever done something really stupid while driving? Have you ever cursed David Lee Roth and Aqua Net as much as I did that fateful day back in 1988? ****************************************************************************
This is the second post in a new series I’m writing about the mundane stuff in my wackadoodle life and how I inevitably screw it up by just being myself.

So Here’s the Thing About…

Click here for the first post: So Here’s the Thing About Walking….

Next up:



104 thoughts on “So Here’s the Thing About Driving…

  1. Darla, I feel your pain. And the hairspray is dripping into my eyes. My skylark blue eyes are tearing up.

    Have I ever done something stupid in a car? Not with my clothes on, or at least not with my clothes on until recently. My car is waaaay to big. I need it for medical reasons (sore-butt syndrome). But did I mention that it’s too big?

    The only stupid things I have ever done in a car have been done in that one. I drove away from a gas station with the pump still in the car (finished, thankfully). I expected the “beep beep” sensor to let me know when I had backed far enough in a crowded parking lot. Nope. the CRUNCH let me know. And last but not least, it forced me to hit a cement post in my garage. Damn car. I blame it. But only because i don’t wear hairspray.

    1. Wait a minute…back it up (with your door closed)…”not with your clothes on”?
      Care to elaborate?

      And you drove away with the pump still in your car? Were you naked during this? Care to elaborate?

      I have never driven away with the pump in my car BUT I’ve driven away plenty with the gas cap on TOP of my car. I drove across country twice and once lost my gas cap and the guy at the station said, “here, take one” and handed me a big bucket full of other people’s lost gas caps. Oh, I laughed and laughed at that one.

    1. I don’t know, Joe. In the battle of the Van Halen singers, I’d have to go with Sammy. I liked him before Van Halen, I used to dress up with red bandanas tied around my wrists and red leather pants with zippers all over the legs and sing “I can’t drive….55!!!!” at the top of my lungs. Oh, those were the days. David Lee Roth lost me with “I’m Just A Gigolo”

    1. I’m not so convinced.

      The thing is, my brothers always backed up with their door open, they’d put one hand on the steering wheel and coolly look out the door while backing up with NO problem. I completely blame my lack of depth perception.

  2. Le Clown

    This is the best thing published today. But then again, it’s only 8am.

    Apparently, Montreal drivers are notorious to be bad and intense and crazy drivers. I personally think it’s jealousy, that our mad skillz can’t be emulated, and it causes sorrow and envy in others. Which also means that all fender benders are YOUR fault, and never MY fault, like the time I turned a corner on a very cold and icy Tuesday morning, at 30KM/H (cause we’re wild like that in Canada, we talk in kilometers and celsius and poutine), and there was another car in MY way, on which I crashed, as the driver couldn’t wait 5 more minutes before being at that exact place where my car slid. A-hole.
    Le Clown

    1. Y’know, Le Clown, no matter if I’m driving MPH or KM/H, I’m completely 100% positive that if you and I were to meet up on a highway and crashed, it’d always be my fault. And that asshole David Lee Roth’s.

      1. Most definitely. “I can’t drive…….55!!!” (I think that’s the only solo song he’s ever had….) this reminds me — I actually saw Van Halen on their Monsters of Rock tour in 1988 and they flew into the backwoods of Maine on a helicopter (with Sammy, not the A-Hole David)

  3. HA! What a picture you painted… literally! Did you get the door fixed? Were you in BIG TROUBLE, MISSY?

    One time I was babysitting for two kids all summer, and had to bring them to summer camp. I was at an intersection that crossed over a 4-lane highway. The left turn arrow turned green, AND I WENT. Straight. I wouldn’t have even realized my mistake if some guy didn’t lean his head out the window and cry, “Asshole!” The fact that I had two kids in the car – oy. My stomach still knots over that one, 12 years later.

    1. Funny you should ask about the door being fixed (and thank you because I forgot to mention the aftermath)

      I do believe I was working at the time at a lingerie store (and NO I am NOT making this up) called Barbizon Lingerie on Main Street in Freeport (my friends called it Darlazon)

      So after the door was toast, my dad informed me it’d probably cost big bucks to get it replaced (even for a POS car like the Blu-Ick) and I imagine I had to work overtime pushing push-up bras and lacy teddies to little old ladies to raise the moulah.

      But I never EVER ever backed my car up with the door open again.

      Funny, but Jim has done it too. He backed up his dad’s mini-van and the door clipped a mailbox and was dented when it was pulled back. It was back when we were just dating and I was in the car with him at the time so I think maybe I attract these mishaps.

      (I think this comment could have been another post)

      1. It’s very odd the things we have in common, Pego. Like begin colossal klutzes. We also both have eerily similar scars on our left wrists: him from falling down while chasing an ice cream truck and me falling down on ice while rushing to work on a snowy hill. We were meant to be together.

  4. I haven’t done stupid stuff that resulted in accidents yet… I once had to deliver cakes in Australia at 6am while driving on the right side of the road. As opposed to the left side, which is the side the Australians seem to prefer. At 6am however, traffic isn’t very heavy and my brain just doesn’t work properly. I just figured the other participants were a-holes and only later it dawned on me that I should have been on the left side…. Ohhhhhh 😉

      1. But you’d miss out on so much fun stuff too! You can safely pick the countries that drive on the same side. Although having said that… maybe I should write a post on that 😉

  5. Thank you, Darla, for making me feel good about my – lack of – driving skills. (You made me laugh.)
    It’s safe to confess now that my former insurance agent in N.Y. has undoubtedly retired – after my umpteenth accident. I once thought the car next to mine in the driveway was moving and panicked. It wasn’t. It was parked. Mine was. And it hit our garage. My daughters will never let me live that one down.

  6. I’ve never damaged a car like that, but I did once pull a Jason Statham-style U-turn that ended surprisingly well. I was on my way home from a night of going out, my friends were talking so much that I missed a turn. So, at the next turn I slightly steered right and I pulled the steering wheel to the left, but, I hadn’t noticed the speed I was driving at so the back of the car started drifting. But for some magical reason we ended up, straight, driving forward inthe other direction. I kept my cool, acted like everything was normal, because my friends were really impressed. Hahaha.

    1. Oh well, you can be rest assured that yes, you can have many, many accidents in your driveway or even in a parked car. Even while riding a bike. (I once nailed a parked car while mountain biking in Oregon)

  7. At least you have never crashed your car into a house while learning to drive (with your mum in the passenger seat). I was 17 or 18 and I still can’t fathom out how I managed it. Wrote off the car and never got in the car with a parent instructing again….

    1. How bad was the crash? Like you ended up in someone’s kitchen bad? Yikes. I’d totally blame your mom too. My poor dad, the stuff he had to put up with when I was learning to drive his old stick-shift Subaru. I bet he aged 20 years just teaching me how to parallel park.

      1. It was a very gentle crash through the fence into the wall (but not through it)- I don’t blame her but I still think as the parent I’d have pulled the handbrake! My children are welcome to test their Dad’s blood pressure when the time comes, I’m going nowhere near …

      2. Ah, a very gentle crash! Those are the best kinds. Mine were never gentle by any means.
        And yeah, your mom totally should have pulled the emergency brake! Although if it were my son driving I’d probably just sit there screaming. Not very helpful.

    1. Oh yeah! Yours sounds much more snazzy than my beat up hunk o’ junk. But I wish I still had it.They just don’t build big boxy ugly powder blue cars like they used to. I loved that skylark so very much. even with no driver’s side door.

  8. Oh where do I start??? I did something similar about same age as you were. Got out of car, somehow left it in neutral, car started slowly rolling backward down driveway. Threw car door open and jumped back in car, just in time for the door to get hung up on something and snap the hinge. A couple years ago I was at a scout camp and drove my truck too close to a cut tree trunk and shredded the side. There’s a few more out there too. I will say this, I’ve never been in an accident with another vehicle… knock on wood!

    1. haha! Your stories are killing me (the boy scout one was a few years ago!) Isn’t it amazing, with all the technology they put into a car, that something simple like your car door getting hung up on something minor while going 2 mph can just peel it right back like a banana?

      I have a few other stories too but it’d take several more posts. But I’m really an excellent driver (said in my best Rainman voice”

  9. Couple of things:
    1) Maybe this should be So Here’s The Thing About Washing Your Car…
    2) I must know more about the Hubba Bubba tip. That’s some practical advice for daily life.
    3) You were fully Aqua Netted even for washing the car in your driveway? That’s total dedication to a look.
    4) Have I mentioned how fully satisfied I am with the level to which your Paint skills have risen? Sad, bouffant Darla Dee Roth in her Blu-ick is lovely. Simply lovely.

    1. Oh, Peg! I can always count on you to notice the blood, sweat and Aqua Net I put into making that Paint picture. Thank you for noticing. It took me forever to get the bouffant hair just the right amount of bouffantedness.

      1. “bouffantedness” is an adjective (adverb? adverbial phrase? adjectivial phrase?) you just don’t hear often enough in daily conversation. Don’t know why not.

  10. So you want to know the good, bad, and the ugly about my driving wrecks? Well, there was the time I pulled into a parking spot, and because I was a bit cattywhompus, I immediately backed up (without looking, because no one was around, so I thought) right into the rear bumper of a car that apparently was pretty much right behind me). I was incensed that she came out of nowhere, but apologized over and over. Because I expressed such abject apology to her and concern for her well being, she eventually calmed down and was ok with a new minor scratch on her bumper. I think it was because the scratch across my bumper was about 4 times longer. To this day, I am convinced that she had to have flown into the parking lot (small) about 50 mph, at least, because when I turned into my spot, there was no one behind me. Really! I swear! And as for wrecks, that’s just about as bad as it’s gotten for me… well… there was the time in Lake Placid when I took too sharp of a right turn, and because my car had no right side mirror (who makes a car without a right side mirror?), I couldn’t see that I was about to clip the bumper of a massive station wagon, parked on the side of the road. Because I respected my boyfriend at the time so much, I ignored his cries of “Stop! You’re going to hit that car!”, just before I connected with it’s massive station wagon bumper. Did nothing to them. Just a bit of a dent by the wheel well, followed by a scrape. So, no epic crunches for me, just a few scrapes and dents.

    1. You are lucky, Sue. Or probably have much better depth perception as me. Or you’re just a good driver. I really am not that bad. Sure, there was that one time I hit the moose but that was like, TOTALLY the moose’s fault, dude.

      I’ve had several incidents like yours where I look behind me, see nothing then go to drive off and suddenly this car is on top of me. Again: their fault.

      1. Ha! Oh no, no, no. yeah. I really should be dead right now though. It was on Rt. 136 (back road) and I was going about 50 mph when I slammed into it in the dark. I was driving a tiny Ford Festiva clown car. Again: I should be dead.

  11. I definitely backed up my itsy-bitsy ’93 Ford Escort into the biggest dumpster ever in my uncle’s driveway. How I was stupid enough to back a car into a dumpster about the same size as said car is still a mystery to me. Luckily, I just cracked the plastic bumper a little, and life moved on. Except for the endless mocking about my “driving skills” perhaps. 😛

    1. See, this is the problem, it’s not the dumpster, it’s not that we’re blind or bad drivers, it’s that these things shouldn’t have to happen in front of other people who will forever mock you for it for the rest of your days. If only my dad hadn’t witnessed my accident, I could have totally blamed it on the picnic table.

  12. I could so envision you rockin’ out to David Lee Roth. Thanks for the belly laughs!
    My first car accident involved parallel parking. It was a white Ford Astro Van with NO power steering. Needless to say, I ended up slamming into my neighbor’s gold Mercedes.
    My dad did damage control while I just sat back and cried.

    1. Oh, god. I remember the days of no power steering! Figure of all the things you could crash into, a gold Mercedes. Now you mean painted gold not solid gold, right?

      The worst thing about my Buick were the doors. It was a 2 door car so they each weighed about 1,000 pounds.

  13. OneHotMess

    I drove into a rock wall once because one of my children in the backseat shrieked so loudly I was sure she was being attached by wolverine s. Turns out she and her brother were fighting over a happy meal toy.

    1. Actually, there have been numerous times when I’ve wanted to drive the car straight into a rock wall on purpose because my kids were screaming in the backseat over a Happy Meal. They should really rename those: Extreme Irritation Meal.

      I hope you all were okay! (all kidding aside)

  14. So, here’s the thing about driving … I wrecked my grandfather’s brand new Mercury Cougar on THE DAY that I got my driver’s license. Yup. Within hours of receiving my newly minted, official driving degree, I just plain drove the car into the middle of a ditch. It turns out that the business driveway that I chose to turn around in (to make another cruise down the main drag of the podunk town that we lived in on that fateful evening) did not go all the way across but was two driveways with a ditch in the middle. You see, I centered the car in the ditch going something like .2 mph (km — whatever). Slow mo, destruction. It was pitiful. And, it bent the frame of the car, which means it was totaled. My punishment was full embarrassment and that I keep the hood ornament as a painful reminder. (p.s. that hood ornament is in the glove box of my car, RIGHT NOW)

    1. Is it terrible of me that I am laughing so hard at your story right now? You just described something that would have happened to me. The day you got your license?! And a pathetic slow-mo crash into a ditch you didn’t know was there? Oh, I hear you, I do.

      Isn’t it amazing how you can total a car without doing hardly anything?

      1. I think that’s why I didn’t really get into that much trouble. I was trying to be careful but I just blew it. It was so pitiful that no one was really that mad at me. (head hanging in shame)

  15. singleworkingmomswm

    I love stories about first cars….especially from those of us who actually had totally cool (not cool) older cars that only cost our parents maybe $500 out of pocket. Cars that had character, not shiny new paint like so many of our Kia buying (I can say this since I own one now) parents of today who buy their kids brand new econo vehicles. But, I digress….yes, my first fender-bender in my rockin’, totally awesome, sparkle brown ’81 Chevy Chevette was me backing out of a parking garage after interviewing for my first job at age 16 and hitting the post on the left side of the parking spot. Backing…..backing….turn ohsoslightly….crunch! Nothin’ like the sound of squishing car metal. 😉 Thanks for always sharing without shame or abandon, Darla! Glad to be back reading! XOXO-SWM

    1. Exactly, cars that had character! And rust! And giant gaping holes in the floorboards! Those are REAL cars. Now I drive a Dodge Caravan. So sad.

      There is nothing like that sickening crunching noise when you do something stupid in the car. I’m really shocked I haven’t ruined more doors.

  16. I have never done anything wrong while driving. Never. But my car has been a victim of several unprovoked attacks by those vicious posts they put between spaces in parking lots.

    1. Oh! I was too! It was one of the situations where it’s in slow motion and I’m like waving frantically at the guy not to back into my car and he keeps going. He was driving a beat up pickup and backed up in the MIDDLE of the road to talk to a friend he saw on the side of the road and forgot to see if there was a car behind him. Dented my bumper.

  17. Hahaha! This makes me feel so much better about the multitude of ill-conceived things I do while completing what other people find to be simple tasks.

    How did you get the door fixed? Was it ever fixed? Did your car become a cool Buick-Jeep hybrid where you just ripped off all of the doors and kicked it fresh air style?

    I once managed to total my parent’s very old volvo station wagon about 3 houses down the street from their house. I had borrowed it to move something between my old and new apartment in Boston (so, yes, this means I was in my early 20s at the time). One of the neighbors was getting a new driveway and had left a mini-steamroller parked in the middle of our street. I thought I could get around it, but, alas, I could not (damn you depth perception). The very front of the station wagon — really just the front turn signal light — grazed the steam roller and broke.

    That would have been okay. I knew from past experience it was a $150 fix and I knew where to get a new light.

    But then, for some reason, the airbags went off in the car.

    I had never experienced an air bag — particularly a 13 year old rudimentary 1992 air bag. When it deployed, it smacked me in the face and filled the car with smoke and noxious fumes. My reaction was to leap out of the moving car to save my life because shit was about to explode in flames. I did this amazing move without turning off the car or taking it out of drive. And, my parents house is at the top of a steep hill.

    While I looked on in horror, the car continued rolling down the street before eventually coming to rest against a tree in another neighbor’s front yard.


    1. I think I helped my dad pay for half the cost of the door. I can’t remember how much the door cost, but I do remember thinking it was a huge amount and I’d have to cut down on personal expenses like Aqua Net and Van Halen CDs. As you can imagine, I was devastated.

      I loved your line “because shit was about to explode” hahahaa! Good god. I’ve never had an airbag deploy. I never had a car equipped with one back then. Reminds me of an old SNL sketch where instead of an air bag they have Jiffy Pop popcorn come out of the steering wheel. In your case, that probably would have been much more helpful.

  18. notsotypicalhousewife

    I’ve got 6+ accidents under my belt and three totaled cars. Actually, I had the same accident on the same road twice. Both times I thought I would hit trees so I swerve and end up spinning around hitting the bank on the other side of the road. Yeah.. first time I was ok. Next time my face looked like it was falling off (air bag burn?) but my glasses at least flew off and landed, folded, safely in the back seat.

    1. Good lord. Glad you are okay. One of my friends got terrible burns on her face from the air bag. you’d never guess someone could be more injured from a safety feature than from the actual accident.

      If I include all fender-benders, I’ve had…um….four accidents total. Only totaled a car once with a moose. But I also drove into our garage once and nailed a glass-topped table and it shattered into a million pieces. It didn’t damage the car but was a pain to clean up.

      1. notsotypicalhousewife

        Ha yeah I got lucky. Worse I ever got was a few fractured ribs. (propane truck)
        But a moose! Oh my. Glad you were ok there. Accidents are never fun at all! Which is why I stopped owning a car of my own and only drive during the day when its nice out now! If I have to I can drive in rain as long as it isn’t too heavy.

  19. Yes, yes and no.
    I once backed into a parking space and hit another car – totally my fault – the whole rest of the car park was unoccupied – I just wanted to practice parking backwards. Well, I obviously NEEDED practice.
    Stupid things done in a car? Phew – not wanting to get into detail, but once I puked (yes, it was not just being sick, it was really gross) into my car – I had just managed to stop at the side lane. German Autobahn is not the right place to be sick, I can assure you. AND – I drove back home after that – about 500 km – makes over 300 miles – in a stinky car. You are spared the details.It was a hot day (about 30 ° Celsius) – and I stopped every third car park along the Autobahn to get a few sips of water into my mouth. Could not drink a lot – or it would return.

    But no, I never cursed a band for my mistakes. Other people? Plenty. But never a band.

    1. Driving down the Autobahn with puke in your car? That is some story. I tend to get motion sickness easily, so if I’m not in the front seat of a car, I get pretty sick, it’s terrible.

      1. Trust me, that day you would have preferred to be in the backseat – I only hit the front – that was not nice to look at, it stank and I could only clean it roughly. A very nightmarish experience. I suppose after the first attack of vomitting I should have called somebody to help me – instead I carried on – which was a foolish thing to do.

  20. I can just imagine how heartbroken you were on that day, Darla. Were you able to get it fixed so that it didn’t show any effects? Did it make you forever hate to back up? Can you do a vlog with a reenactment?

    I have a story for you. My neighbor and best friend got her first car at 16; I was 14. We had spent the day at the lake and then cruised around for the evening. You can imagine how cool I thought I was with an older friend – and cruising. So, when she suggested we try smoking, I was all in. We smoked, we flipped our hair, we were cool! We tossed cigarette butts out the window. This was back in the day where most cars didn’t have air. All of the windows were down. What a great night, and I felt all grown up. In the morning, she went out to her car, and the back seat was completely burned out! One of our cigarette butts had flown in the back window and lodged in the seat. It smoldered all night long with the windows up. We never smoked again, and to this day I have never been a smoker. … Love your graphic! 🙂

    1. Haha! Nope, no vlogs this time around. You are thankfully spared the Aqua Net reenactment.

      I had to have the entire door replaced because it was crumpled and folded like an accordion. Who knew a picnic table could be so dangerous? After that day I never ever backed up with my door open again. Lesson learned.

      About your story–oh my! See, this is a case of never throw anything out your window while driving fast. I never smoked while driving thank god, that would have been a disaster. That reminds me of the movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles where John Candy throws a cig out the window and it lands in the backseat and smolders all night and eventually the car goes up in flames. You guys are lucky that didn’t happen! Although I’m sure the damage to her backseat was enough.

  21. It’s probably a good thing I never got a driver’s license. I’d have a LOT of stories like this.

    Your description of the crunching noise “like a can of tuna fish slowly peeling open” is really vivid, by the way. Especially when I imagine “Jump” blasting in the background. And I laughed out loud when I read “Picnic tables.”

    To be fair, I like both versions of Van Halen, the original, and the Van Hagar version.

    1. True, I really do like both versions of Van Halen. Still, David Lee Roth really comes off as being a total numbnut. Especially since it’s his fault I messed up my car that day.

      No license? I suppose where you live, you don’t really need one. I wish I didn’t have mine. Sigh.

  22. I have a tendency to pull into a parking lot that has those concrete barriers at the front of each space. I have no idea why they’re there, and usually forget about them, until I get back in my car and drive forward. That terrible scraping sound is always a helpful reminder. I’ve never taken a door off, though. Not yet.

    1. Haha! Isn’t that the worst feeling? You hear the scraping noise, then you glance around to make sure no one has witnessed that you are a total dweeb and don’t know how to properly park. (I suppose I’m a total dweeb anyway)

      My younger brother did that once somewhere in Texas on a road trip and it actually ripped his entire bumper of his car. He had to reattach it with bungee cords.

  23. Pingback: I Leave You With a Parting Gift. And, Cake. | Keeping it Real

  24. Pingback: I Leave You A Parting Gift. And, Cake. | Keeping it Real

  25. Pingback: So Here’s the Thing About Sleeping… | She's a Maineiac

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