My life in midcoast Maine began with an introduction to following speed limits. I grew up in Houston, a place where, as the comedian Jeff Foxworthy once noted, the speed limit says 65, you’re going 90, and everyone is passing you. People tailgate, swerve in and out the window, lay on their horns and don’t let up, and swerve in and out of traffic. Yes, it’s a great place to learn to drive – the scar on the side of my face is certainly a testament to that.
Now that I have children, every time I see that scar in the mirror, I shudder. It carries new meaning for me. When I was twenty years old, driving like a typical Houstonian, the only life I had to concern myself with was my own – and I didn’t even bother terribly with that. Never was that more evident than when, working two jobs and going to school, I fell asleep at the wheel while going 90mph.
Seat belts save lives, as do helicopters – both of those saved mine.
A decade later, Thing One and Thing Two changed my levels of conern and of self-preservation. I love them more than anything, and not only do I want to protect them, I want to protect myself, because they need me.
So, even with both kids yelling at me from the backseat, “Put your seatbelt on! PopPop says you are supposed to drive with both hands on the wheel! Why are you only driving with one hand? That’s bad! Hey, look at the shape I am making with my hands here in the backseat,” I am grateful to be driving with them in Maine.
Here, people don’t tailgate. It’s too dangerous, when half the year there’s ice on the road. People also only tap their horns, and then it’s just to let you know you’re either doing something dangerous or you’ve spaced and the lights have turned green. The people doing the honking will then wave back if you wave in apology.
Drivers are considerate, too; particularly during tourist season, at any given intersection that’s particularly bad, someone with a Maine license plate will have pity and let you in, following six dozen Massachussetts and New Jersey license plates speeding up to make sure you don’t get out.
Even more importantly, drivers here are both resourceful and kind. Before moving to Maine, I chose a car that got great gas mileage. It was not – and is not – naturally suited for a Maine winter or even a Maine mud season. Before I was able to afford snow tires, at least three different Mainahs have pulled me out of snow banks and ditches, and have never criticized my idiocy. Do people in Massachusetts carry tow ropes in the backs of their trucks and yank random people out of ditches? I don’t know. I do know that people in Maine do.
I want my kids to learn to drive the way people from Maine drive. I am so fortunate to get to raise them here.
Now, if only someone would also teach the tourists to drive…