Thursday, February 14, 2008

63 Horsepower

It was a rainy Sunday morning when I casually and so very non competitively approached the stoplight in the left of the two lanes. Just after the intersection, the right lane merged into the left lane creating one single lane of travel on the way out of town. The right lane was currently completely empty. There was, however, much to the husband’s dismay and disbelief, one car ahead of me in the left lane. From the passenger seat he began to preach. He nodded with a half cocked head toward the car so innocently stopped in front of me. “OH, COME ON!” he pleaded with his hands raised and a half a chuckle thrown in. “You can’t be serious? It’s a gutless Ford Festiva! Why don’t you get in the right lane? You can beat him across the intersection and then merge in front of him.”

I, being naively unaware that every intersection crossing was full of such extraordinary, exciting possibility and that every red light was a brand new opportunity to race the unspoken race, had taken what I felt was my rightful place behind the tiny Ford. Nevertheless,to appease the husband, I moved over to the right lane and nonchalantly glanced over at the Ford Festiva. The early 90’s, faded aqua colored car had seen better days. The overgrown rollerskate was dented in numerous places and had its fair share of rust. I could see through the front window that the fabric of the front passenger seat was ripped. I looked up and accidentally, not to mention a bit uncomfortably, glanced at the driver of this sad, diminutive car. A scruffy teenage boy, who needed a haircut, glared back at me. I could easily see by his disrespectful expression that he was a bit miffed that I had moved over to the right lane. Apparently, even at this young age, teenage boys are already aware that every intersection crossing was full of these extraordinary, exciting possibilities and that every red light was a brand new opportunity to race the unspoken race. He made it quite obvious as he revved his car. He was threatened. He was going to take me on.

And then the light turned green. I needed to get in front of this tiny, little underpowered car before my lane merged into his. I figured it was a given. We had 220 horsepower. He had 63. We had wide grippy tires. He had 12 inch balding, rubber strips. We had a V-6 with a manual transmission. He probably had a measly 3 speed automatic. We had torque down low. He had hope and a prayer. We had solid, quality construction. He had Korea. I had years of level headed driving experience. He had probably only had his license for a few months.

I firmly, but fairly casually, pressed on the gas pedal. He must have floored it. His tires squealed so loudly on the wet pavement that the husband looked up from the magazine he was reading. And then, shockingly, the tiny Festiva started to surge forward, much to my dismay. I nervously looked over at the husband who by now had a huge grin on his face. “Ha!” he laughed. “Like he has a chance! I don’t know who he thinks he’s foolin’! Go for it, mama.” It was about this time that the kids in the back seat, hearing the word “mama”, decided they should look up from their books and pay attention.

Now, however, I was the one who was a bit miffed. How dare that teenage boy ruffian in the tiny little pretend car think he could beat an almost middle aged woman in her middle class, fairly high priced sport sedan? I immediately shifted to plan B. I put in the clutch and banged that that transmission down into fourth. The husband then pressed his own passenger side imaginary gas pedal all the way to the floor. The children looked on in anticipation of their untimely deaths. The husband had already informed me that our 6 cylinder engine would “so overpower that 4 cylinder engine in that pathetic excuse for a car” that I wasn’t too worried. Neither of us had counted on the teenage Festiva boy being so motivated, though. I didn’t know he would have so much invested in this contest. Again, I was still, naively unaware that this particular intersection crossing was so full of bragging rights for him at school on Monday morning.

For the briefest of moments the boy thought he had a chance. For the briefest of moments, he was right beside me. I looked over and saw the driven look of intent on the teenage boy’s face. He looked back at me and thought he saw a passive, married mother of two beautiful children whom she would never sacrifice for a street race. He was so wrong. By this time, the husband was desperate for control of our vehicle. My poor start off the line was most embarrassing for him. He pressed his imaginary gas pedal to the floor again and muttered something unintelligible about 3rd gear.

It was right about then that the true irresponsible spirit and flashes of rage so common in the unspoken race began to overtake me. I grabbed the shifter and shocked both myself and the husband a bit by downshifting hard into third gear. I punched the accelerator just like the husband was doing on his side of the car and began to accelerate much more quickly than necessary ahead of the unfortunate aqua pseudo car. And then…I kept going. After all, a win in the unspoken intersection race should be a convincing win, without a doubt. I was so intent, in fact, on making a point, that I accelerated well beyond the necessary limits of friendly intersection racing. And it was so much fun. Way more fun than it should have been. I laughed my way for miles. The husband approved. The children pretended it was daddy that was driving and hid their eyes.

My family managed to live through this unfortunate, completely unsafe intersection transaction. I do not recommend that you emulate my behavior in any way. Parts of me are even somewhat ashamed of myself. That teenage boy however, was most unhappy with his loss. When he finally caught up to me he drove about 3 inches off my bumper for about 12 miles until we rolled into the next town and the road again expanded to two lanes. And when it did, having shaken the raging demons of the unspoken race and returned to the world of common sense and safe mommy driving, I casually and most maturely veered off into the right lane. The angry teenager, with much effort, jerked to the left, and then I assume, he floored it. After about a minute, he passed me in the left lane. And as he passed me, I must admit, that I found myself thinking about how easy and how much fun it would be to beat that punk kid to the next light.

Check This Out!
This week the Slightly Exaggerated staffers have been obsessed with the Mark Knopfler song, What It Is, the Queensryche version of the song, Almost Cut My Hair and, after their fabulous Grammy performance, the Foo Fighters and their song, The Pretender.


Anonymous said...

Totally loved your account...great place to race is left lane, right lane on the Southbound Kincaid St exit going up Lincoln Hill. Try racing the Sheriff's's awesome!!

Anonymous said...

What a great way to start my day! Laughing out loud! Totally can see "the husband" pretending in the passenger seat. Hey, how did you get him to let you drive?