Driving out of lockdown

By George Stahl

Four cars pull up to a four-way stop at the same time. Who goes first? With all of the anxiety surrounding the reopening of the world and things returning to what we called normal, people seem to have forgotten that is not as easy as it sounds.

Depending on who is doing the math, we have been in lockdown mode for 58 days. Most of those days people have chosen to stay inside their houses, apartments, parent’s basements, and garages. Going outside for nothing.

Food has been delivered. Children have been homeschooled, some fortunate enough, have been able to work from home, and even medications have been delivered. When these people were told to stay at home…. they have stayed at home. Some have even canceled doctor visits.

Others have seen it essential, while following strict social distancing rules, to go out to grocery stores, doctor’s offices, veterinarians’ offices, and Walmart or Target. Both of those retailers have grocery sections, so, they are essential. The clothes and housewares they carry act as a bonus to the customers. Eat your hearts out Macy’s and J.C. Penney’s. Or, maybe you can have a produce section or a butcher shop? These self-quarantined prefer to feel the melons they are purchasing rather than have that responsibility relinquished to a stranger. After all, who wants someone they have never meet handling their melons?

Those goer outers have been braving the traffic scene and have been staying on top of their driving game. Traffic understandably is estimated to be about half of what it was 59 days ago, allowing for these drivers to keep their turning, lane changing, and parking lot navigation skills sharp.

Throw a new element into this ballet of transportation perfection. The isolationists. These drivers have not seen the inside of a vehicle for 58 days! They have not had a steering wheel in their hands, a seat belt around their torso, and have not had to use both feet simultaneously while in a sitting position to do anything for 58 long, mind-numbing days. Playing NASCAR or

The Fast and the Furious on your X-Box does not match the quick-thinking reflexology necessary to avoid contact with a fast-moving, unidirectional 5-ton vehicle headed towards you in a narrow parking lot lane.

In the past week, some places have been reopened, and patrons have been allowed to return. Unfortunately, those patrons do not live within walking distance to the reanimated establishments. They have to drive to get there.

As a consequence, many of them, who have been garaged in the safety of their homes, have forgotten the fundamentals of driving, beyond the initial starting of the car, and backing out of the driveway. Once on the streets, they are like babies learning how to crawl. Like the baby who is experimenting with a freedom of mobility, the unquarantined is trying to remember what is what, and where it is supposed to go.

If you are standing on the curb, it is like witnessing a new troop of trapezes artists matching wits with the Flying Wallendas. Ironically, auto insurance companies have been so kind as to prorate, or even refund dollar amounts to their insured. Hoping this gesture might elevate a certain amount of financial pain, seeing that people were not driving during the lockdown.

Well, we’ll see how well that calculated move from the Gecko, the guy with good hands, that guy who’s seen a thing or two, and Denis Quade’s internet insurance character, pays off when all of the fender bender claims start coming in.
B.C. Driving Schools, (Before COVID-19) could soon be cropping up across the country. If they do, just to let you know now, I have dibs on the Copywrite on the term B.C. Driving School. The classes will include refresher courses on parking, using turn signals, and when to use your horn.

A hand gesture course will also be included. Using your arm to signify a turn right or left, get your mind out of the gutter. Those other gestures will come back to the absentee drivers on instinct. Unfortunately, instinct will not be enough for the other driving talents.

One of the major courses will be driving through a parking lot. That seems to be the most needed. Pulling out of a parking spot, pulling into a parking spot. Letting the pedestrians have the first crack at the crosswalk, and remembering stop signs in parking lots have a purpose.

To be fair, it is not entirely the fault of the suddenly released. Naturally, if something is taken away from someone long enough, they will not remember the details on how to use the skill they once had. Relearning it, or taking a refresher on the subject may be necessary.

Not everything we do is like riding a bike. We do forget. Unfortunately, that will not hold up in court, so before you get back behind the wheel of your car, remember what you can, practice what you need to, and for everyone’s sake, don’t unthink and drive.