Posted by Bill (not IB) | Wednesday, May 14th, 2014 | Uncategorized | 14 Comments

As a kid, I spent a lot of time in the family car, along with the rest of the family – Dad, Mom, and older brother “Chip”. Whenever there was somewhere to go, it was by car – be it the shopping plaza, my grandparent’s home (about an hour away by back roads), or from upstate New York to vacation in lovely Duluth, Minnesota.

We had a version of the “Wagon Queen Family Truckster” which you may recall from National Lampoon’s “Vacation”. Ours was a 1965 Chevrolet Bel Air Wagon, with plastic seat covers in the rear seat, for the protection of the upholstery and the year-round discomfort of children’s backsides. Of course, Dad always drove, Chip and I were in the rear seat, and Mom was in the “co-pilot’s” position.

But Mom never did really “co-pilot.” Despite the fact that Chip and I were the ones actually sitting on the plastic seat covers, my Mom was quite the back seat driver.

She had a particular specialty of asking Dad questions that were impossible to answer. For example, we might be cruising through the “center” of a small town – where the business district of Main Street was perhaps a mile or so long. She’d say, “Vince, where is the store that had the sale on hats the last time we drove through?” Almost without fail, we would have already passed that store, and so Dad would say “It’s behind us, Mildred.” And here’s where the real skill in driver annoyance came into play: Mom would say, “Where? Point it out to me.” Which, of course, Dad couldn’t do – not without turning around and ceasing to watch the road, and taking his hands off the steering wheel.

This inevitably ended in Mom accusing Dad of not being quick enough to point things out, and Dad (whose wisdom over the years in dealing with Mom has been a source of inspiration to me) just continued driving, while clutching the steering wheel with a death grip and saying “Yes, dear.”

In the course of many years, this kind of thing never changed. My Dad always drove the car, and my Mom always drove my Dad nuts. Once or twice I asked about “Why doesn’t Mom drive some of the time?” I figured that turnabout is fair play; put Dad in the right-hand seat and he could have some long overdue fun at my Mom’s expense. There must have been some REALLY good reason Dad wouldn’t ride in the car with my Mom behind the wheel. (There was – as I’ve come to learn in adulthood, she’s an atrocious driver. Our teenage daughter was terrorized whenever Grandma wanted to drive her someplace.)

But that never happened. Dad was always the driver.

So, where am I going with this?

It was all brought back to mind when I saw this article about how one husband dealt with his wife taking the wheel of the family car:

“A Saudi man has reportedly divorced his wife after she sent him a video clip of her driving a car in a public place in the kingdom.

Local news website Sabq reported that the wife sent him the clip on Whatsapp, expecting to surprise her husband.

However, according to the website, the man argued that his wife had broken the law and the social traditions and norms. The husband told a judge that he asked his wife to go and stay with her family until the divorce papers are processed.

Saudi Arabia has a de-facto ban on women driving, which the country’s Grand Mufti has described as a way to protect the society from “evil.”

The issue of women driving has been a tense debate in the kingdom for years, but last year it gained international media attention. The decision to cancel the campaign was taken after a wave of uproar from ultra-conservative scholars and following an interior ministry warning.

I don’t think that Dad would have divorced Mom just because of her driving, but I suspect that during some of those long summer road trips (without air conditioning, of course) he may have given thought to divorce on the grounds of “excessive mental and emotional cruelty.”

The real punch-line is that Mom wrecked our “family truckster” one morning as she was driving myself and three other 5th-graders to school as part of a neighborhood car pool. She failed to pay proper attention at a 4-way intersection, and T-boned another car. For quite a while after that, she was a lot quieter in the car with Dad.

And, in spite of it all – this year, God willing, my parents will celebrate their 67th wedding anniversary.


May 14, 2014

Well, what with all the “back seat driving” induced by this legislation in various Islamic countries,not just Saudi Arabia, I am thinking it’s another indication that Islam is falsely touted as the “religion of peace,” – but that is just me.

May 14, 2014

Your Dad could teach the Episcolopians and pan-se-xual activists a thing or two about Tolerance (TM).

67 years of Tolerance and counting. May they make it well past 70.

May 14, 2014

Great story. May your parents’ marriage continue to bless their family.

Muslim marriage isn’t like Christian marriage. It can be dissolved at the whim of the husband for any reason at all. When we were in Egypt there was a case in the news about a woman who wanted to know if she was legally divorced when her husband sent her SMS texts saying so. The court ruled that Muslim marriage can be dissolved by text message.

FW Ken
May 14, 2014

Ah, but did the family truckster have the faux-wood plastic panel on the dash? Or the third seat turned around backwards? My aunt had one of those and we always fought to sit in it.

May 14, 2014

My husband told our daughters that my parents moved their family out to Arizona in a covered wagon, but actually it was a green Chevy station wagon. Not a woody, alas.

Daniel Muller
May 14, 2014

Our family Truxter was a lime green (with dark green vinyl upholstery) 1969 Ford Country Squire, which of course “we” bought several years old. Being a Country Squire, it had vinyl wood grain on the sides — without that it would have been a lowly Country Sedan — but my dad thought that it looked so sad, as faded as it was, that he took it off and painted that area brown.

Unfortunately, and so uncoolly, I thought, the original purchaser had not paid for upholstery for the seats facing each other all the way in the rear, so there was only the metal seatbacks forming a trapdoor to the netherworld.

Daniel Muller
May 14, 2014

Three cheers for the Saudi green carpooling initiative. We could learn a thing or two from them.


May 14, 2014

Anybody but me wondering at Muslim ladies driving various types of vans* here?

*Actually at our house we call such vehicles “bloaters” after the special rail cars that carried fish to non-oceanic parts of Great Britain.

May 14, 2014

“Bloaters” are so 19th-century…

Allen Lewis
May 14, 2014

Nice story, Bill(not IB). May your parents have many more years of wedded bliss!

Dale Matson
May 15, 2014

The older a couple gets the more they take driving on as a team. For example, dad would help mom back their van out of a parking space. As she gradually declined from dementia dad would navigate and she would drive. He had physical problems that did not allow him to drive. After he passed on my brother disconnected the battery in her van to keep her from getting lost when she drove. There were too many police “escorts” for her at the end.

May 15, 2014

I’m certainly not justifying Muslim over reaction when it comes to driving or girls in school, but its obvious to me that their real concern is women becoming westernized, which is synonomous with denying their fertility and the reality of their God-given role with kids/husband in favor of professional, academic and financial self-satisfaction…all of which have detrimental outcomes.

Frankie N
May 16, 2014

“The older a couple gets the more they take driving on as a team.”

Twenty years as a home health nurse has taught me: if they are only “safe” when driving as a couple like you described, they sadly aren’t safe at all. Time for some tough love and taking the keys.

Bill (not IB)
May 16, 2014

FW Ken –

We didn’t have any faux wood; I think that was only available on Ford products. Our decor was strictly utilitarian blue metal and chrome.

We did have a painfully cold rear half of the vehicle. The section past the “back” seat was called the “wayback”, and during the summer Chip and I fought over it because you could lay down there without sticking to the plastic seat covers. But in the winter – the surface was metal, and there were no vents from the HVAC system – in fact, the only heat was in the front seat. Since having the heat set high enough to give some semblance of warmth in the back seat (let alone the wayback) caused the front seat to bake, we could never get warm during the *very* cold New York winters.

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