Roxanne Tellier – Under My Wheels

roxsepia2Just before we started taping the Bobcast last week, I was telling our producer, Brian Jedan, about a friend of mine who used to volunteer at “Meals Without Wheels.” Apparently that’s not what it’s called.

You see, the whole driving thing, cars, and all that … it’s a different world for me. I’ve been around vehicles all of my life, I can even convert miles to kilometers, almost … but driving is just not something I’ve ever mastered.

Roxanne TrailerI’ve always liked the idea of driving. My kids drive, so I know it can be done, even by girls! But for me, maybe not.  I dream of hitting the road. The open road! Yes! Road trip! Road food! But I might have to commandeer a funky caravan, pulled by unicorns.  My history with driving is just too dicey.

My Dad was a mechanic and he had a saying … until you can strip down a car and put it back together in running order, you can’t drive. Fair enough, I Unicornsthought, makes sense.  Later I found out that Dad might have been confusing cars with gun maintenance and safety. Dad didn’t think women really needed to learn to drive, and he probably thought he was doing the world a favour by keeping me off the road. He was probably right.

Harley GirlMy first serious boyfriend had a motorcycle, and that was a whole sort of cult in Montreal. I had a huge basement, and Dad let the boys bring the bikes in for the winter. They’d gather in the back, soaking chains in oil, talking spark plugs, and doing that Tim Allen man laugh …ar ar ar. BSA’s, Nortons, Harleys … I was a biker chick, babe! I hung with the bad boys.

Michael finally let me drive the motorcycle … I was ready to roll. One up, two down, three up … yep… I was rocking that bike. But when we came to a stop 67 350 Yamahalight, the bike and I would fall over. Even a ’67 350 Yamaha was too hefty for me. Ah, youth.  I can still hear that wonderful “yingadingayingadinga’ sound of the bike coming around the corner. We pushed that thing up and down the hills of Montreal for years. Spark plugs. Never trust a spark plug.

We got married, and Michael gave up the bike and bought a car. Then he tried to teach me to drive by letting me cruise down de Maisonneuve. Michael, riding shotgun, and the baby, in the back seat, would be screaming madly as I tore up the road. How was I to concentrate? And why that street, which at that time ended in a School for the Blind’s property? Madness, I say. And that bystander moved really fast, considering the cane and all. End of driving lesson.

Second husband promised me I could have his little red Mustang if I could get my license.  Toronto streets are crazy enough, but they also have these streetcar grooves. Somehow the car wheels got caught in one, and I almost took out a row of houses. The driving instructor was not amused.

Roxy - Screaming in CarBut I was game, so I tried again, Warden and Eglinton. Hands at two and ten, concentrating fiercely. I thought I was doing pretty well. But it was after a rain, and the streets were wet. I drove right through a massive puddle, the engine drowned, and I cried.  Okay, I panicked. The instructor and I walked back to the licensing station together. The instructor might have been crying a little at that point as well.

By far the worst decision I ever made was to move to Scarborough, land of all things mall–ish and car-ish. “I’ll drive!” I promised, “I CAN do it!”

I got a learner’s permit.  I felt invincible. My husband patiently sat beside me as we went around and around the parking lot. He explained why and how to maneuver the vehicle on the road and in traffic.

But learn to drive, I could not. I was just too frightened. Don’t people know they’re driving two thousand pounds of metal that could hurt another person, or smash into another two thousand pounds of metal? It’s beyond me.

I gave up. The lack of viable transportation in the area soon had me housebound. I was Peter Pumpkin’s wife, in a pumpkin shell, utterly unable to do the things I wanted to do. And there I was kept very well.

Roxy - eBikeI biked for a bit, but the hills of East Avenue are legendary, and have killed lesser women than myself. For a while I had a fling with electric bikes   Careening across the lawns of Scarborough, like a crazed female Steve McQueen in “The Great Escape,” I was a mad woman unleashed going up to 12 miles an hour! I ran several ebikes into the ground. The bikes had problems with the loads I wanted to carry. I am a harsh mistress and a deadly garage sale negotiator.

About 10 years ago, I conceived a terrible fear of driving in cars. When I’m shotgun, I’m the white knuckled passenger you never want to encounter. I clutch the door handle, wince, and keep my legs permanently locked in crash position while muttering “watch out! Oh! Careful! Close! Let me out!”

Even so, I brave the odd car. One of my friends has a fleet of vehicles. She will pop by in an expensive, low-slung, sports car to take me to lunch. Or drive me home on her Harley. Once we took Kingston Road all the way to where it pretends to be a highway, and she let ‘er rip.  It was terrific! I love bikes! My hair was snapping in the wind, my jowls were keeping time with a ‘wocka wocka’ sound … good times …

For now, I’m a slave to the Toronto TTC.  Man proposes, the TTC disposes … Toronto likes to boast that it’s a world class city, but when it comes to transportation, it’s one of the least classy in the world. Sure, it’s a big city, but “The Better Way” gets me from here to downtown, 21 miles, in two hours, via a bus, an RT, a subway, and another bus. I can take the GO train to my friend’s place in Port Hope, 67 miles away, in an hour and a half, with just a transfer to a GO bus.

Roxy - Audi-PuddleI’m guessing that I’m never going to learn to drive; I’m set in my ways, and there’s just too many cars out there, racing in all directions to places and events they can’t wait to get to. I salute your bravery. But the next time you see me, shivering at the bus stop, offer me a ride. Or at least try to avoid driving through that puddle as you zoom past.

= RT =

Roxanne’s column appears here every Sunday 

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

DBAWIS_ButtonRoxanne Tellier has been singing since she was 10 months old … no, really. Not like she’s telling anyone else how to live their lives, because she’s not judgmental, and most 10 month olds need a little more time to figure out how to hold a microphone. After years of doing things she didn’t want to do, she’s found herself working with a bunch of crazy people who are as batshit crazy and devoted to music as she is, and so she can be found every Monday at Cherry Cola’s, completely unable to think of anything funny to say, as the co-host of Bob Segarini’s The Bobcast. Come and mock her. She’s good with that. And she laughs. A lot. But not at you.

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One Response to “Roxanne Tellier – Under My Wheels”

  1. don’t forget R. You told me you would drive me to the liquor store tomorrow to load up on beer and wine and other driving tools. Can’t wait. roll down the window in case we puke. ya who.

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