My Life On Wheels

By Di Chapman

Behold a woman driver—me. After I traumatized my car recently by deciding to use a curb as a right lane, I started thinking about my life on wheels—the adventures, dumb things I’ve done, and miles I’ve racked up.

My husband cringes when I back out of the garage with a five-inch clearance on either side. He has good reason. I’ve had girlfriends take off half the car trying to negotiate their garages. I once banged into a cement barricade in a parking garage as I attempted to make a tight turn. I’ve tried to sneak my car into the garage many a time with some kind of infirmity, I hope he won’t notice. Fat chance. It became evident that he does a once-over with my car every day. I’m dead in the water.

A study was done several years ago where men described their biggest fears about their relationships. Ready for this? They agreed that once their ladies got behind the wheel with them, they feared for their lives. One night, I was the designated driver after a party. My husband literally held on with white knuckles thinking he was going to die.

Him: “The light’s red, the light’s red!”
Me: “Yes, I know.”
Him: “There’s a stop sign! There’s a stop sign!”
Me: “Yes, I see it.”
Him: “Be careful, be careful on the turn!”
Me: “Yes, Honey.”

Mind you, had we been on the freeway, he would have fainted. We made it home. He kissed the ground.

I remember watching a journalist’s interview with leaders in Saudi Arabia. The subject of the ban on women drivers came up. “Women are not allowed to drive here. They shouldn’t drive.” My husband agreed. “He’s right, you know.” Guess what? Out of the city, they interviewed women who were bombing around driving cars. “We don’t let that stop us out here.”

My life on wheels started on my 16th birthday. I had license in hand.

I picked up girlfriends and cruised the city streets of Seattle and surroundings, getting stuck on steep hillsides and revving up for freeways. We were a Dodge family then, with Darts, Coronets, and a nine-passenger Wagon. A few tiny British and French cars dotted the inventory. (Dad liked those.)

Shortly thereafter, my family moved to Lake Havasu City, Arizona. It was 1972. The desert highways were picturesque, wide open, and serene. I cruised them as a teen, feeling lucky to experience such beauty.

Las Vegas and Mexico were both three- to four-hour drives. Vegas was small then, with one shopping mall and a few hotels. Its airport was a trailer. I’d grab a girlfriend and we’d jump into my dad’s huge Chevy boat and drive to Vegas on the roller coaster highway created by washes. With Nevada’s no speed limit, we flew 90 miles an hour. (We didn’t tell mom and dad.)

The border crossing at Yuma, Arizona was easy, and the streets there were safe. (I know, right?) A girlfriend and I still laugh at one trip when we crossed back into the U.S. and saw a building up ahead and a roadside sign: Army Officers Stop. You know, like Army officers were supposed to stop. We looked at each other. “We’re not Army officers.” We blew on through, waving at soldiers. I looked in the rearview mirror and saw one jumping up and down, waving his arms. Hmmm. I backed up.

We, two blonde teenage girls, giggled as we looked up at the soldier. Honest to Pete, we explained, “We saw the sign but didn’t stop because we’re not Army officers.” He laughed and waved us on. We gave him a great blonde story that day.

I’ve driven cross-country, up, down, and sideways. I’ve sweet-talked my way out of tickets, except with CHIPS in California. (Remember Erik Estrada?) My brother once warned me that I could cruise through the desert of Arizona at 75 MPH but only until the California border. “Immediately, when you cross it don’t go over 72.” I don’t know how he always knew these specific numbers. I didn’t ask.

One day, I sailed into California going 75. Out of nowhere appeared a CHIP Mustang, lights flashing. The patrolman was direct. “Driver’s license and registration, please.” I gave him my most chipper response. “Here’s your ticket. Have a nice day.” He was gone.

Driving always brings excitement. There was the time I drove over my husband’s toolbox in the garage. And the time I forgot to close the gas cap after I finished at the pump. It bounced and bounced as I drove away. There was what I call the curb hangup, where my front end got caught on a cement curb. My husband arrived from his office in suit and tie, pulled some gym towels out of the trunk, and slid the car down. How do men know how to do these things?

There was the time I spilled a smoothie all over the car interior. I spent $85 plus tip on a car wash and detailing. And the time I “mis-negotiated” that right turn and traveled around it on the curb. I limped home on an injured tire.

Oh, then there was that time I had a flat tire on the San Diego Freeway. Fortunately, I was wearing a short skirt, fishnet hose, and high heels. Yes, my flat was fixed in five minutes. True story!

I figure it’s a God-given right for women to ding their cars, flatten their tires, and mess up their interiors with kids, dogs, crumbs, and drinks.

But you know who impresses me? Amazing women school bus drivers. With me driving a bus, children would be on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. I’d be taking out mailboxes and telephone poles.

I tip my hat to you, ladies. Nobody can call you all women drivers. ❍

Di Chapman is an inspirational author and speaker, and a branding consultant. Di’s latest book is Rekindle Your Purpose: Break through your disappointments, discouragements, and detours to resurrect your purpose and live it! Contact Di at