Dan leaves his one-ton security blanket on wheels at homeAny of you who have been in a long-term relationship know that there are certain, hmm, let’s call them “debates,” that crop up again and again.  One of those recurring issues between Allison and I stems from the fact that I like to drive everywhere, while she prefers to take mass transit whenever possible.  To be completely honest, she’s probably got much more of a leg to stand on than I do when it comes to this tug-of-transportation-war, but relationship issues and logic don’t often collide.  My stubbornness in this arena comes from the fact that I have been driving myself everywhere since the day I obtained my license.  Before my friends and I could drink alcohol, this was because I never wanted to be stuck when an arthritis fever hit, or a joint suddenly began to hurt.  After the magical age of twenty-one, I became the de facto chauffeur for all of my possibly-alcoholic cronies.  I was always sober because of the medication I was taking, plus the fact that when I get drunk, everyone present is treated to a Rocky Horror Picture Show of my own making.

So, as you imagine, it’s difficult for me to stop driving now.  In addition, I live in the suburbs of NYC and my doctors are all residents of the city, which equates to several trips to Manhattan each month.  Of course, I drive myself, each and every time.  It never even occurs to me to take mass transit, and it was only recently that I realized exactly why that is.  Even though I can come up with all the legitimate reasons in the world to dress up the issue at heart, when I get right down to brass tacks, the fact is that I have my very own, one-ton, gas-guzzling, security blanket.

Wow, did I blow your mind?  I certainly blew my own.  When I had this eureka moment I immediately realized why I don’t remember any significant events in the last twenty years when I was without my car.  In fact, my vehicle was such a ubiquitous fixture that people stopping asking for rides, and simply assumed (correctly) that I’d be providing transportation for the evening.  As I considered this, I also began to comprehend how violently I was affected when something interrupted the seemingly innocuous privilege of driving.  It was almost as if I suffered separation anxiety from my car – is that even possible?

First, there is the feeling of unease I experience every time I’m without a car.  The only way I can explain it is like a knot inside me that I can’t seem to untie, frequently lasting the entire evening or until I’m distracted enough to forget that I came without my own vehicle.  It’s a general feeling of insecurity, and it’s always there, lingering on the outskirts of my consciousness, poking its head in every now and then.  The second and more obvious symptom is that I get physically ill when riding as a passenger in any car.  Yes, I am aware motion sickness is a real condition, and I know that many others experience ill feelings when riding in the passenger seat.  For me, though, this “motion sickness” only seems to affect me when I’m not driving a car.  I don’t get sick on a boat, or jumping on a trampoline.

Why does this happen?  I think a psychologist could put his kids through college answering that question.  There are so many different reasons it’s difficult to address them all.  We all know what a security blanket does, in general, but I think the most obvious reason is that as long as I’m driving, I never completely give up control.  Control has always been a big thing for me, and I can only attribute this to the fact that I’ve never really been able to control the one thing that has affected my life the most – my illness.

Autoimmune disease is notorious for being fickle, with no rhyme or reason to the joints it chooses to affect.  Capriciously showing symptoms with no discernable pattern or path, my case of rheumatoid arthritis was especially aggressive, and, until recently, medicines barely mitigated the pain and discomfort.  So, because I wasn’t in control of my illness, I made sure I was in control of every other aspect of my life.  Having a car with me meant I could control when and where I went, and it also meant I could control how much of myself I showed to the outside world.  If it got too late and I began to run a fever, well, then it was time to go before my limp became too pronounced.  Having a car also meant that when deciding where to spend the night, I could have more say than others.  If the group was leaning towards a batting cage, let’s say, I could find some reason or other not to drive to that particular spot, thus saving myself the embarrassment of either not participating or trying to swing the bat and hurting myself in the process.  Having my car meant control, and so I became attached to it.

So, here I am now, with a fiancée who loves me, and friends who have proven themselves time and again, and I don’t need a 2000-pound binky any longer.  Knowing this, I decided I had to start somewhere, and on the night of the Michael Buble concert last week, I did the unthinkable – I left the car at home and Allison and I took the train.  To my great surprise, I didn’t spontaneously combust or weep uncontrollably.  In fact, we had a great time, Michael was superbly entertaining, and I even forgot I didn’t have my car for a few hours.  It won’t always be that easy, though, and I won’t always have the velvety voice of Michael Buble to distract me.  I’ll have to find a way to cope without a celebrity to distract me, though, because relying on anything too much can be dangerous. 

So, what’s your security blanket?