I witnessed something incredible the other night. It was the 2015 Toyota Camry "Drums" commercial. In it, a husband and wife are on the way to their Camry when they hear their neighbour's teenage garage band. Perturbed, the woman sits down at the drums and does a Neil Peart impression. The kids are gobsmacked. Then she climbs into the driver's seat with hubby riding shotgun.
The tagline? "The bold new Camry, as unexpected as the people who drive it. One bold choice leads to another."
"That's interesting," my wife said. "The woman drives."
The bold choice was not the Camry, but the woman driving. We like to think of ourselves as enlightened and, in many respects, women and men are seen as equals. There is one realm, however, where no progress has been made. When a man and a woman are in an automobile, the man drives. Unless he is drunk, has a broken limb or is in some other way impaired, he's driving. Even if the woman owns the car, she can end up the passenger. I've heard of men so threatened by the notion of being squired around by a female that they would insist on driving even if their date owned the car.
I mentioned this to my wife. She was not surprised. "When my uncle was in his eighties, he was virtually blind, and he still drove," she said. "My aunt Alice would sit beside him and say: 'Stop sign. Turn left. Red light. Okay, the light is green. You can go.'"
Really? We've got stay-at-home dads, female CEOs and female serial killers. Equality on all fronts. How can being a passenger be worse than changing diapers? Why are North American men so hellbent on driving and why are women letting them?
The obvious answer is the metaphorical nature of driving. If you're driving, you're in charge. Most men believe this. It appears women are okay with allowing them to, whether it's true or not. Another aspect is the male sex's habit of appropriating any job that's fun and making it a "man's job."
Let's survey some typically male gigs:
Barbecuing: Standing around in the sun, drinking a beer, watching meat cook. Woman spends hours making complex salads, then everyone tells man how great the steaks are.
Going to basement to fix things: Time alone, satisfaction of fixing things, if unable to fix can claim they were unfixable to begin with.
Lawn mowing and snow shovelling: Alone in fresh air.
Topping this list would be "driving car." Men like driving because it's fun. It also relieves us of many unfun responsibilities. For instance, when I'm driving, I don't have to navigate. That more difficult task is left to my spouse. Driving also occupies my mind. I have something to do. I don't have to talk. When I'm in the passenger seat all I have to do is look nervously out the window and press my right foot against the invisible ghost brake on the passenger side.
Insecurity and selfishness aside, there's one other reason that men insist on driving. We believe we are better drivers. Nothing bears this out. In actuality, women get in fewer accidents. Logically, it also is counter-intuitive. You'll trust this person to have and raise your children but you won't let her drive? Seems odd. Personally, I drive because I love driving and I am a naturally selfish person. I make no apologies. It's me first. That's part of my charm.
Pragmatically, the better driver should drive. I'm assuming that's what happens with same-sex couples. Well, hoping is a better word. I'd like to believe there is one form of human coupling that is a meritocracy.
Maybe this is another win for smug cyclists. You ride your bike. She rides hers and everybody's happy – unless it's a two-seater.
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