There are two times when it is okay for my wife to drive our car:
1. I've had one of those evenings. The sort on which, well, let's just say I've exceeded my limit. The sort of night when, halfway through, I turn to her and make the kind of question/statement that could only be fuelled by a three-drink buzz, something like "I'm getting drunk?" The kind of evening that ends with a query such as "Is it okay to mix port with vodka?" When this happens, the keys are hers. I'm in the passenger seat trying to use mindfulness meditation techniques to combat my impending hangover.
2. I am not in the car.
Judging by the couples I see driving by me every day, I'm not alone. Rare is the sight of a lady sporting around her squire. Credit our trademark masculine insecurity or chalk it up to survival instinct but men don't like their women operating their vehicle. It's not that we are afraid of female drivers, per se. Most of us, for instance, have no problem with a female pilot or trucker. No, men have trouble with female drivers they know.
To ride shotgun with the love of your life, with the mistress of your heart, is to stare into the abyss. It is to take a ride so harrowing that it makes anything Canada's Wonderland can throw at you feel like a front row seat to a Wiggles reunion concert on three hits of Xanax.
Sure, statistically speaking, women drivers are superior. Yes, almost every survey or study conducted shows that women get in fewer accidents, drive slower, are less prone to road rage, and are more careful in general (although not always). If you go only by the facts, women are not only better but it should be illegal for men to drive (and probably vote). True, my wife has had fewer accidents, and according to my insurance company she is a far lesser risk. But decades of research, international insurance companies and basic common sense can be deceiving.
For instance, if women are such steady roadsters why is it that they find it so difficult to parallel park? A recent poll by Harris Interactive (commissioned by Ford) found that 43 per cent of female drivers rated their parallel parking ability as "fair" or "poor" versus 21 per cent of male drivers.
It's a universal complaint. You can take the most accomplished female, a woman so steely that she could chew nails and spit out pewter, and if asked to reverse at an angle she'd disintegrate into a twitching mess. What about all those professional female race car drivers, you might ask. Last time I checked they ran those races forward. If IndyCar series races were all driven in reverse, there would be no Danica Patrick. Put simply: when it comes to going backwards we men have the market cornered.
So, if men, whether driven by anxiety or ego, are permanently glued to the driver's seat we can assume that women are happy to be perched perennially beside them.
Think again. The typical road trip in any "coupled-car" would surely involve at least one exasperated female scream, frequent stomps by the passenger on the ghost brake, and a lot of wincing. Enlightened, or perhaps burdened, with an in-depth understanding of her male companion, most women suppress a fair bit of highway second-guessing. It is unclear how this plays out in same-sex couples but it's likely that the more monosyllabic of the two gets to drive.
Man's domain behind the wheel is sure to be among the last of the 1950s era gender-biases to die because it caters to the testosterone-defined attraction to any activity that involves zero-to-limited eye contact. What characteristic do the quintessential male pastimes of fishing, golf and driving all share? You're supposed to be looking at the lake, the ball or the road. That's the reason experts say so many great conversations happen when we're driving. We're looking ahead not scrutinizing each other. Ideas flow without the filter being on.
While we've all enjoyed the ride, there are some who maintain that we fellows should switch things up. What have we got to lose? Next time you're off to the cottage, or out for the Sunday drive, grab a magazine, a coffee and throw her the keys. There are certain advantages to being in the passenger seat. I can attest to this from personal experience. For example, sleeping when you are driving is really difficult but sleeping while a passenger is downright easy.
Apart from that, however, it pretty much sucks.