Writing Challenges

Behind The Wheel

Welcome to day 4 of 30 Days of Writing, a creative writing challenge. Yeah, I was AWOL for day 3. “Behind the Wheel” is today’s prompt.

Many summers ago I had a job as a bus boy at this fancy country club way out on the edge of the city. It was a terrible job and we were treated like dirt, but I was working with some friends, which took some of the edge off. I had a room at the club too, so once a week, my dad would give me a ride there and I’d find my way back a few days later.

Now the thing about driving with my dad, is that his driving scares the crap out of me. It still does. I always appreciated the ride but the journey itself was sometimes so stressful that I’d need an hour to calm down once we’d reached our destination.

I become the worst back seat driver when it comes to my dad’s driving.

“You cut that guy off!”
“Ah…he sees me!”
“You’re driving on the line!”
“I like my space!”

You get the idea.

So one morning we’re on our way and I’m not particularly stressed out by my dad’s driving at all. It’s early, a clear summer morning, and we’re riding in silence.

A dump truck soon comes up on our left side, passes and moves about a car length ahead of us when their rear axle snaps. In a split second the truck’s entire rear wheel detaches and comes bounding down the highway towards us, right past my father’s driver side window, and out of sight.

We didn’t see where the wheel ended up because we were fixed now on this huge lumbering dump truck in front of us, its broken axle grinding into the asphalt at 80km an hour and filling the road with sparks with the driver wrestling to bring the machine to a halt.

I don’t think we said a word to each other until we were off the highway.

Every so often I have to bring up that event to my dad, just to confirm that it really happened.

These days, I don’t get as stressed out by his driving, but there are moments where tucking and rolling sounds like a pretty good option. I do know that we’ve always made it to our destinations in one piece with my father behind the wheel.


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  • Whoa…

    ….and I thought I had seen it all when a car with a camper (one of those poptop campers on it) careened off the road in front of us one December as my parents and me were on our way to N.C. when I was younger. At least, the camper just went off the side of the road without trying to hit us. I don’t remember if — or how badly– the people in the car were hurt.

  • Your tale of driving with your Dad brings back memories. My Dad was the same and whenever I sat in the passenger seat I’d about have a heart attack. His driving earned him the nickname “Mr. Magoo” which we still lovingly use long after he passed away.

  • I have come to the conclusion that everyone on the planet thinks that whoever is driving is not doing it right.  That has to be the case as my husband has never killed us and I think his driving sucks.  He is quick to point out that I am the one with a ticket on my record right now and had another one fixed to so it wouldn’t be on my record.  My defense is of course speeding without a wreck is just speeding. 

  • Wow! That would make me never want to drive myself!

  • You inadvertanly (or maybe vertantly, I don’t know) make a very good point.  ‘Combat’ driving (as I sometimes call it) trains you to react with quick decisive moves rather than panic.  I’m going to have to start telling my wife that the next time she complains.

  • mikewjattoomanymornings

    You feel about your father the same way my entire family feels about me, which sort of makes me sad.

    You’re lucky you weren’t hit by that wheel. Could’ve been deadly.

  • Well, wouldn’t that just get your heart pumping!

  • Wow!  That was scary!

    I don’t know a driver that isn’t a bad back seat driver.

  • Y’all were lucky you weren’t hit.  As a passenger I would have screamed and ducked.  Not helpful reactions…just reactions.

    I frequently wonder where people learn to drive, but Daddy was an excellent driver.  He drove the 18-wheelers for a living.

  • Holy crap. That had to be one of the craziest and scariest things to happen in your life, eh? Wow.

  • Tami Von Zalez

    That has happened to me more than once ~ the first being a tire that came off a truck barreling down the freeway (luckily the debris missed all nearby drivers), and the second I was behind a logging truck whose metal strap around the logs broke loose and phlanged (is that a word?  It is now …) onto the roadway.  

    You two are fortunate to have come out of that unscathed.  


  • Ellie Belen

    This is my biggest fear.  Something big falls off a truck or from behind a truck and comes bounding toward me.  Lucky you guys.

  • That would have scared me to death!  It’s one thing if it’s your dad’s fault and you get creamed (then he has to treat you as the favorite from then on), but this was beyond anybody’s control.  Damn scary business.  I hate to drive and I’m very happy walking just about any place I go.  I’m so glad you weren’t hurt! Damn!

  • Even at regular speed limits, when something touches your moving vehicle, you can go out control in an instant. This was probably the most surreal thing that’s ever happened to me on the road.

  • Oh, that would have been my late Grandfather. When the last car he ever owned was stolen, we rejoiced.

  • I think you’re very right about that. Cars have got to be the greatest invention if only for the way they seduce our egos. A car and one’s driving becomes a very personal matter over time.

  • Ha!  My mom was like you when I was behind the wheel.  She kept trying to push the non-existent brake pedal in the passenger side.  It made me laugh for I always wondered what was going through the mind of the guy who tested me for my driver’s license.  😉

  • And yet somehow the memory fades and we merge onto the highways anyway. Makes you think though.

  • I agree with you 100% on that one. Once you’ve been driving for a certain period of time you can develop skills to avoid accidents and preempt certain situations.

  • Yep, we were inches from it. Most surreal thing I’ve ever experienced. On the road that is.

  • Now that’s an understatement 🙂

  • I don’t even own a car and I still become one when I ride in one. 

  • That’s impressive. I’ve driven all kinds of vehicles from cars to small trucks, but 18 wheelers….those are huge.

  • Scariest and again, most surreal experience ever. I still have trouble believing it.

  • So are you. Wow, logs coming off a logging truck…now that’s scary!

  • You’re right there. Following a loaded truck on the highway is not one of my favorite activities.

  • Yep, it’s a metaphor for fate and being at the mercy of the road and whatever lays (or rolls) upon it. How lucky we were was definitely not lost on us.

  • Yeah, I know that ghost brake well 🙂 There’s also the right arm workout by gripping the passenger door handle in fear.

  • Um… totally terrifying!!

    But this made me laugh: “These days, I don’t get as stressed out by his driving, but there are
    moments where tucking and rolling sounds like a pretty good option.”


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