There are so many toy cars in this house. Some of them my son inherited from me, old enough to have “West Germany” imprinted on their undercarriage.
Recently, he wanted attention and brought over two cars that he got on Christmas.
“What if two cars are identical in a race?” he asked. “Who would win?”
“Then it depends on the skill of the driver,” I replied.
“What if those skills are identical?” he asked.
“Then it’s the driver who had the extra coffee that morning.”
My mom at the table piped in, “There’s always someone better.”
He nodded and scampered off before I could think of a way to slide in a baby version of the topic of intersectionality.
Did one driver have the privilege to have access to fast cars since they were a kid? Did the other driver do their best to learn the roads and car, and even if they never grew up around cars, still ended up winning the race? At 6, I’m not sure he’s ready for that conversation, but life will always point out your experiences and privilege.
When I started to drive at 15, we lived in a town surrounded by agricultural plains. For reference, the truck stop was the only place my friends and I hung out, acquiring a taste for coffee.
Eager to use my permit, my dad speculated we could drive three streets over from our suburban home, and I would have a wide-enough berth to be a clumsy beginner driver.
“She’s not going to hit anything… or anyone,” he said. “We’d just find her in a ditch.”
Like most 15-year-olds, my friends loved driving around aimlessly. Since I had the privilege of a car that ran more often (thanks to a father who did mechanics on planes and translated that to cars somewhat successfully), I did a lot of driving.
I became a less-distracted driver as time wore on, especially when my best friend did things like hang out of my passenger window and scribble “art” on the door.
When I was 18, I went on my first solo trip to visit my family in Europe. The distant cousins, all roughly my age or older, sat around over coffee and cake speculating about what their first cars would be when they’d finally get their driver’s license. A Ford Fiesta was the pinnacle of cool for them.
“What are you going to get?” asked a cousin, attempting to include me in conversation.
I sipped coffee and said, “I have a Chevy. It’s like an American cop car from the ’80s.”
“You have a car? You drive?” someone asked.
The conversation at our end of the table quieted as they all looked at me.
“Yeah, I’ve been driving for a few years …” They interrupted with low “wows,” but I continued.
“But it’s not like here, it’s like, you can drive for an hour through my state and not see another car. It takes a few hours to get from my town to … anywhere.”
Inconceivable to them.
On the last trip I took to Germany, when I brought my two children to introduce them to my Opa, the customs agent was incredulous that we were driving from Amsterdam to Germany.
“It’s only three hours,” I said. “That’s nothing.”
It may have been something for my aunt, white-knuckling the drive back as I slept, driving under the speed limits, and taking over four hours.
When I drove back from Germany to Amsterdam in three hours, I hummed along at 135 kilometers an hour — or 80ish mph — keeping up with traffic and still getting passed.
She commented on speed as the kids watched the same white and black road markers that I used to watch out of the backseat of the car.
“This feels like a safe speed to me, about what you can drive in parts of Texas,” I said. “You know what they say about the difference between Europe and America?”
She shook her head.
“Americans think that 100 years is a long time, and Europeans think 100 miles is a long way.”
— Cassie McClure is a writer, wife/mama/daughter, fan of the Oxford comma, and drinker of tequila. Some of those things relate. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow her on Twitter: @TheCMcClure. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.