IN A MARRIAGE, THERE ALWAYS A BACK SEAT DRIVER

Two things happen when Martha (my wife) and I get in the car. (1) I’m driving, and (2) Martha criticizes me for it.
“You didn’t come to a complete stop, Bernie.”
“Wrong. I did.”
I turn right on Ribaut Rd.
“The other way’s shorter.”
“We’ve been over this a million times, Martha. I’ve timed it.”
“You have not. It’s obvious the other way’s shorter.”
“Is it now”?
Sigh. “Just take me home.”
“Take me home, take me home…to the place…I belong. West Virginia, my mountain Momma, take me home, Country Road…
“Sing it with me, Martha, I’ll harmonize.”
“Oh my God! Bernie!”
“What?!” I panic, stopping smack dab, at an angle, in the middle of the Ribaut Road/ Bay Street intersection.
“You turned right in front of that car!”
“Goddammit, Martha, you almost caused an accident!”
“That car would have hit my side. I would have been the one killed.”
“Right, caused by your panicking. Over nothing!”
She shakes her head, thoroughly disgusted; no room whatever for discussion.
What is wrong with her? Did I turn too early? Absolutely not. You know how I know? We’re still alive. Besides, the evidence is a mile down Bay by now.
So I shake my head, sigh, thoroughly disgusted, the weight of the world on my shoulders. She’s had it on hers too long.
She stares out the window, refusing to look my way.
“Martha, come on. Jeez…”
The Silent Treatment I have always considered one of the most perfidious forms of bullying, if not downright anti-semitic, and Martha is a Gentile, which is okay, I guess. But we Jews are not a quiet people. We are loud and obnoxious, the tribe with the runaway tongues. Check out the Israeli Parliament, or Beth Israel Synagogue, where all conversations are put on hold UNTIL the rabbi begins his sermon.
However, since Martha, like many of her ilk, prefers The Silent Treatment, I myself surrender to the forces of assimilation, and hold my tongue, which is really hard to do, especially while you’re driving. Try it.
“Bernie, what on earth are you doing?”
“Holding my tongue,” though it doesn’t come out that way. Holding your tongue is one thing, trying to talk while you’re doing it another.
“Get your hand out of your mouth.”
“I’m holding my tongue, like a Gentile, like you, so we can be more alike, and be closer to each other. See?”
“Wouldn’t it be easier just to convert? Bernie, take your hand out of your mouth. It’s crazy.”
“Okay, you ready. ‘Country Road.’ Sing it with me. Come on, Martha. You’re great on this song. I’ll harmonize.”
“Don’t you want your passenger to feel safe? Can’t you just be sensitive to my feelings?”
“Can’t you be sensitive to mine?”
“When my life’s in danger? Bernie, pay attention. Don’t look at the river. You’re looking at the boats. I see you. You can’t help it. You’re sneaking looks.”
“No, I’m not.”
“Look in front of you. You’re drifting in the other lane. Would you please put both hands on the wheel?”
I hold my tongue no longer.
“Why don’t you just drive instead of bitching? This has been going on every day for forty four years? And I end up asking you this every day for forty-four years.”
“Don’t roll down my window. It messes up my hair,” she says, pushing the button that raises it. “Bernie, unlock my window right now. It’s blowing my hair.”

I smile, perfectly content, at long last, at peace with myself.
“You,” she says, “are such a control freak. Unlock my window.”
I grin at her, unabashedly.
“This is not funny. You are not funny.”
But like the rest of the world, she can’t help herself, as I so graciously point out.
“You’re smiling,” I say. “You’re trying not to, you’re giving it your best, but there it is, I see it coming. Ah! Thank you, thank you.”
At which point I graciously and with great magnanimity, unlock her window, push the button on my side, and raise it myself, at great sacrifice, I might add, to the fresh air blowing off the river I so desperately need, that we all, I point out to Martha, so desperately need.
“Are you really so against fresh air?”
“Only if it’s good for you,” she said.
“Martha, you can’t mean that? That hurts.”
She’s right. I am a control freak. Was I sneaking looks at the river? Maybe.
“Bernie,” she says, “of course not. You know I don’t mean it.”
“Mean what?”
“Forget it.”
“How can I forget what I can’t remember?”
“By remembering what you forgot?”
That’s a good one, I think to myself.
So does she.
I smile at her. She smiles at me. We hold hands. Life is good.
“Turn here,” she says. “Turn here. Bernie!”

14 Comments

  1. Bernie Schein is an idiot. Nobody, absolutely nobody, has ever ridden with Bernie twice. He’s the worst driver I’ve ever seen. When Bernie’s on the road, the town evacuates, like it does for a hurricane. I’ll post the route if you happen to be in town. Pity is the only reason Martha lets him drive. She feels sorry for him. She should be canonized for putting up with his sorry ass.

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    • Pat drives like he’s 104 years old, like Mr. McGoo. We recently drove to New Orleans, and honestly, it felt like the closer we got to it, the farther away it receded. He drove so slowly we ended up going backwards. We never got there. People jogged past us, waving, one guy in a wheelchair. My point is this: there’s such a thing as being too careful.

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  2. Bernie Schein is most often seen on foot. Like Bennett, the panhandling king of the low country who staggers through the Publix parking lot finagling from guilt ridden white people money with which he purchases Cheetos,large bottles of generic soda and (allegedly) recreational drugs, Bernie should be denied access to anything with moving parts. He is the absolute terror of North Street Extension where he grows super fancy heirloom tomatoes, prances about scantily clad in his yard, and yells obscenities at neighbor and pedestrian alike. Fortunately, he is the funniest person in Beaufort and thus he is allowed to live. We do like to be entertained and Bernie is an act from one of those old vaudeville shows,if the show were made up of really loud inmates from the local psychiatric hospital and they were all on speed. I can’t wait to read his latest book and eagerly await my complimentary copy.

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  3. Bernie, looks to me like you’re driving very very close to the edge, if not of the road, then of Martha’s last nerve. Be careful!

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  4. Bernie, Bernie, Bernie; a green thumb..you have, a welcoming laugh that puts all at ease..yep you have that too, good taste in fine aroma Cigars, you have that as well but driving skills…NOPE, NADA, ZILCH, NONE! As a matter of fact when we hear the fire of your ignition, the entire street STOPS, DROPS and takes cover has if we lived in Tornado Alley. I understand fully why Martha parks across the street, unlike you she has somewhere to be each day and putting her car in harms way, well that’s just out of the question. So with all of us securely in hiding, go ahead oh Master of Smash em’ up Derby, fire up that burgundy Weapon of Mass Destruction and turn that radio up, I think they’re playing your song,”I’m a man of means by no means….King of the road.”

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    • Wow. What a pile of malarkey. What can I say? Drivers and back seat drivers. That would make quite a book. Good luck to you and Martha. I hope the two of you work things out.

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  5. Atlanta, Georgia is hell for any driver with a passenger as there are at least two equidistant routes to get anywhere. Whichever way you pick your passenger is going to insist the other is faster. The truth is they are both the same, but try to tell him/her, her, that.
    (I wonder if anybody else gets a bit nervous writing a reply to an English teacher’s blog. Wait, should english be capitalized? Better check the whole deal a couple more times.)

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  6. Well….if you have ridden with Bernie you became instantly religious. Your understanding of life’s value increases and you pray that you will make it to your destination. And that you can find another ride home. But everyone does love him.

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  7. Oh, Papa! Now…now…now….I’ve only had a few short driving lessons, but I’m pretty sure I know which side of the road you are SUPPOSED to drive on. And at what speed!!! Sometimes when we’ll sing in the car I fear you get so distracted by the song that you might actually crash, although I fear that many other times as well…
    And God knows I’m not allowed to ride in the car with you anymore.

    I love you anyway! <3
    – Your amazingly talented superstar!!!

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  8. You are the best driver I know!! *Insert sarcastic laugh here*

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  9. I’ve seen the way Bernie drives, and the way his neighbor (the one who still talks to him) drives. If you ask me I think they both need to hang up their keys and leave the driving to their wives.

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  10. At Paideia Bernie would often announce, “Field trip! Who’s going with me?” At most schools this would cause a huge riot of children vying for the available spaces. In our class this led to kids diving for hiding spaces.

    Bolder kids would ask, “Where are we going?” And if the answer was intriguing they would not agree unless they could wrangle lunch or snacks out of the deal. If the destination was something less interesting than Six Flags then children might be seen bawling while being forced into his jalopy. Any new kids would be nominated like virgins for an ancient sacrifice. You only volunteered once.

    He didn’t help his cause either. Not only was his driving as scary as Martha describes, but Bernie would tell stories of his driving down the highway with his feet on the wheel using an umbrella to press the accelerator. Unlike most of his heroic tales we were sure that this one was true.

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  11. Well, I guess you could take Martha’s car and then she could drive….. However, unless times have changed, I seem to remember that Martha’s car is so full of books and stuff that only one person, the driver, could possibly get in it. Hmmm, maybe that is her protective, anti-Bernie strategy?!? It all makes sense now. 😉

    Very funny blog – thanks!

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  12. Ha! Married to Donna Dempster, I can just change the names and enjoy the same repetitive dialog weekly! In fact we had one or more exchanges on that very Ribaud Road while looking for the turn-off into Gary Fordham’s drivway some years ago “It’s THERE…” “No its not” “Yes it is…RIGHT THERE…see, you missed it”…”No, you can’t do a U turn on Ribaud Road…”

    Reply

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