There has been an amendment to my marriage contract. I’m not referring to a legal document that was signed in the presence of a lawyer or a rabbi who may or may not have also been a notary, but an informal set of conventions that have evolved over time in the partnership.
Every marriage has one. It usually includes a tacit or explicit division of responsibilities that permits the union to function more or less efficiently on a daily basis. For example, in my marriage, I’m in charge of such details as making sure we don’t run out of toilet paper, seeing to it that the dogs are fed twice daily, changing light bulbs, and brewing coffee in the morning. My husband is in charge of the remote control.
And for most of our time together, he has been the family driver. Until recently.
I am thankful to say that the change did not come about due to an illness or a serious incapacity. But rather, it began as a practical matter having to do with whose eye sight was better after dark. Mine.
While I’m sure there was some reluctance to relinquishing control of the steering wheel to the little woman, it had to be done. And there were definitely benefits to assuage the male ego, benefits like, perhaps, a little more wine with dinner? And a catnap on the way home from the movies?
The perks of being a passenger obviously did not go unnoticed, for soon there were seemingly innocent requests to be chauffeured in full sunlight. Usually something like, “Could you drive; I have to make a few calls,” as he reaches into his pocket for the I-Phone.
Let me state that I have no objection to change. Change can be healthy. It can signify that, like the Constitution, or your Facebook page, the marriage contract is a living document, capable of adapting to the needs of the present day. And I don’t mind driving. It’s the driving lessons I can do without!
We are about to set out to visit some friends on a Saturday afternoon.
“You drive.” he says, “ I have to return some e-mails.” Out comes the I-Phone as I slip into the driver’s seat.
“Why are you backing out of the garage like that?” he asks.
“Like what?” I reply.
“You’re turning the steering wheel twice, when I only have to turn it once.”
“So, did I hit anything?”
He returns to his e-mails as I successfully pull out of our driveway.
I apply the brakes as we come to a red light.
“You waited too long. You’re going to ruin the brake linings.”
“I have been driving since 1959 and all my brakes linings have always been pristine,” I remind him.
“Well, it’s dangerous to wait so long. You can hit the guy in front of you.”
I also remind him that the only person in the car to have recently caused a fender-bender was him. Time to make another phone call.
“Why are you staying in this lane?” he asks as he finally notices that we have entered the highway. “All the other lanes are moving faster.”
“Do you not see the fourteen-wheeler barreling down on my left,” I reply. “If I pull out now we’re going to ruin a lot more than the brake linings.”
“Well, get out of this lane as soon as you can. You know I can’t stand driving in slow traffic.”
“Yes, “ I hiss between clenched teeth, “but you’re not driving. Isn’t there someone you need to text?”
We arrive at our friends’ house without further comment and I assume the driving lesson has ended. I head towards a parking space.
“Park there,” he says, his finger wagging at a different spot.
“Why?” I ask.
In spite of the fact that I was contemplating a divorce, we had a cheery afternoon, and then dinner at a lovely restaurant.
“How’s the wine?” I ask him as I’m sipping my club soda.
“Quite good,” he answers.
“So have a little more,” I encourage.
Five minutes into the return trip, my darling falls asleep. Anticipating a peaceful ride home, I pray that he does not begin to snore. I’m lucky this time. I ride in blessed silence.
I breathe a sigh of relief as I pull the car into our garage when, suddenly, Lazarus beside me strongly recommends that I back out and try it again.
Only this time I should turn the wheel more to the right so that when he backs out in the morning, he won’t knock off the side view mirror like he did last time when it was all my fault because I didn’t park correctly.
And so the journey ends as it began.
Looking ahead, I can see that this new arrangement in our marriage is going to be a challenge. There is nothing worse than a back-seat driver who is sitting right next to you. I wonder if there’s a penalty for forcing your passenger to ride in the trunk. Whatever it is, it may be worth it. It has to be a lesser offense than murder.