Virtual Voices
Three
Photo courtesy of Chelsea Kolz
Three "Chucks" and a butter yellow PT Cruiser

Driving away fear

Essay

Tuesday morning I stood in a used car lot with two men named Chuck: one a car salesman and the other my grandfather. Since “Chuck” also happens to have been my college nickname, and since our gathering marked a momentous occasion, we posed for a three-Chuck photograph beside my very first car: a PT Cruiser in butter yellow.

The PT Cruiser first came out in 2000. At about that time my grandfather and I developed a simultaneous car-crush. He, aged nearly 70, and myself, nearly 10, pored over Chrysler’s pamphlets together, dreaming of our ideal PT Cruiser feature-and-color combinations.

“You could fit anything in the back of a PT Cruiser,” my grandfather said.

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“It comes in so many colors,” I said.

My grandmother said only, “That thing looks like a hearse.”

I had evaded making the transition to car ownership all the way through college—because, I admit, driving terrifies me. Even though I’ve been driving for years, my timidity and fierce directional ineptitude make me a candidate for unending housebound spinsterhood.

My nagging conscience calls responsible driving a key ingredient in adulthood. And yet, most of the time I wish I could transport back a few centuries to a place where ladies rode in carriages. No one expected them to navigate highways at 75 miles per hour in pod of metal.

But this kind of hesitance is a pattern with me. I ruefully recall having my hair washed as a child. The passage from baldness to hair proved a colossal difficulty for my small self. The soap dribbled into my eyes, and I wailed. Growing up was a cruel betrayal. First, grownups tell you to wash your hair, which fills your eyes with burning soap. Fast-forward a few years, and they make you learn how to drive, which not only puts you in danger of arrest by policemen but also could kill you.

With a certain amount of nonchalance and delegation, perhaps for the rest of my life I could hide the fear that prevents me from driving. Just like I could have kept avoided soap in the eyes by consistently shaving my head to its original baldness.

My mother solved my hair-washing problem with one simple strategy. She appealed to my aesthetic sense. Suddenly, two bottles appeared in the bathroom, shampoo and conditioner, both green, smelling like apples. I have never resisted a hair wash since. She persuaded my vision and sense of smell, and banished the unreasonable fear. Aesthetics motivated me strongly.

That hasn’t changed. I had forgotten all about PT Cruisers and how much I had loved them as a kid, until this one appeared, in my favorite color. My decision came firm and instantaneous: If I must drive, I wanted to drive that.

I don’t want to stay afraid forever, and I’m terrible at being an at-home spinster. And even my grandmother cannot claim that hearses come in butter yellow.

Of course, the car cost a lot more than shampoo. I hope it lasts long enough for my children to be ashamed of it.

Chelsea Kolz Boes
Chelsea Kolz Boes

Chelsea is an editorial assistant for God’s World News. She graduated from Patrick Henry College with a degree in literature. Follow Chelsea on Twitter @chelseakboes.

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