We Remember

Carol Levitzky Seligmann

by Kitty Kaufman

When I was living in New York everyone and I mean every single person I knew got their learners permit the minute they turned 16. I don't remember why my mother and I didn't race over to the DMV in Mineola. Maybe she would remember, I don't know. Possibly it was because I was short. Although my friend Carol Levitzky Seligmann was short and a month older and you can be sure she had a permit. Her parents let her drive their black Thunderbird and I know that's part of the reason she was one of the most popular girls at Long Beach High School.

I did eventually learn to drive when I was 20. A friend taught me on a Bonneville and if you watch me back up now you can see that it was a guy friend because there's no fooling around. That car was 30 feet long and I could park it on a dime. Later I bought it from him and some time after that it was stolen and used as the getaway car in a bank robbery. Pittsburgh detectives subpoenaed me to testify; one, that I didn't do it and two, how could I prove it was my car? It came back covered in fingerprint powder with a bullet hole.

By the time I got to Boston I had a Chevy Vega. I could park it on a dime and that was without power steering. Sadly it just sat at the curb on Comm Ave for many months because even then there was too much traffic. I wouldn't drive and my brothers, with whom I lived at the time in a one-bedroom fourth floor walkup, were pretty patient about the whole thing. We carpooled to work and on the day it was my turn, one of them drove the car and I sat shotgun.

It is many cars later and of course now I am one of those Boston drivers. These days I'm driving a Honda. One of the reasons I chose this model is because it has a power seat which helps when you are short but not quite enough so you still need a booster seat.

I've been doing car research. There is lots of time to study other drivers and what they're doing when you're sitting in traffic. Even if you are not going very far, you can still gather data because it takes a whole lot longer to drive anywhere than you thought when you left. We time management gurus are supposed to be on top of it and we are except for when it comes to predicting how long it will take to get some place.

At first drivers from Maine in their trucks were the worst. They are always going very fast. Maybe they're racing to go hunting or whatever it is people from Maine do in a hurry, I'm not sure. My research also shows Vermont drivers are bad for pretty much the same reasons except their SUV's are covered in mud. That must come from country roads where there are grazing animals and no stop signs. If you hit something, well, that's the country and they're used to it. Once I got my car stuck on the ice in my brother Paul's driveway in the country in Montague, MA and no one was upset except me.

It used to be guys driving BMWs ruled; I thought they were the worst and it didn't matter where they were from. They gave new meaning to the word 'speed' which was pretty scary if you were in the way but still. Watching them I learned to make a U-turn anywhere. With a Vega you could make a 180-degree turn even on a one-way street.

Most recently, people with Connecticut plates, and let's just say, if you're unlucky enough to be behind one of them, drive with impunity. It probably has nothing to do with being from the same place as Joe Lieberman but who knows.

It turns out our notoriety for being you know, Boston drivers, well, not so much. Although there are many, many contenders trying to win back the accolade. Here's something else. A lot of drivers you don't want to run into are tooling around in Volvos. They're secure knowing they are perfectly safe. I'm not sure if it's because bad drivers want the safety of the brand or that the car itself is impossible to maneuver. It doesn't matter. What I see is they cannot drive for beans. If you see one, get your mechanical lady to send you a different way even if it is the long way around and stop by and give me a lift.

© May 20, 2008
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