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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Fearful (08/23/07)

TITLE: No Muss, No Fuss
By Lynda Schultz


I sat in the bathroom; my stomach in knots and everything below that organ protesting violently. I wished I could have blamed it on a virus, or Montezuma’s revenge, or eating something slightly past its due date. No such luck. I was being sick because I needed to get into my car and go downtown.

For most people such an activity is no big deal. For me, it was probably the most stressful thing in my life to that moment — akin to putting my face in the water when I took swimming lessons as a kid. I never finished that lesson, or learned to swim. I did learn to drive, however. That was my first mistake.

The powers-that-were in those days, my immediate superiors, insisted that I learn to drive and get my license before I went overseas. Driving was never an issue with me. I liked public transportation then and still like it now. Leaving all the headaches to the guy up front and simply remembering where to get off sounds like a good plan to me. No muss, no fuss.

However, back then, at the beginning of my career as a missionary, I was very obedient and signed up for driving lessons. It was easier than I thought it would be. I did just fine, completing the course in seven lessons and getting my license on my first try. No muss, no fuss. After gaining my license, I never drove again in my homeland.

The first problem arose when I bought the car. I had learned to drive in an automatic. “Betsy” wasn’t. She had gears that needed shifting. I was barely capable of handling a car that almost did everything for itself, let alone manage one that needed to be told what to do.

My country of service had lots of hills, hence lots of reason to shift gears. We won’t even talk about the volume of traffic that had to be negotiated. Then, of course, there were cows and pedestrians to be avoided, neither of which seemed conscious of the important fact that cars kill — especially those driven by people who, in theory, know what they are doing but leave a whole lot to be desired when it comes down to practical realities.

I was terrified that I would hit someone and end up in jail forever. I was terrified that I would stall the car on a hill and have a multitude of angry drivers piled up behind me. That, unhappily, did happen several times. The bathroom breaks before heading out became more frequent. Lots of muss and fuss.

Then there was the momentous day when I faced the roundabout. Actually, it wasn’t my first time at entering a traffic circle, or of hoping to get out the other side in one piece and on the right road. However, it was the definitive point in time when I realized what a danger I was to myself and others.

I approached the circle. As usual, traffic was heavy, and I waited for a break. The drivers behind me were not impressed. It was a point of national pride not to be intimidated by the fact that there might not be enough space for your vehicle to fit. The other guys would move to accommodate you, right? Unhappily, I was a different nationality.

I looked both ways, closed my eyes, and stepped on the gas.

That I got around the circle and out the other side without killing myself or someone else was evidence of the grace of God. I had not been conscious of closing my eyes. Only later did I realize what I had done. Then I really was sick.

Fear possessed my every waking hour, even when I wasn’t driving.

More than thirty years later, someone coined a phrase that fits what I did. I simply “got off the bus.”

I was driving because someone else thought I should, not because I had ever wanted to. I didn’t need to drive. There was public transportation available. I was a danger to society. Added to that, I got physically ill just thinking about getting into the car. Fear was my constant companion. None of these things could possibly be honouring to God. Perhaps I should have persisted. I might have if other lives hadn’t been at stake. So, I “got off” — I stopped driving.

No muss,
No fuss,
Gotta go
Catch a bus.

Now I’m afraid of driving with other people.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Verna Cole Mitchell 08/31/07
I enjoyed the story--thought the last line ended it perfectly.
Rhonda Clark08/31/07
Nice article. I've been in places here in the states that have people drive like that--namely the city I live.

Really enjoyed this. Great lesson.
Pat Guy 08/31/07
Oh yes, the last line clinged it! I really enjoyed this lighthearted look at total complete fear - my mother was one of these drivers who did not want to drive ... but had too.

Really good atmosphere of another culture and land - you put us right there fearing the dreaded 'stick shift!' *shudder* I have embarassingly done a few of the things you have mentioned so kudos on an 'out of the box' take on the topic.
David Butler09/01/07
A lot of fun reading this. You have the ability to make the ready both laugh, and empathize at the same time.
Whether it was based on your own experience or not, it felt very real, and made me remember some of the horrors of learning to cope with city traffic in my day.
David Butler09/01/07
A lot of fun reading this. You have the ability to make the reader both laugh and empathize at the same time.
Whether it was based on your own experience or not, it felt very real, and made me remember some of the horrors of learning to cope with city traffic in my day.
Joanne Sher 09/01/07
Cute - love your little poem at the end. Your storytelling was great - you had me hanging on every word, and giggling here and there for good measure!
Dee Yoder 09/01/07
Oh, can I ever relate to the stick shift thing. My Dad bought me a Volkswagen standard, gave me one lesson in how to shift from first to 3rd, then followed me to the highway. I did fine driving from Columbus on the interstate, but what to do once I got off? And, on a steep hill at that. It was totally embarrassing to have my Dad have to get in my car at the stop sign, and drive me onto the street. Needless to say, I learned the hard way how to drive a standard. Great writing to illustrate your fear!
Dianne Janak09/02/07
What I loved most about this piece was the epiphany. There are so many things we do because of pressure from within or without, that we really were not required to do... and because of it..counselors can charge big bucks! I love stories when the lesson comes full circle like this...to just be YOU! and enjoy it... Can be a lesson for all of us.. thanks for your epiphany... Now.. do I REALLY need to fly?? YUK
Jacquelyn Horne09/03/07
A fear phobia of any kind must be very hard to deal with. "Getting Off" sounds like the answer to me.
Laurie Walker09/03/07
Delightful, and yet I totally empathized! I'm the exact opposite when it comes to driving with other people, though. I have to be the one in the driver's seat!
Jan Ackerson 09/03/07
Quite an accomplishment--you both communicated utter terror and made the reader smile along with you. What a marvelous piece!
Linda Watson Owen09/04/07
Yep, I've been there! Got violently ill when driving the interstate on ice for miles and miles trying to follow my husband who was driving his car ahead of me. We were bringing my mother from Indiana to Mississippi to live with us when the ice storm hit. You've described the fear perfectly! Great job!
Edy T Johnson 09/06/07
My dear Lynda, we are truly kindred spirit sisters. I've also traveled the world and never needed a driver's license. You can imagine how much I identify with your story. I would be sick, too. That you were willing to push yourself by getting a license is a tribute to your trust in God. I'm glad you came through the "test" and realized driving was not the will of God for you. I'm glad I came looking to thank you for leaving a comment on my "confused" entry. I appreciated it, and I really enjoyed finding your story.
Gregory Kane09/11/07
I like the way your piece avoids the well-worn injunction of face up to your fear and overcome it. Your opting for public transport makes for a lot of sense. Reminds me of the first time I came out to Africa. I had learned to drive a car in the UK although I had ridden motorbikes rather than cars for the previous couple of years. So when I went to pick up our new car I discovered that it had a handbrake that one pulled out from under the steering wheel rather than the type that one pulled up that I was used to. Moreover I had to reverse my new car out of the garage and up a steep driveway. I’m sorry to say that I stalled it several times on the way out, got myself into a complete panic over the handbrake, and ended up asking our host to finish the job for me!