Surviving The Great American Winter Road Trip
January, 2009
 
 
 
 
 
 
I firmly believe that all human males, regardless of race, creed, color, class, stature or faith carry one thing in common-- we like to be able to concentrate while driving an automobile. This is important to us. This is what makes us feel secure and in control of our situation.  In some cases it is a safety issue, and at other times it gives us a chance to ponder deep truths or think through life changing decisions. Many times I have made astounding deductions and found tremendous insights while driving on long trips.
 
It is also true that, akin to anti-matter, the human female (as passenger) finds it an absolute necessity to maintain a constant stream of communication with the driver at nearly all times.  Women are wired more for communication than for cogitation-  which is ideal for merging into difficult dinner parties, but not onto crowded interstate highways during the holiday season-- where inclement weather is nearly always a factor to be reckoned with.
 
It is interesting to note that the communicative stress and possible danger seems to be much less likely to occur when the vehicle is occupied solely by members of the same gender.  I believe that I have an explanation for this.  It is simply that when a group of men travel together in a single vehicle, their focus tends to be upon the shared activity that awaits for them at the end of the trip, e.g.. the golf or football game, or other task on the ajenda located outside the vehicle itself. It is a known fact that a group of men can travel together in a single car comfortably for many hours without uttering more than a few syllables to each other.  On the other hand, for women the fact that they are closeted together in the same vehicle for hours is an integral, even vital part of the journey. They can communicate uninterrupted, examining and evaluating each others' words, intonation, facial expression and body language to their hearts' content as they hurtle together down the superhighway, as it were.
 
The trouble occurs when you put members of opposite gender into the same vehicle, notably a husband and wife. In this case you have people of opposite focus joined together at the seat-belt. Man, contemplative -- woman, communicative--- a mixture that has the potential for combat built right in, and that potential expands exponentially upon the lengthening of the motor trip. Other factors may also exacerbate the combat potential, such as the man listening to the car radio, or his making a cell phone call to a third party. 
 
Now to be fair ---I must state at this time that the problem is not caused by one gender or the other. It is a team act-- and that it is just as possible for men to be able to think, talk and drive concurrently, as it is for women to passively refrain from comment for extended periods of time- even though both require a great deal of work.
 
 In this case, it is a good thing for the man not to think too deeply while his wife is in the car (as it irritates her not to know what he is thinking about- but knowing that he is not thinking deeply relieves her anxiety). At the same time, if the woman is not speaking, it relieves the man from the anxiety of having to engage in meaningful conversation (which requires the extensive use of vocabulary, memory and conjecture- man's lesser skills).  So it may be best to avoid the whole shebang.   With practice and counseling most happily married couples are able to become disciplined enough to neither think nor speak for days at a stretch, whether driving in a car, or not. 
 
 
But again, we still have the safety issue here, and we must deal with it. As safety always comes first, my answer comes at the end of the following scenario:
 
There is just no quick way for the man to say, "I love you, my darling, and would very much enjoy conversing with you about those things dear to your heart--but as long as I am attempting to navigate this treacherous mountain road during this impenetrable fog and ice, I find it difficult to concentrate upon both your insights into what headgear your friend Monica wore at the restaurant last night-- and keeping our vehicle from hurtling off this precipice and becoming a fiery wreck in the heretofore unexplored canyon below. So I hope that you will accept the fact that I must temporarily - but lovingly - ignore you until we are safely past this unfortunate critical juncture."
 
This is a case where a simple road sign - placed ahead of potential hazards- could solve the problem:

 
 
 
Better living through technology, I always say.