Cathy Hamilton: Couple set new rules in car

"You want me to drive?" I ask.

"Nah, I'm good," he replies, for the third time.

"Because I can. I'm wide awake. Had lots of coffee." I throw my eyes open like Gary Busey to appear hyperalert.

"I'm doing fine," he says with an air of finality.

He's been driving for five hours and still won't relinquish the wheel. Clearly, the man does not want his wife driving on summer vacation.

For the record, my husband is not a control freak. Sure, he likes things neat and orderly around the house. And, yes, he tends to twitch when there are too many of my shoes flung about. (You should see how he packs a suitcase: T-shirts rolled into tidy tubes, each one exactly the same diameter as the next. Underwear folded origami-style. Oh, I could go on ...)

But, it's not like he's one of those cavemen who complain bitterly about women on the road. In fact, he's all too happy to let me be the designated driver Friday nights. And he was 100 percent supportive of Danica Patrick, after he saw her Sports Illustrated swimsuit spread.

I can't understand why he's so reluctant to ride shotgun with me.

"Want me to take over now? You must be getting tired." I inquire, sweetly.

"Nope. I'm good," he answers while arching his back for a good stretch.

I press on. "You know, honey, I don't mind driving. In fact, I enjoy it."

"I'm good to go, really," he retorts.

OK. Now, I'm getting mad.

"It's because of that speeding ticket I got last month, right?" I demand. "You're afraid I'll get another one, aren't you? Well, that's ridiculous. I've learned my lesson and, besides, I never go more than 8 miles over the limit on the highway. Ten, tops."

He is too busy unkinking his neck to respond.

"Now I get it!" I cry. "You think I'll drive too slowly, don't you? Jeez! It's all about making good time with you men, isn't it?"

("Good time" n. A subjective term meaning "faster than the previous time" or "faster than the other guy's time on the same route.")

He rolls his eyes, but my rant has just begun:

"Why is it that when a guy gets behind the wheel, he becomes engaged in a maniacal game of 'Beat the Clock?' Are you going to limit my rest stop breaks to two minutes like you did when the kids were little? Poor things never had a chance to wash their hands. It's a wonder they never got worms! And what about lunch? Will we actually stop this time, or should I sprint alongside the car gathering fruit from a roadside stand?"

He is not amused. But I'm going for blood, not laughs.

"Look," I continue. "I know your sciatica is acting up; I can see you flexing your leg. Just pull over and let me drive, for crying out loud. You won't be any less of a man because you didn't go the distance."

Suddenly, he strikes the turn signal and steers onto the emergency lane.

"OK," he says, unbuckling his seat belt when the car comes to a full and complete stop. "You can drive. But on several conditions."

(Conditions. Hmm. Never been a big fan.)

"First, the Blackberry stays in your purse. No texting while driving, and no checking the radar on Accuweather."

I'm shocked. I've never seen him so stern.

"But how will I know what kind of weather lies ahead?" I ask.

"Weather happens. We'll deal with it. Second, no rummaging through your bag for lotion, lipstick, Chapstick or whatever while driving."

I married some kind of evil drill sergeant!

"Third, if your water bottle falls on the floor, don't lunge for it yourself. Ask me, and I'll get it for you."

OK, that one makes sense, given that close call last Thanksgiving.

"And finally, no listening to your iPod while you're at the wheel. It's dangerous and probably illegal in this state. That's the deal. Take it or leave it. I'm on vacation, and I want to relax.

A long silence ensues while I ponder his provisos. Five minutes later, we're on the road again - husband and wife, driver and passenger.

"You want anything? Water? Chapstick?" I ask.

"Nah, I'm good" he replies, checking his mirrors as he pulls back onto the highway. "Great vacation so far, right, honey?" I say, checking the radar on my Blackberry for approaching storms.

"So far, so good," he replies.

Cathy Hamilton is a 52-year-old empty nester, wife, mother and author, who blogs every day at BoomerGirl.com

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