Some people move to Durango for the mountains, some for the clean air, and still others for no specific reason, other than they were passing through and never left.
As for myself, I decided to call Durango home because of the driving - or lack thereof.
You see, it has taken me years to arrive at admitting this: I am a bad driver. The cars I have totaled could fill a junkyard. I have unintentionally peppered more wild animals than I care to count; dented, scraped and bent more fenders than a strong-man competition; and run into more snow banks than a pee wee hockey team.
And once night falls, in that hazy, gray light, forget it. I’m about as useful as a near-sighted mole. Letters on signs blur together, yellow lines disappear and imaginary animals leap from the roadside.
Miraculously, I have walked away from all my driving mishaps with nary a scratch, as have my unwitting passengers.
Which leaves me to wonder when the guardian angel is going to tire of my folly and pack his bags.
And so, I play it safe. I live four blocks from everything I need - coffee, bagels, work, pizza, burritos, beer. Except for skiing or boating, there’s really never a need to drive.
Many of my friends also are aware of my driving impairment. On a recent trip to New York City, where we borrowed a friend’s car for a trip to Cape Cod, I was under strict orders not to drive. She made me sign an affidavit. You see, on road trips, unless the road is straight and empty and there are no other viable drivers with a pulse in the vehicle, I am not allowed to drive. Nor do I offer, because I learned long ago what the answer will be: a guffaw followed by the story of how I once was blinded by the sun and ran over my neighbor’s mailbox, reducing it to shreds.
Of course, all of this is fine with me. I get to sit back, enjoy the scenery, take a snooze, fiddle with the radio and read trashy magazines.
And the money I save on gas is a small fortune - my car often sits for weeks at a time, dry-docked in front of my house. A family of mice have taken up residence under the hood, and it’s a wonder the neighbors haven’t reported it as an abandoned vehicle. On the occasions that I do drive, if I honk and wave at someone, they usually stare back in puzzlement, squinting to see who it is.
But, as is often the case with life, we all must face our demons at some time or another. My time usually comes during forays into large cities, when the driver is exhausted or, occasionally, inebriated, leaving me the designated driver. Just such as occasion arose last weekend, when, after dinner with friends, I was the last sober one standing. I took the keys and psyched myself up for the drive across town. I called upon my earlier life in the Twin Cities, where driving across town in rush-hour traffic was no big deal. Back then, I could merge into a four-lane freeway like no one’s business and exit ramps didn’t give me heart palpitations.
It started out well enough, as we stuck to side streets that required no real advanced driving skills. I checked my gauges like a good driver should, and noticed we were low on gas. As luck would have it, there was a Conoco on the next corner, so I made a quick left onto a perpendicular street so I could access it.
As I tried to make my way into the left turn lane, my passenger noticed something wasn’t quite right. There were headlights coming right at us, even on our side of the street.
“It’s a one-way,” he yelled.
I looked up and realized he was right. A row of cars were coming right at us - one of which happened to have flashing red lights on top of it.
I immediately veered into an empty parking lot while a mild panic washed over me. I hadn’t gone the wrong way on a one-way in years. And the last time it happened I fought the ticket because there were no signs. Maybe that was the case now, I turned around to check, but no such luck. I sunk down in my seat and awaited the officer’s arrival. With a bonehead move like that late on a Saturday night, a roadside would definitely be in order. I took solace in the fact that after the humiliation of it all, I would have the last laugh because I was as sober as they come. No, my only reason for such a move was sheer stupidity.
The cop pulled up alongside and rolled down his window while I fished for my license.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” he shouted.
I began spouting out all the usual lame excuses, like “I didn’t mean to do it,” “I didn’t know it was a one way” and the always useful, “I’m not from around here.”
From the roll of his eyes, that last statement was apparent - evidently everyone on the Front Range knows this section of Broadway is a one-way.
No doubt he was pissed, but as luck would have it he was actually on his way to another call. And it must have been a good one, because he seemed to be in a big hurry.
He gave me a good, once over and surmised that I was dizty but not drunk. He took my name and date of birth, told me to be careful and pulled out of the parking lot.
But not before I nearly backed into him in my nervous haste to leave as well.
He shot me one last look - a mixture of disbelief, horror and annoyance - before driving off, sirens blazing.
I crept back onto the street, this time going the right way, stopped to fill the tank and resumed my journey. And as I drove onto the I-25 on ramp, I realized that my little guardian angel hadn’t abandoned me. Sure, he didn’t keep me from driving the wrong way on a one way - or taking the south ramp when I should have been going north, as I was doing at that moment - but it was nice to know that, when times were crucial and I was getting the business from The Man, he was still there for me.