Tuesday, May 05, 2009

So THAT'S what I have...uh...wait a minute...

"The Essay" in today's Globe could have been written by me, if I was a mom, that is. In "Mom Without Wheels", Bonnie Goldberg describes what it's like to be a mother with a debilitating driving phobia. Awkward, it comes down to. Play dates for the kids are considerably more difficult to arrange. Questions abound, none of which are particularly easy to answer. Feelings of envy, bewilderment and inadequacy mix uneasily.

I can relate.

The envy and inadequacy are self-explanatory, when one lacks a skill the rest of the world takes for granted. The bewilderment is hard for people who take that skill for granted to appreciate. Do you driving people have any idea how complicated a simple commute actually is, how mindbogglingly insane you'd have to be to careen down the highway with thousands of strangers, most of whom aren't paying more than a smidgen of attention to the world around them? No, of course you don't. You just drive. And--here's what really vapor-locks my brain--most of you find the act of driving boring. It requires spicing up. Say, with iPods and phone conversations and glittering navigational screens embedded in your dashboard. Anything to take your mind off the ennui of potential death surrounding you on all four sides.

One sentence jumped out at me in this essay. "Unlike other phobics, the hodophobic mother must state and confront her fear every day, several times a day."

Bells rang, lights flashed. We have a word! See, ever since I realized I had this phobia--which, incidentally, was several years before I ever got behind the wheel of a car--I've searched in vain for a word to describe the fear of driving. There must be one, I thought. They've got a word for fear of everything else, even things that lack any rational foundation for the fear, like triskadekaphobia (fear of the number 13). How can there not be a word for something which any normal person would consider terrifying if they allowed themselves to really think about it?

 I've combed every phobia list out there.  There's something called motorphobia, which denotes fear of cars. I don't have that. I like cars. Cars are cool. Then there's ochophobia, fear of riding in cars. Still nope. Riding in cars is (usually) lots of fun. Places to go, things to see...riding in cars is only frightening, to me, if I happen to be riding with a maniac driver...which is something I'll only do once.

 I tried to coin "autophobia", only to discover that already had a meaning (the fear of being alone)...which I don't have at all. Now here's a woman saying she's hodophobic. Off to the phobia list I go

Hodophobia: the fear of travel. 

"The fear of travel is complex. Most people's fear of travel is associated with their fear of flying, some with a fear of trains, but still others with a fear of traveling in automobiles. Some are afraid of strange places, open places, or inevitable contact with strangers."

That ain't me. I love to travel. Admittedly, I'm not exactly calm on airplanes, at least until I'm airborne and flying level. But boats don't faze me and I love trains. Again, riding in cars presents absolutely no issues. Ask me to drive one, even to back it up if there's anything around I could conceivably hit, and I'll freeze and have to strive mightily to supress the urge to vomit.

How I wish there was a word that specifically covered the fear of driving. When I say driving scares me, people look at me funny. If I had a nice Greek prefix and the word phobia, people would still look at me funny, but with a glint of understanding in their eyes. Or so I'd like to think.

The search continues... 


Anonymous said...


From the Ancient Greek word Euquno:

To lead or guide straight, to keep straight or direct

1. of the steersman or helmsman of a ship
2.of a charioteer

Cheers! Now sit back relax, and let someone else pilot the chariot.

If traffic is bad enough, you can pull out the spear and take on other vehicles. ;)

Ken Breadner said...

I love it! Where did you find this? Or did your febrile brain conjure it forth?

Anonymous said...

Google. Searched for a English to Greek translator. Entered Pilot as the term to translate (I figured to "drive" as we understand the term wouldn't translate well).

First search came up with what I wanted and there you go!

Rocketstar said...

Interesting, fear of driving. I drive 55 miles each way to work everyday but one when I work from home and I make sure I pay attention because as you mention, others do not and after all, if not for natural causes, a car accident is the most likely cause of death for most of us non-parachuting types.

I don't really fear anything except failure.

Anonymous said...

I fear needles, zombies and killer robots. In that order.


Ken Breadner said...

Undead robots with NEEDLES! Look out!


My other fears--none of them near as bad, but each of them definitely there: stinging insects and unsupported heights. Which is to say, I'm fine on rollercoasters, but put me on a ladder and I'm queasy as hell.
When I was a kid, I was terrified of blue spruces. Now I think they're the nicest trees going...

Anonymous said...

I hear that last one Ken. It think its a combination of perspective and being restrained.

There's a glass walkway on the second level of the Eaton Center in TO that gave me the willies walking on. I damn near bolt across it.

But I went skydiving and wasn't scared to death. I couldn't get a true perspective of how far away the earth was below me. I knew I was high up (3000 ft) but it didn't feel high.

So out I jumped, and enjoyed it immensely.

But each year putting up the Christmas lights I hang on to the ladder with white knuckles.