When Steve and I were touring throughout the Northeast doing children’s theatre in 1979, Steve drove nearly every day—especially in the snow and ice. I was never an enthusiastic driver, so I was happy to let him take us everywhere in our trusty little Chevette. After the tour, we settled in Philly. Sadly, my fear of driving in bad weather had morphed into terror of driving in any weather. Steve remained the chauffeur, even for a one-mile drive to Acme. I was disappointed in myself, but not disappointed enough to hit the highway on my own.
Then, during a performance, I fell onstage, breaking my wrist. My arm in a cast, suddenly I was even more dependent on Steve than before. My friend Lisa was living in New Orleans. She had invited me down to visit, and I really wanted to go. But how? Flights were beyond our budget, and of course driving was out of the question. I’d always enjoyed train travel, and the Southern Crescent ran between the cities; still, I couldn’t imagine getting to Louisiana by myself.
Steve was encouraging, though, and deep down I knew it would be good for me. So, filled with trepidation, off I went. After boarding, I managed to hoist my suitcase onto the rack overhead. Little victory! When it was time for lunch, I made my way to the dining car, and was even able to cut my food without help. The miles flew by, as the scenery changed from urban to rural and headed deeper and deeper South. I figured out how to read a book comfortably enough, and enjoyed looking out the train window. Several passengers spoke pleasantly to me, and they offered assistance. I found myself thanking them, but telling them that I was fine. And, surprisingly, I was.
Finally, the train arrived in New Orleans, 30 hours after departure. During that week with Lisa, I did a lot of sightseeing, listened to great jazz and zydeco, and ate amazing Creole and Cajun food. Every day, I felt more capable and independent.
The long ride home gave me lots of time to think, and I came to a decision. I was fed up with letting my fears about driving dictate my life. If I could make this journey with only one usable arm, I could drive again--just as soon as the cast came off.
Sure enough, a few weeks later I was back behind the wheel, on surface streets at first, but then tackling the challenging Lincoln Drive and Schuylkill Expressway. Steve had never once complained about being my eternally designated driver, but I know he was glad and relieved to see me on the road again.
It took 60 hours, and over 2000 miles, to shift my thinking. Whatever that ticket cost, it has paid for itself many times over. I got off that train a much braver person, and, 44 years later, I’m still in the driver’s seat of my car—and my life.