The Adventures of Rob and Dorrit (the Toyota Echo): Hello Dorrit

Blog 1: Hello Dorrit

It is a funny thing. I have lived in Vancouver for nearly eleven years and got my class 5 driving license way back in 2013. In all that time, I have never driven or owned a car in Vancouver. Given the fact that I wrote an autobiography where cars played major roles in my life story only made this situation more incongruous. That all changed when Coach Nina made me an incredibly generous offer.

Now, to learn who Coach Nina is and the full impact of her offer you really should have read my book Just One More Drive: The true story of a stuttering homosexual and his race car. Suffice to say Nina has become a trusted advisor, confidante and dear friend. We met on a training programme and she was my coach and our relationship has gradually evolved over the years. She has trained me to be a better author and public speaker, but most of all, she has taught me to see my own worth. This is probably my biggest failing as a person and is something I have to continually work on. It is much easier to do that with someone like Nina having my back.

Anyway, Dorrit (the black 2001 Toyota Echo that is a major part of this blog) was Nina’s car. She had owned it for years and it was her trusted steed. I had ridden in it a few times and had even bought a set of hubcaps for the car as a gift to Nina. She was offered a great deal on a new car and to my utter surprise, she offered me the Echo over a cup of coffee. I laughed and dismissed her offer out of hand thinking she was joking. Her face told me she was not making this offer in jest. I felt a wave of panic wash over me. Deserving is something I struggle with and it is connected with the idea of self-worth. I wondered what I had done to have someone as generous in my life as her. She was offering me her old car! “I can’t afford a car and I don’t really need one” I told her. Now Nina knows me too well. She did not push the issue.

The next week, she asked me if I would help her wash the car as she was going to put it up for sale. I know how to wash a car and I enjoyed the experience of telling her to step back and let me get on with rubbing down the vehicle. I was in my element. Nina said it would be a shame to let go of the car as it cleaned up so well. I knew what she was doing and she knew that I knew it too! I felt the same panic again. I wasn’t sure where it was coming from and I couldn’t help but imagine how my life would be transformed if I owned a car.

So, why was I so afraid to drive in Vancouver?

I was worried about the cost, as I had gotten myself into debt and had only recently repaid it. The insurance cost turned out to be much cheaper than I expected as my own wealth of driving experience in Ireland was taken into account. Additionally, the Echo was mechanically sound and Nina had a huge file to prove it. It would be a perfect first car. It took me a week of quiet contemplation to see that I had invented a story that driving here was dangerous. There was the rain and the snow, the multi-lane traffic along with driving on the “wrong” side of the road. I hated taking public transit, but it kept me safe and small.

In work the next day, the name “Dorrit” came to me and I thought about blogging about this whole experience. I was still fearful but there was also excitement bubbling up just beneath the surface. We went to the insurance broker, signed the papers and I was given a shiny set of license plates there and then. I felt like I was seventeen again getting my license. Nina had a screwdriver in her bag and she let me fit the plates. I couldn’t believe this was happening. I officially owned a car! We drove around quieter suburban roads for a while at a crawling speed and eventually the time came for me to drive home alone. I was given very specific directions; turn left, left again then take the next immediately right and straight on until I reach my home. I was so distracted with having to drive and navigate simultaneously, I got lost after the second left. I ended up heading towards the highway and being forced to travel at a far higher speed than I was comfortable with. “F**k Dorrit! WE ARE IN TROUBLE!!!!” I shouted at the car. All I could do was cling to the steering wheel for dear life and take the next exit. I could feel sweat drip down my back. I wanted to cry and hand the keys straight back. Getting off the highway, I parked up and turned off the engine. I sat in the car trying to regulate my breath. I didn’t have a phone cradle but I did have Google maps. I input my address and looked at the route before putting my phone on the passenger seat. The journey home seemed to take an eternity and I was going purely on the female voice coming out of my phone. As I got to my front door, Google lady said “Welcome home”. Dorrit and I had survived our first journey together. I texted Nina to tell her I was home safe, made a cup of tea and walked outside my house to where the car was parked.

Despite the fear and panic on that trip home, I could remember feeling something I hadn’t felt in years. Driving had always been a release for me and I took pride in my ability to drive. As a stuttering closeted teenager, that was the one skill I clung to. I had moments of that feeling driving home and it made me feel more complete somehow. I smiled looking at this little car I had called Dorrit and knew this was only the beginning of our adventures together.

Next Month: Dorrit and Healthy Joe.