*Previously published on Culture Counter, which is now shut down*
I’ve never been a bad ass. I’m about as cutting edge as a butter knife. My mom says I was the happiest baby around. I was never crying and always smiling. Even as an infant, I didn’t know how to play it cool. Being a bookworm and musical lover, who mostly lived in her own head, I didn’t have much of a chance of ever being a badass bitch. But, whatever hope I had disappeared once it came time to drive a vehicle.
Some people forever cement their BAMF status by what they drove in high school. In high school, I drove a mini-van. A popular boy in my English class liked to tease me about how I drove like a grandma; sitting close to the steering wheel, instead of leaning back like a gangster (my hometown had a population of 10,000 white people, yet cultural appropriation was out of control.) I wrecked that soccer mom van while driving 10 mph on an off-ramp. Things didn’t get better. In my college years, a group of us went to the lake at night to smoke weed and drink cheap beer. Being a total rebel, I was sober. A discussion began about who could drive us back home, as everyone was pretty fucked up.
“Ummm, guys? I’m totally sober. I can drive.” This seemed like a perfect solution, but my reputation preceded me.
“Yeaaa, but Hannah, Ryan actually drives better when he’s high soooo we’re gonna let him drive.”
I think that says it all right there.
When I moved abroad, it was nice that no one knew my shameful driving skills. I was really good at knowing the schedules for public transportation and never being late for the bullet train. I could ride a bicycle, dare I say, like a bad ass. Things were looking up. Then, I moved to Taiwan and it was the norm for everyone to get around by scooter. I felt 15 again. How would I learn to drive this thing? Everyone would know that I was the least badass person ever once they saw me try to drive this tiny machine! Luckily, I lived walking distance to work, taxis were cheap, and I quickly found a boyfriend who owned a motorcycle. I used his badassness as a disguise and was kept safe from having to prove myself out on the roads.
But, then I moved to Phuket, where taxis are expensive, nothing is walking distance, and I had no boyfriend. I accepted my fate and rented a scooter that was black, silver, and very badass. I was ready to rock this motherfucker. I tried to cross the road, immediately became flustered, and forgot how to break and gas. This caused me to repeatedly jam my scooter into the back tire of an elderly Thai woman’s ride. She screamed at me in Thai, while trying to escape my out-of-control attack. Once I made it to the other side of the road, I felt like I’d just gotten off a bucking bronco. Yet, I persevered. The next day, I drove by myself to work and I was able to cross the road without traumatizing a Thai grandma. I felt my badass meter rise, ever so slightly.
Little by little, I’ve pushed myself to pretend to be a badass. I definitely didn’t want to drive on the freeway to Tesco and was almost certain I might die. But, I fake it till I make it (or get crushed by a semi.) I tell myself, you have to, and so, I do. There have been moments of glory, like finding hidden beaches on the windy coastal roads, making it home during a downpour in the middle of the night, and finding perfectly placed traffic lights, so I don’t have to deal with the ubiquitous, unguarded U-turns of Phuket. No big D, but I even drive THE WRONG WAY on roads now. Like a true, idiotic, devil may care, Thai badass. I park wherever I want because they don’t ticket here. I breeze by ungainly cars that are stuck in traffic and when I’m feeling cheeky, I don’t slow down for speed bumps. It is truly the life of a renegade.
When I move back home to California, the people in my hometown might make jokes about my driving skills. But I’ll have this to say to them.
“Bitches please. I’ve driven down a road with a bus coming straight for me, while I balanced a latte and a bag of groceries, and tried to pick bugs out of my teeth. I’ve felt the sun on my skin and the wind in my hair. I’ve had a stray dog try to bite my leg off when I was on my way to 7/11. I just wanted to buy some snacks! I’ve lived!
I am…. a BAD ASS.“
And then I’ll get in my car and drive straight into a tree branch.
Because people never change. But, we certainly try.