Female drivers can have such contradictory reputations on my island, with island men selecting which one they’d like to highlight based on how it serves their needs. On one hand, whenever a car is for sale on Mauritius, men lead their sales pitch with, “the car was previously owned by an OCD woman who could have won a contest in car cleaning.” Yet whenever there is an accident, it’s the female driver now to blame, no doubt the cause being lipstick application or gossiping while driving. Island women behind the wheel are either saving the sale or saving male egos, the perfect alibi and the perfect excuse.
I am one of those islanders whose car is basically their first home. For why would you want to be in a stagnant, concrete house when you can spend time in one that moves you wherever you’d like to go instead? There’s nothing that makes me feel closer to my island lifestyle than hitting the road in my car. The feel of the warm tropical wind running through my hair is liberating, especially when one of my favorite songs is on and I can sing my heart out. That is my everyday therapy on my island. If I am not driving to work, I am driving to the beach, or to catch up with my best buddies at some parties, or to go hike the beautiful mountains, or to yoga classes, or to the bars, or to simply clear my head on a random long drive. With so much time spent on the go though, I’m sure you can imagine the state of my baby… errr, I mean my car.
Not one for fitting into stereotypes, I myself do not possess that marketable female quality of being OCD neat inside my car. It’s something I can’t figure out – how people manage to keep their cars clean on a rock. My car mats are forever full of sand that is impossible to fully remove in their rubber grids. Casuarina seeds get hidden under the car seats. And because my car is not only my home, but my partner in crime, it’s also where my buddies try to hide their smelly cigarette butts or their beer bottle caps. I don’t know about you, but I’m one of those women who dread potholes, not because of the near-death experience, but because they bring to life my empty wine/beer bottles hidden in the boot. There’s nothing that makes you feel like a guilty alcoholic quite like when those bottles cheers one another on their own in the back of your car. Nevertheless, I do give it a clean inside from time to time and can be proud of the fact that I do not forget to check the car’s coolant and the tires.
Women driving on a rock do need to take certain (mild) precautions. For instance, don’t you get sun-tanned just on your right arm and shoulder like I do? Face, too, for that matter! (Well, that is to say, if your steering wheel is on the right side like mine is.) Wearing sunscreen and sunglasses is a must, though I must confess as someone born on a rock – I don’t wear sunscreen. Can you imagine how much I’d have spent on it if I did living my entire life on an island? That’s a profit for the sunscreen industry that I simply cannot feed. One essential I do keep in my car though is an extra set of flip flops. Heels are good for self-confidence during the day, but they do not always make me feel confident at the wheel. Spare flip-flops are mandatory in my car. They also come in handy if you decide to head for a sundowner by the beach after a long day at work.
Whether you are a single or taken woman, life can get quite entertaining when you drive on your rock. The amount of flirting that occurs on the road would likely surprise people who aren’t on islands, no doubt. Flirting takes on a whole other level when driving. Whether you decide to hit the grocery store in your pajamas or arrive at a party in a fitting jumpsuit, all eyes are on you when you emerge from your vehicle in the parking lots. When you return to your car later, you could get the old school chit of paper left underneath your car’s wiper, you may get some winks, some whistles, or it could even rise up to a musical duel. And we’ve all been stuck driving behind those covered trucks that carry workers… they’ve got nowhere to look but at you, like it or not, and their attention often gets so intense you sometimes feel ready to sue for harassment.
My relationship with my island car is not unlike my relationship with some of my fellow islanders – it entertains me, it brings me joy, it takes me places I want to go, and it even challenges me at times (nose-out parking, to name just one such challenge). I’m grateful for the therapy it provides and the means to explore my rock, one day at a time.
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Do you, too, take pleasure in driving around your rock? Or is it a stressful experience that you make efforts to avoid?