Week-eleven of lockdown, another mini-vacation cancelled, but, in our case, maybe there’s a small silver lining because whenever Martin and I drive to a holiday destination, one particular bone of contention arises.

Take our last holiday to Port Macquarie back in February. The lead-up was filled with the usual anticipation: plans of reading books, drinking wine and walking on the beach. The part we didn’t think to consider, and never think to consider, is that thing that always happens as we drive along the freeway to get there.

But that was still several days away. In a chipper mood, Martin pulled down two huge suitcases from the overhead cupboards in our bedroom. I lodged my usual protest that we were only going away for a week and should learn to pack light. I fantasise about being that couple that could just throw an overnight bag and a beach towel on the back seat of the car at a moment’s notice and take off. Martin said that I was welcome to go with an overnight bag but he was taking a suitcase. The fact is, I’m as bad. Let’s blame climate change and unpredictable weather for not knowing what to pack, and, okay, I can’t go anywhere without my hairdryer and straightener. But I’m not sure what Martin’s excuse is, as he wears the same thing every day, regardless of the temperature outside.

Once the absurdly heavy suitcases were jammed closed, and I’d filled a small bag with overflow stuff (the hairdryer and straightener), Martin set about loading it all in the car. This is where his background in logistics comes to the fore. I handed him the last bag which he slotted into its pre-allocated space in the boot like the final piece of a jigsaw puzzle. He stepped back so I could admire his handywork. ‘Good job,’ I said, meaning it. So there was now only one sleep left until the big fight.

The plan was to leave between nine and ten, which meant about ten-fifteen, as the usual things had to be re-checked: Was the iron switched off? Were the doors locked? All the doors? Even the laundry door? Then we were on our way, still feeling upbeat. Until about five minutes onto the freeway.

Martin slipped the car into the right-hand overtaking lane. This is where he seems to feel most comfortable, regardless of whether or not there is a car in the left lane to overtake. Or perhaps there is a car in the left lane, but it’s so far ahead of us, as to be irrelevant. This was our situation that day. There was a car a long way ahead of us, which we were gaining on by barely discernible degrees. It would take literally minutes to catch up to it at the speed we were going.

I felt myself tensing up. How had I forgotten about this well-worn issue? Without turning around, I knew that faster cars than ours would already be building up behind us. My eyes darted to the passenger side-mirror. Yep, there they were. Meanwhile, we inched closer to the car in the distance.

For as long as I could, I suppressed my growing anxiety. Martin sensed my agitation.

‘I can see you checking the side-mirror,’ he said.

This was impressive as I ‘d done so without moving my head.

‘Why can’t you just drive in the left lane?’

‘Because I’m overtaking.’

‘Not yet,’ I said. ‘Not even close.’

‘Why don’t you drive then?’ This was his default response, but I persisted.

‘Haven’t you ever noticed the Keep Left Unless Overtaking signs?’

‘I am overtaking.’

‘No, you’re not!’

Then silence.

Finally, we reached the car ahead of us and began to pass it at an excruciatingly slow rate. For what seemed like ages, we were neck and neck. I could have wound down my window and chatted to the driver, perhaps about his vacation plans.

‘Could you just speed up until you get past him?’ I said to Martin.

‘I’m going at the speed limit. It’s on cruise control.’

And there was the problem. I knew Martin wouldn’t have been able to resist pushing the speed limit envelope, but not so far as to risk a fine, so our car would have been set to cruise at 112 km/hr, while the car beside us must have been doing the actual speed limit of 110 km/hr.

Again my eyes’ gaze slid across to the side mirror. I was surprised no one had yet sounded their horn, or rammed our rear-end, for that matter.

Please just get past this guy and get in the left lane to let all those cars through.’

‘I knew you were checking the mirror. You know, you really should see someone about this.’

‘Maybe you should!’

We retreated to our corners.

After finally getting past that car, Martin moved into the left lane, allowing those behind us to speed by. I wasn’t game to look, but I assumed at least one of the drivers gave us the finger. For the rest of the journey, Martin spent more time in the left lane than would have been his preference, while I contemplated which one of us needed a therapist. Eventually an uneasy truce ensued.

After leaving the freeway at the turn-off for Port Macquarie, things began to thaw. Our attention turned to where we might like to have a late lunch. It was such a beautiful day, we agreed that the pub in town overlooking the river would be perfect. Getting out of the car, we drew the salty sea air deep into our lungs, the argument already forgotten. In fact, it wouldn’t occur to either of us again, until we were about five minutes out of Port Macquarie on the freeway heading back towards Sydney.





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