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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Negotiating life’s worries by the seat of her pants

Cheryl-Anne Millsap The Spokesman-Review

As someone one who drove a minivan or SUV full of children for years, one arm stretched over the seat to break up fights, doling out snacks, shrieking things like “What do you mean you can’t find the snake? What snake?” while flying across town on two wheels trying to make it to the orthodontist before I was so late they charged me for a missed appointment, I’ve never thought of driving as a way to chill out. Far from it.

And, I’ve always been a sort of automobile Luddite. I don’t like a lot of bells and whistles in a car. I didn’t want anything fancy like, say, a seat heater. How silly.

I figured if I planted myself in a seat and sat there long enough, especially if the kids got me hot under the collar, the seat would warm up. Simple enough. Besides, it was creepy to think there were hot wires beneath me. I imagined standing beside a busy road, the seat of my jeans smoking, while I tried to explain to the officer what exactly had caused me to run off the road.

But now, commuting to work alone, things have changed. Several months ago I downsized and replaced the Suburban with a Subaru. I knew the car had all-wheel drive, extra airbags and a CD player that held five discs. But I had no idea it heated the seats, too.

So the first time it did I assumed the worst. Looking for the source of the heat, I almost ran a red light. The teenager beside me, who had pressed the button, laughed. I didn’t think it was so funny. I turned it off and told her not to do it again.

But, a few weeks ago on the first really cool morning of the season, when I left for work I remembered what had happened and I turned the heater on again. In seconds the chill in the car dissipated as I flushed, from the bottom up, so to speak. It was heaven. Like sliding into the Jacuzzi.

I’m not sure, but I think I purred.

Now, already a slave to my other secret vice, audio books, I’m doubly hooked. The combination of pleasures is powerfully addictive. Alone in the little car, listening to whatever is being read to me, melting into a toasty seat, I relax completely.

I’ll be honest. At the end of the day, when it’s time to drive home, my family isn’t always the first thing on my mind.

Frequently I think about what was happening in whatever book I was listening to when I parked the car that morning. And then I think about those warm seats, and I can’t get out to my car fast enough. Sometimes – and I’d rather you didn’t share this with anyone – I even grab a bag of low-fat popcorn to munch while I listen and drive home.

It’s all completely delicious; like being in a quiet movie theater without the screen; or in a warm bubble-bath with a good book, only fully dressed, without the bubbles and the water, of course.

It’s a wonderful way to unwind.

Naturally, I don’t want my children to know about this – they would figure out a way to take it away from me – so I keep up appearances.

I walk into the house after a long day, stooped as though I was carrying the weight of the world, bowed under the heavy responsibilities of work and parenting and life.

I pick at my dinner, never mentioning the popcorn, and, heaving a deep sigh, tell anyone who will listen that the commute and the job are killing me.

“You just don’t understand the pressure I’m under,” I whimper, pressing the back of my hand against my forehead. “Every day, the minute I walk out the door, I’m the one in the hot seat.”

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