Robert McBryde Author: CBC radio, literary non-fiction, vignettes and sketches, immigrant experience, living in Quebec and in France, childhood and animal stories, creative memoirs, satire, autobiography, family relations, raising children, aging, travel, social commentary, love and marriage, driving lessons, self-deprecation, translation: English-French; French-English

Publisher’s Note: Funny, manic, and wistful… self-deprecating creative nonfiction…The author, Robert McBryde, a professional translator, has been compared to David Sedaris for the sometimes-snarky autobiographical satire characterizing his literary sketches. Many of the stories in his new book, titled My Time with You Has Been Short but Very Funny, have been featured on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation radio network.

Author Robert McBryde


Author’s Note:
I’ve written a new book of creative non-fiction titled My Time with You Has Been Short but Very Funny, recently published and now on the market. The book is based on stories that I told over the years as a writer/ broadcaster and host on CBC radio based in Quebec City, Canada.

The book is available via my website. The purchase links are at the bottom of the home page. Apparently the Indigo platform has not yet been activated.

I will post two blogs per week, normally Wednesday and Friday afternoons at around 4:30 p.m. (Eastern Time). Stay tuned!

Here is an excerpt from my book; the vignette is about my being a horrible driver.

You can read the entire sketch in My Time with You Has Been Short but Very Funny.

Unsafe at any speed
I’m a horrible driver; I’ve always been a horrible driver. This deficiency is in my DNA: behind the proverbial wheel, my father was unsafe at any speed and my mother was beyond a shadow of a doubt the worst driver in human history. Various friends and relatives wanted to sue the person who allowed her to pass the driver’s test.

As a driver, my father, Jim McBryde, was as agitated as my mom was comatose. Jim would curse all other drivers, saving his sharpest venom for “old geezers” and “lady drivers.” He would constantly repeat rhetorical gems like “One foot on a banana skin; one in the grave.” Most of all he would heap verbal abuse upon my mother, Jill, usually in Scots dialect, criticizing her for defective piloting skills or lambasting her just because she was there.

On the open road, my father was always adrift, and in those pre GPS days it was up to my mother to get us to our destination. But once lost, my father decided to stay lost. He would bellow “I’m gang straicht tae Cornwall.” (This was about 400 miles from our home town.) Or more simply “shut yer cake hole, Jill.” If my mom dared to answer back, he would often swear at her, using the crude Polish that he had learned from her family: “Wsadź to sobie w dupę.” Stick it where the sun don’t shine.

My father was such a nervous, neurotic driver that he would never change his route to a given port of call. He also eventually decided he would no longer make any more left turns, thus rendering even local shopping trips interminable. For our dreaded family vacations, we always went to the same location, northern Vermont, where most of his family resided. When we lived in London, Ontario, this entailed a nine hour drive and my father was so perturbed about making his way through metropolitan Toronto that we had to leave at midnight. My sister and I, roused from a very truncated slumber, cowered in the back seat as the car was packed and we set off in the dead of night. We could always gauge the degree of my father’s anxiety by the amount of Scots that he bellowed and from how much he whistled or sang his favourite Scottish melodies. Jim was an inveterate whistler and when he also sang, we knew we were in BIG TROUBLE. When he reached a paroxysm of anguish, “Road to the Isles” was his go-to tune.

A far croonin’ is pullin’ me away
As take I wi’ my cromack to the road.
The far Coolins are puttin’ love on me.
As step I wi’ the sunlight for my load.

One year, we pulled out at midnight as usual and immediately entered a nether world of near total darkness. Whistling, Scots dialect, and a potpourri of imprecations ensued. We couldn’t find our way out of the neighbourhood. And yet it wasn’t the least bit foggy when we set off. Jim stopped the car for a closer look. Then he realized. The windshield was covered in a thick layer of wax. My father always Simonized his Chevy before leaving for a trip, so as to impress the relatives, and this time he hadn’t done the requisite rinsing.

Every year we had to stop for the same breakfast at the same time, about 5:30 a.m.; in the same place, on the Thousand Islands Parkway; in the same rest stop, near a town called Gananoque; for the same breakfast cooked by my father on our trusty Coleman Stove. This was meant to be family fun. Sausages and scrambled eggs, which my father called “rambled scregs,” were the order of the day. Exhausted as we were and wracked by all the stress, my sister and I were never hungry and my father’s scrambled eggs were always runny.

After Gananoque, we entered true crisis mode. My father was terrified of uniformed authority figures, especially customs agents, and of chucking the little tokens he received to cross the toll bridge. (He often missed the basket.) After we finally got across the bridge at Cornwall, we had to take a by-pass around a place called Malone, New York. If perchance we missed the by-pass and had to drive through Malone, Jim felt like he had landed in a circle of hell. With impeccable timing, my mother always chose these moments to nag her hubby, urging him to change routes for a change. (My parents always bickered, most of all in the car.) Meanwhile my poor sister, who was just a little kid, had to guide good old dad, as she often did, talking to him as though he were three years old. Jim was too anxious to decipher even the simplest road signs, so my sister would announce each upcoming turn and every lane change. “Now dad,” she would say in her best child flight attendant voice. “Put on your right directional. Change lanes. Continue for about a mile. Then follow the left exit marked Malone By-Pass.”

A good time was had by all.

By the time my mother got her driver’s licence, at the age of about 50, she was so shell shocked from travels with Jim that she drove like an automaton, oblivious to every vehicle or pedestrian that had the misfortune of crossing her path.

For my part, I failed my driver’s licence test three times. My driver’s education course unfolded like a stereotyped situation comedy. The instructor, George, was a very skittish fellow, who slammed on the auxiliary brake at the slightest shaky maneuver. He gulped and burped compulsively as I skidded and scudded. I imagined him devouring tranquillizer cookies between each session. His driver instructor warranty had definitely expired.

My worst feature as a driver was an inability to parallel park. I failed the test twice due to this deficiency and nearly dinged a couple of cars in the process. The third time that I failed was due to my freezing in a major intersection when the light turned orange while I was gearing up for a left turn, prompting cacophonous honking and fist shaking from the busy motorists who were stymied by my beached presence. The testing guy just shook his head and stared straight ahead. After that debacle, George took pity on me and bought me breakfast.

I passed on my fourth try because the examiner couldn’t bear to see me come back to their offices anymore.

My wife and I have never owned a car, but we did lease one for a stretch so that our older son Dan could access his summer workplace. Rebelling against the family heritage, Dan has always loved cars. At two years old, he was obsessed with knowing the names and years of all the vehicles that careened past the city bus. “What’s that old bruiser?” he would screech, and I would invent a model and a year. He is the proud owner of two SUVs. Our younger son David despises cars and is a public transit enthusiast. But they share one common bond: they find my jittery and erratic driving frightening and appalling. In another of life’s galling ironies, when behind the wheel I immediately turn into Jim.

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Your friend,