Driving

While Bellairs could drive, it was something he didn't particularly enjoy. He much preferred it when someone else was driving and, according to some of his friends, not only did they prefer it when someone else – other than John – was driving, so did the universe.

Longtime friend Dale Fitschen says it was a “genuinely frightening thing” to be in the back seat with John behind the wheel. Fitschen recalls a few visits to John during his time in Minnesota: "John drove the winding road on the bluffs of the Mississippi in the dark; he was leaning over the back seat, waving one or both hands, while one of the never-ending flow of his stories poured out. Most practical things, like steering a car, were a negligible distraction to what was happening in his head and his anecdotes. We all did our best to see that John didn't have to drive. He did when he needed to, but he was usually delighted to give up the wheel to someone else. It freed him to talk more freely."

Myers, as far as he can remember, was never a passenger in a car that John drove: "I couldn't have lived to my present age without having acquired some basic self-preservation skills!" He reminds us that undergraduates at Notre Dame during his and Bellairs on time on campus were not permitted to have cars. "At Chicago, none were necessary, due to the city's excellent public transportation system. I have no idea about whether he had a car in Minnesota but I'm fairly sure that he had none during his bachelor days in Boston and perhaps some nondescript secondhand something-or-other in Haverhill."

Bellairs notes his favorite type of car is a Honda Civic and his biggest pet peeve is Massachusetts drivers, adding "they leap at you from all directions" [John Bellairs' Favorites, 1985].

Marilyn Fitschen also notes that John did not like to drive on highways, as he was terrified of tailgating tractor-trailers, one of his many fears. In a January 18, 1990 letter to the Fitschens, Bellairs writes that he was "in a car accident, but came out bruised but OK." The accident, in which we’re told a truck drove him off the road (according to a letter sent to friend Gerald Kadish), was alluded to in a November 1990 article when asked why he doesn't drive: I had a car accident one. Luckily Haverhill has goods taxis and bus service and I go down to Boston on the train. I have kept my license and will lease a car occasionally but I am a lot happier not driving" [Author's Imagination Stuck at 10, 1990].

Around this time, Maura Bresnahan recalls that Bellairs visited her graduate class at Salem State College and she ended up giving him a ride back to Haverhill.

Myers thinks John would have been perfectly happy in a world without cars, somewhat like Professor Childermass: "to Childermass, and Bellairs as well, cars were a sometimes-necessary means of transportation, nothing more.

"Anyone with the slightest degree of mechanical ability would have been totally outside John's orbit. He once said to me that he didn't know anyone who had less of an interest in cars than he did and certainly would have hated them when they were 'broken' because he would have been completely helpless under the circumstances. My wife remembers getting completely hysterical over one of his tirades on how the workings of cars were a complete mystery to him. I'm sure that defrosting a refrigerator would be a mechanical process that he would also loathe."

Perhaps the knowledge of cars skipped John and was passed to his younger brother, Frank, who, like Anthony Monday's brother Keith, was a mechanic and quite knowledgeable about automobiles.