Jim batted of the bee with his hand while I ducked and twisted and tried to keep the car on the road.

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, July 2, 1938.

“Step on her,” said Jimmie Frise.

“This is the speed I like,” I explained. “This is my cruising speed.”

“We’ll never get there, at this rate,” muttered Jim.

“You speed merchants amuse me,” I stated. “Many’s the time I have been in your car and we go whang along at 60 miles an hour, passing everything on the road.”

“Why not?” said Jim.

“Just a minute,” I suggested. “After sitting in a sort of daze of speed and jitters, with our hearts in our mouths every hilltop we come to and a sinking sensation in the pit of the stomach every time we pass a car, you finally pull up at a gas station for gas. And, while we sit there three or four minutes, what happens?”

“I’ve heard this before,” said Jim.

“Along come all the old jitneys, rattle-traps and slow coaches we have been passing 20 miles back. Three or four minutes, and the whole parade we have so magnificently left behind, catches up to us. I think that ought to dispel the illusion you speed merchants are under. You submit yourselves to all kinds of risk and nerve-strain under the impression that you are getting somewhere ahead of everybody else. You beat them, no matter how fast you go, by about 15 minutes or something.”

“I’ve beaten you,” stated Jimmie, “by three hours, going from Toronto to North Bay.”

“Yes,” I replied, and what did you see, on that trip, as you raced like a madman across the province? All you saw was a gray blur of road, while you sat tense and cramped at the steering wheel.”

“Okay,” said Jim, “and what did you see, as you doped heavily up the highway, all sagged back under your wheel with an expression like a purring cat in your eyes. You know: half open and half shut?”

“I saw,” I informed him loudly, “glorious country, hill and dale. I saw vistas and far-flung panoramas. I saw sheep and cattle, horses and birds, like hawks and bright warblers along the woodsy margin of the road.”

“My, my, my,” said Jimmie.

“I saw farmers, my brothers in life.” I continued emotionally, “plowing their fields or raking hay. I saw the faces of country children as they walked along the roadside. What did you see? Just a zipp and something had been passed. Just a phhtt!”

“Phttt,” echoed Jimmie. “That’s the way I like to travel.”

A Bee in the Car

“Look around you now,” I commanded. “Behold the beauty of summer. Relax and rest your eyes on these lovely scenes through which we are passing. Could we look at these fields if you were driving? No, sir. Both of us would be sitting like in a dentist’s chair, keyed up, nerves taut.”

“Okay,” said Jim. “I’m looking around. I don’t see anything special. There’s a field of wheat. That’s a pasture. Three cows lying down under a tree. And here we’re coming to a rather commonplace looking farmhouse, sort of decayed and run down and seedy…”

“Beauty,” I advised, “is in the eye of the beholder.”

“There’s a patch of woods,” pointed out Jim, “that would have been all right if the cattle hadn’t been in it, and eaten off all the lower foliage.”

“Look at the picture as a whole,” I cried, “not at the detail, as if you were some kind of land valuator. Take in the panorama.”

“It’s a pretty dull panorama, if you ask me.” said Jim, taking it in all around, “dusty looking hills, just a lot of crops sizzling in the sun, homely-looking farm houses and rickety barns, exhausted horses drooping against fences…”

“Very well, forget it,” I said heatedly.

“How can I forget it, at the speed we’re going?” retorted Jim. “If you’d only step on the gas and hustle us through this desolate looking country, I wouldn’t have to sit here staring at all these evidences of man’s futile struggle with life.”

“We’re hitting 38,” I stated. “Thirty-eight miles an hour is fast enough for anybody to go.”

“Could I appeal to you,” inquired Jimmie, “on the grounds of heat? How would you like to go just fast enough to create a breeze? I’m slowly stifling.”

“Open the windows behind you.” I advised. “There’s a grand breeze.”

“Make it 45,” pleaded Jim. “Just forty-five. Give us just enough wind to blow the engine heat out of the car.”

“I’ll make it 40,” I consented, cautiously pressing a little harder on the pedal, “but no more.”

“There,” accused Jim, “you’ve let a bee in the car.”

“Shoo it out,” I ordered sharply. “Shoo it out.”

“It went behind somewhere,” said Jim, turning to look in the back of the car. “Now that’s what comes of driving slow. I never get a bee in my car because I’m travelling too fast. And if one …”

“Come on, come on,” I commanded anxiously, “find that bee. Get busy. Find it.”

“Find it yourself,” retorted Jim. “You let it in. All right. You get it out. I tell you, if any bees get in my car, they’re so stunned, they’re helpless.”

“Jim,” I said, “don’t talk. Just look for that bee.”

“It probably flew out the window,” said Jim. “At this speed, all the bees in Ontario can come and visit in on us.”

“Bees,” I informed him, slowing the car and steering for the shoulder of the road, “give me the willies. I’m going to stop and get that bee out. The thought of a bee crawling up my pant leg actually gives me sort of nervous breakdown sort of feeling.”

I pulled up on the roadside and got out and shifted the baggage around, examining all the nooks and crannies for the bee, while Jim sat with an expression of disgust on his face. I couldn’t find any bee. I found a couple of dry grasshoppers and some bobbie pins, marbles and a small toy automobile that my daughter lost some months ago; but there was no bee.

“Hm,” said Jimmie, as I got back in behind the wheel, “one of these days you’re going to have a mud turtle pop into your car.”

“A bee,” I stated, “is a serious menace. Hundreds of fatal accidents are caused every year by bees.”

“Bees never bother people who drive at normal speeds,” said Jim. “You go 60 miles an hour and you won’t see any bees except dead ones on your windshield.”

“Of the two evils,” I replied, “I choose the bee, because if I am stung at 40 miles an hour, I imagine I could control the car long enough to bring it to a safe stop. But at 60 miles an hour, nobody can control a car in any sudden emergency, like a bee sting or a sudden attack of hay fever.”

“Don’t talk,” said Jim. “Just drive. Every time you talk, you case your foot off the accelerator and we drop back to about 30 miles an hour. Concentrate on your driving.”

I stepped it back up to 38. Just to show I am not bigoted, I stepped it up to 40. In fact, the needle hovered for a few minutes up almost to 45. And Jim sat back and breathed a big sigh.

“If she doesn’t drop to pieces,” he said, “you’re doing all right.”

And then, out of the corner of my eye. I saw another bee, a big, black and yellow one, zoom in the side window and go behind me.

“Quick, Jim,” I cried, “another bee.”

Jim turned around and watched in behind.

“I don’t see it,” he said, preparing to sit back.

“Watch for it,” I insisted. “I saw it come right in past my ear. One of those big yellow bumble bees. See if it’s crawling up the back of the seat”

“Don’t be so jittery,” said Jim. “It probably went out the other window. Keep this speed up and it will blow the bees out.”

“I’m doing 45,” I gasped. “Better than 45. Look at the needle.”

“Good,” said Jim. “Hold her at 45 or better and we won’t see any bees.”

“I believe,” I said, grasping the wheel grimly and holding my breath,” I believe there is something in what you say about bees. I just smacked into one there a minute ago. Look at it on the windshield. As if an egg had burst.”

“Keep it up,” said Jim, enthusiastically.

Then, with a deep zoom, the bee came from behind and batted on the windshield right before our eyes. It zigzagged and hit the roof and dropped out of sight down by our feet.

“Hey,” shouted Jim, “watch your driving!”

“Get that bee,” I said, already feeling as if ten bees were crawling up my pant leg.

“Look out,” shouted Jim.

I was, as a matter of fact, wabbling a bit. I tried to keep one eye on the road and bend the other one down towards the floor boards, but you can’t do that.

“I got it,” cried Jim, stamping with his foot. But the angry bee now spiralled up and zoomed and hummed around our heads, while Jim batted at it with his hand and I ducked and twisted and tried to keep the car on the road. Needless to say, I had my foot off the accelerator and, in the two or three seconds that all this was happening, the car was coming to a stop. I got it stopped with one wheel just on the edge of the ditch.

And almost simultaneously with us, a speed cop rolled gently from behind us and parked his cycle square across our bows.

“W-hell, w-hell, w-hell,” said the cop, walking up and resting his elbow on my window sill. “What kind of fancy driving do you call that?”

“There was a bee in our car,” I stated. “It’s still in here somewhere.”

The policeman put his head in the window and leaned his face up close to me and sniffed long and judicially.

“What are you insinuating?” I demanded sternly.

“I was just seeing,” said the policeman,” I could smell any honey or anything.”

He backed out the window and opened the door. I scrambled out, shaking my pant legs in case of any bees. Jim got out the other side and came around. The policeman stood very close to us and kept sniffing suspiciously.

“Look here,” I said, “I tell you there was a bee in our car, a big bee. And that was what made me wobble a little.”

“A little?” said the policeman. “I saw you wobble 10 miles back. That’s what attracted my attention to you.”

“That was another bee,” I explained.

Only When You Go Slow

“So you go into a sort of stagger every time a bee gets in your car?” asked the constable.

“It’s all very well,” I said, “for you, with your leather leggings. But you just imagine a bee crawling up your pant leg and see how you feel.”

“I can charge you with reckless driving,” said the cop. “Steering all over the road like that.”

“I can’t help it,” I said. “Go ahead and charge me if you like. But when a bee gets in my car, I can’t help getting excited.”

“You can’t go swerving all over the road like that,” insisted the constable.

“Well, I’ll do my best,” I sighed. “But bees are bees.”

“Just keep your head,” advised the cop walking over to his cycle. “And remember, don’t wobble.”

He tramped authoritatively on his engine and rode on, slowly. Jim and I got into our car and followed. The cop jogged along at about 25 miles an hour, and we kept behind him for a mile or so.

Suddenly the constable’s cycle wobbled violently to one side and only by sticking his leg out did he keep the machine from falling, He pulled up at the side of the road and as we drew near he held up his hand for us to stop.

“Now,” he shouted, “you’ve got me bee conscious.”

“I’m sorry,” I assured him.

“Sorry!” he shouted. “I’ve a darn good mind to charge you with reckless driving after all.”

“It’s only when you go slow,” cut in Jim, very kindly, “that bees bother you. If you’re going fast, they just bump against you.”

“Is that so?” said the policeman grimly.

I nudged Jim to stop talking. The best thing to do with a speed cop is just look at him humbly.

“Maybe,” said the policeman, thoughtfully, “maybe I’ll get bees on my nerves, like you.”

He sat on the cycle, staring around at the grass and weeds. Then he took his gloves out of his pocket and pulled them on. Next, he took a handkerchief from his hip and tied it carefully around his neck. He pulled his cap down well over his ears and slid his goggles on. Hunching his shoulders, and crouching down on his saddle, he started his engine and, with a terrific roar of his exhaust, he leaped down the highway at 60 miles an hour.

“There you go,” said Jimmie. “Putting notions into the poor fellow’s head.”

“He’ll be more sympathetic now,” I pointed out. “Him coming smelling our breath like that.”

“Ouch!” exclaimed Jim. “Pshh! Shoo!”

Jim was flicking his hand frantically as our old friend, the big yellow bee, came groggily crawling up the outside of Jim’s pantleg, heard it scrunch as Jim stepped on it on the floor boards.

“There,” said Jim. “Now you’ve got me going.”

“It’s a mercy,” I said, “that it came up the outside of your pant leg.”

“Let’s drive on,” said Jim.

And he helped me wind up all the car windows, leaving only about an inch open at the top of each.

Editor’s Note: “Wabbling” is the same as “wobbling”.