Enjoy The Ride.

nohands

Don’t try this at home. Or on the road.

I was unusually late in getting my driver’s license (which I’ve chronicled here and here and even here). At least I was late getting it for where I live. In New York or many parts of Europe it wouldn’t be that unusual to not have a driver’s license, but I live in an area where it’s hard to get around without driving–or, in some cases, impossible. Being able to take the bus home most days is a luxury I don’t take for granted–some of my co-workers are five miles or more from the nearest bus stop, and once on the bus I talked to a woman who had to change jobs because the city was eliminating a bus route.

I don’t take the luxury of driving for granted either. When I want to go to a place that buses don’t go to, or that they only go to very rarely on weekdays and never on weekends, or when I just want to go when I want to go without having to walk to the bus stop which, even where I live, is a pretty good hike. It’s because I can drive that I got a membership at the YMCA where I regularly go to swim. I love to swim. It’s liberating, it frees me from gravity, and under the water it’s just me and my thoughts.

And then one day I dropped off the car to have something worked on. There was a bus stop conveniently placed near the car repair place, so I took my gym bag. The same bus went right by a Y on the other side of town, and I found another kind of liberating experience. I didn’t have to drive. The fare was less than I would have spent on gas and parking. I was only bound by the bus schedule, but I had the luxury of time.

13 Comments

  1. kdcol

    The bus schedules in my city are weird. Example: If you have jury duty, you can ride the buses free for the day, to go downtown and back. Getting downtown for jury duty isn’t the hard part, it’s trying to figure out how to get BACK that gets weird. Since you don’t know what time you’ll get out of jury duty, you can’t figure out which bus to take to get you back. It varies based on the time. I don’t know, it’s just weird. So I do like every other Texan and just drive my car.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      That does sound pretty weird. In Nashville too any bus is going to get you downtown, but depending on where you want to go you might be stuck downtown anywhere from fifteen minutes to four hours. What I found even weirder was that most driving instructors turned me down because I was an adult. I still can’t figure out why that made a difference. Eventually I found a guy whose clients were mostly foreign college students.

      Reply
  2. Gina W.

    I couldn’t tell from reading the past columns– were you in your 30’s when you got your license? If yes, then I am beyond impressed that you were able to live your life for so long using public transportation. There have been times in my life when public transportation was my only mode of transportation available. It’s only when you need to pack home things that are big and bulk and heavy that you appreciate having a nice big car trunk to haul all your shit around. Then I bet you had a hell of a time getting auto insurance. Because they want your insurance history before they’ll sell you insurance. It’s like needing job experience before you can get your fist job. When my husband and I got married we had a horrible time getting auto insurance for my husband. He lived in Russia. Back in the 90’s there was NO SUCH THING as insurance in Russia. We had no way to prove that he didn’t commit periodic vehicle manslaughter on a regular basis. So we paid a boatload of extra money for years until his history got built up. Ahhhh, good times, good times…

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Yes, I was in my thirties. Because I had a spouse who did most of the driving I put off getting a license a lot longer than I should have, but for some reason that was a plus when I went to get insured. I think my age also helped. I wasn’t a teenager. Still it really is weird that it was so easy for me to get insurance. I can understand why your husband had a hard time.
      That also reminds me of my British friend who came over here. I don’t know how hard it was for him to get insurance but he got some respect for his British driver’s license. People generally recognized how hard British road tests were. Here my road test was three right turns and stopping at a stop sign.

      Reply
  3. TwerlaP

    I didn’t get my license til I was 22. I was too young to take drivers ed in high school. But, I bought a car when I turned 18, and drove all the time, til I got stopped one night for a light being out. That night was a mess, lemmee tell you!

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      That sounds like quite a story. I guess you couldn’t talk your way out of it by saying that if you hadn’t had a light out they never would have pulled you over. Clearly you were a safe driver in spite of not having a license. Maybe you were even safer than those who did have licenses because of the penalties for being pulled over.

      Reply
  4. Margot

    Public transportation in big cities can be wonderful. Having a car actually becomes a hassle when you have to either pay for a garage space or circle your neighborhood forever before finding a spot 4 blocks away. Then you can’t find parking when you want to go out, either. But in anyplace other than a good sized city you can spend practically half of your day just getting to where you need to be. It’s nice that you have both options.

    My sixteen year old daughter got her driver’s permit two months ago. They don’t offer Driver’s Ed or Training anymore at school. Well, not in our school district anyway, which is surprising because it’s pretty well funded. She downloaded an app and studied the night before and passed the written exam for her permit, but she really knows nothing about the rules of the road. I am her teacher. She started out with my husband, but they always ended up having screaming matches. It’s very stressful to teach your own kid! She’s a very confident and usually also competent person, so she’s kind of fearless when driving. I wonder if you had trouble finding an instructor because they figure that adults won’t be as scared and tentative as kids usually are. It IS challenging trying to teach someone who automatically assumes she’s doing well unless firmly corrected (without yelling or getting angry). Speaking of teaching loved ones to drive, did you or your wife ever consider her being your teacher?

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      We considered it and at one point she tried to teach me to drive a stick, but it didn’t work out too well. Although it did work out better than an earlier time when another friend tried to teach me to drive a stick and I flooded the engine and it took us about two hours to get it started again.
      I guess most driving instructors do figure adults won’t be as scared and tentative as kids and that’s why they only work with teens. I would think teaching adults would be easier, but I guess the local places also just aren’t used to dealing with adults.

      Reply
  5. Ann Koplow

    My 17-year-old son is in absolutely no hurry to learn how to drive. That is so different from 17-year-olds when I was his age, I am amazed. I think he’ll be late getting his license, if at all. Good for him, good for you, good for everybody.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      That’s interesting–I’ve heard others say their children aren’t in any hurry to get their licenses either. In places where it’s easy to get around without a car it’s understandable, but even some suburban parents have said their children see driving as more trouble than it’s worth.

      Reply
      1. Margot

        That could be because they enjoy being driven around by their parents. They don’t have to learn their way around and it’s more time to play on their phones. I’m constantly amazed that my newly driving daughter has no idea how to get to places we go to all the time, including her high school. At least she’s learning now and has stopped giving me crap for not remembering exactly where all of her friends live.

        Also, if you make them chip in for gas and pay for their own insurance they lose even more incentive.

        Reply
        1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

          That seems to be it in a lot of cases.
          For me I think it was also partly seeing a friend get hit by a car when I was seven. That left a pretty deep impression on me.
          The funny thing is even when I didn’t drive I still knew how to get around. Doesn’t your daughter at least know landmarks? That’s actually still my problem–I can give great visual directions (look for a big gray building with a couple of brass doors) but I’m terrible with street names.

          Reply
  6. Margot

    Yikes! I can see how watching your friend get hit by a car at such a young age would make you reluctant to drive.

    I knew how to get around before I could drive, too. I’d say it’s because my parents would have something grown-up and boring on the radio, so I’d look out the window and pay attention to where we were going if I wasn’t too busy day dreaming. But this generation of kids has grown up differently. When my kids were really young we’d always put in a CD of kids music to keep them from whining. And then came the cars with DVD players, which were great for keeping them entertained on long road trips. And now they are glued to their damned phones, even for a half mile journey. I know I should be taking some responsibility for this, but sometimes keeping them fairly quiet in the car was the only chance I had to hear myself think. I think the only landmarks I got them to recognize were the vineyards when we lived in Napa for 10 years. When they saw them on a longish trip they’d know we were almost home. But that’s about it. Now that we live in Lexington, they’ll recognize a landmark, but it won’t help orient them. Their friends are the same way. I really do think it’s because they are so addicted to their phones, they never just relax and look out the window.

    Reply

Leave a Reply to Margot Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: