Most of last week I drove to and from work instead of taking the bus. This meant I had a lot more freedom–sort of, anyway. I was still putting in my eight hours but I was free to pick my own route home. The walk to and from the parking garage is roughly the same distance as it is to the bus, but I don’t mind the exercise. And I could decide when I wanted to come and go instead of standing on the sidewalk waiting for a driver who may or may not have decided to drive right by me.
And whereas on the bus I’m free to read or play with my phone’s various apps doing those things while I’m the one driving is a really bad idea.
Each option gives me a different set of freedoms and a different set of responsibilities. That’s obvious.
What’s not so obvious is something I thought about while driving when I passed a guy standing at a bus stop. I recognized him. He’s a regular rider on the bus I usually take. Most days he’s carrying groceries, and it looked like he was on this day too.
I thought about the advantages that driving gave me. If I wanted to stop and buy groceries my choice of places wouldn’t be limited by what’s closest to a bus stop. And because I could load everything into the car I could buy more than I could comfortably carry in a single trip.
And I wouldn’t have to worry about taking up seat space with all my stuff, or, even worse, the trip taking so long my ice cream would melt. Maybe I should examine my priorities there but that’s another story.
I thought about offering him a ride but the bus stop wasn’t in a place where a regular car could safely pull over. Buses are big hulking vehicles that naturally trundle along and make regular stops, but pulling over my small car in heavy traffic would just be asking for a fender bender.
I still wish I’d offered him a ride. I don’t know if he would have recognized me or if he’d be cool with taking a ride from a stranger. Maybe he preferred to ride the bus. I know I do sometimes.
Every freedom comes with its obvious privileges and its responsibilities but what seeing him got me thinking about was what was beyond the obvious, the privileges and responsibilities that are optional. Offering a ride to a relative stranger isn’t something I have to do but it has the possibility of making their life a little easier, a little better.
Neither freedom nor responsibility is absolute. Both are defined, and define, how we relate to others.
Maybe next time I will offer him a ride.