Thursday, August 22, 2013

Roads? Where We're Going, We Don't Need Roads

I got my driver's license in high school because it was something I was supposed to do, a rite of passage. For some kids, I suppose learning to drive, earning your license, and getting your first car represented freedom, but it didn't really mean all that much to me -- there was no way I could afford to buy a car any time soon. But all my friends were getting their licenses, it was what you did when you turned 16, and it was just another test I could study for and pass. (I totally aced the written exam, by the way, because I was a complete nerd.)

My mother didn't have a driver's license, despite several attempts to pass the road test, so we didn't even have a car to practice with, or someone to teach me, and no hope of affording a car for me even if I had a license. But she didn't want me to be in the same situation as an adult (besides, being able to drive might come in handy in a zombie apocalypse, if you can find gas), so she paid for expensive driving lessons -- money we really couldn't spare.

Driving was scary, and I didn't like it. Not only was I nervous because I was responsible for not killing people with the deadly missile I was steering, but I also had to trust that no one else on the road was going to cause an accident. I'm not a very trusting sort. Driving just seemed a little too unpredictable for my taste, but I got over (most of) my fears and slowly learned how to drive.

In all honesty, I probably shouldn't have passed my road test, but the woman with the clipboard was nice, the kind you never see in the movies. And I lucked out on the parallel parking portion of the exam; it had recently snowed, so it was hard to see how far from the curb I was, or if I was even lined up with it. (Too far, and not exactly.) Good enough for government work, as they say.

So I got my license, but I had no car to drive, and I promptly went to college in New York City, where having a car is more of a burden than a benefit. I ended up living in the city for another 15 years, not driving. And anyway, even if I had access to a car, I prefer taking mass transit whenever possible, which lets me read or nap or play video games and is seemingly safer than being on the highway with other people who potentially hadn't been behind the wheel of a car since they got their license. My few attempts to drive in the past decade did not go well. (Don't worry, the only casualty was my pride.)

But here I am, living in a more suburban area of Philadelphia where a car is more necessary, but I still don't feel comfortable behind the wheel -- and I'm starting to feel kind of embarrassed about that. So I've been practicing a bit when I can, and I'm planning to take an adult driver refresher course so my license to drive doesn't become a license to kill. But for the moment, as it has been for many years, that little plastic card is just a handy form of government-issued identification.

I know plenty of people my age who don't have a driver's license, or are in the process of learning to drive, so I wonder just how important it really is to most teens. I bet it depends on where you live and whether you have the luxury of learning how to drive and owning a car. Is this rite of passage really as universal as it appears in movies and television, or are many people happy with bicycles, trains, and buses? (Strangely enough, I also didn't have a bike as a kid and didn't learn to ride until my 20s. And I can't quite swim. Really, how have I gotten by for all this time?)

1 comment:

  1. Good God, man! How HAVE you gotten by??

    I will have to swing by to suburban Philly and pick you up for a ROAD TRIP!!