Learning How to Drive

Photo by Samuele Errico Piccarini on Unsplash

I’m going to take my first driving lesson with a friend today. I’ve made a lot of excuses about why I’m 35 years old and don’t have a driver’s license, but the truth is that I’m afraid of driving. I was in several car accidents when I was a kid, and my mother almost died in a car crash. I watch drivers in Hartford run red lights with impunity almost every time I’m in the city. But there’s one memory that stands out when I think about my fear of driving.

I was a kid, sitting in the passenger seat. We were in the left-hand lane at a red light. The driver behind us got impatient, and swerved into the right lane, presumably to get ahead of the rest of us. I heard his engine roar as he pulled off. Shortly after, I heard a thunderous crash. The driver had slammed almost full speed into another car in the right lane which was also stopped at the light. The crash was so violent that the back of the driver’s car lifted off the ground momentarily from the impact.

My mother jumped out the car to go check on the driver, and I followed after her. By the time we reached him, other drivers had pulled him out of the crumpled mess. They laid him on the ground and he started convulsing. It was like someone was jerking the strings on a marionette. My mother told me to get back in the car, but the damage was done. I couldn’t get the image of the man shaking out of my head. Honestly I still can’t.

It’s time to conquer that fear though. Don’t get me wrong- I very much enjoy walking and taking public transportation, and I plan to continue doing both once I have a car. But in the past few months, I’ve finally seen what having a car means to one’s ability to enjoy life. There’s a certain spontaneity that’s just not possible with the bus, not to mention the increase in access and reach. These things never meant anything to me before because I’ve always taken the bus. Even as a kid, we were riding the bus as much as we were driving. Now though, it’s hard to go back to being confined to bus routes, or hosed by Uber and Lyft fees.

I’d also avoided a car because I don’t like having bills hanging over my head. I’ve changed jobs alot in the last few years, and it’s been nice to only have my rent and my cell phone to worry about paying month to month. Maybe this is a step I need to take though, to tie myself down and be more thoughtful in my decision-making since there would actually be something to lose. I don’t relish the idea of a new bill, but like I said, Uber ain’t free either.

Finally though, I want to be able to provide for the people around me in a way that I can’t now. My son has never bugged me about getting a car, or all the places he wishes we could go. He’s very eager to drive though, because neither I nor his mother does. I can read between the lines on that one. But I’ve also been shown all the places I can take him with a car, places I simply didn’t know exist. I want to take him, my friends and loved ones to cool places to build memories together. To do that, I’ve got to get behind the wheel.

One of my favorite philosophers, Albert Camus, died in a car crash. For some reason, when I read that, the first thought I had was, “That’s probably how I’m going to die.” That thought didn’t make any sense, as I wasn’t driving at the time and had no real desire to then. A big part of this too truly is conquering that fear, and showing myself that I can do this. In a way, it’s coming to terms with Camus’ one liberty. In a much more grounded way, I’ll be able to do cool shit, so let’s do this.

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