This summer, a three-day trip to San Francisco confirmed in my mind that I never again want to live in the suburbs. The art, culture, and food are all great, of course, but the best part was that I could appreciate them without a car.
For a 17-year-old who has somehow managed to avoid getting a driver’s license, the freedom that buses and trains allowed was an exciting change of pace. Finally, I no longer had to rely on my mother as my chauffeur.
The excitement I felt about being able to travel around the city brought me back to a family vacation in upstate New York, when I was 9. We stayed in a 700-person town, where we were more likely than not to run into three of our relatives each time we left the house. Since it was barely a 30-minute walk from one end of town to the other, I got to go to the grocery store by myself for the first time. The realization that I could take my desire for chocolate milk into my own hands was a big moment for me.
Unfortunately, Sacramento is a very unhappy medium. It’s not a big enough city to bother with decent public transportation, but there’s no chance of being able to walk to the grocery store, either. It’s the nightmare of someone who doesn’t want to drive.
The reason for my lack of a driver’s license is simple enough. Cars are horrible. They look, smell and sound unpleasant.
They’re also terrifying. The number of people who die in car accidents per day, about 100, is frighteningly high, but that still leaves an overwhelming majority of people who make it through a day of driving unscathed. I have trouble understanding how they do it. I’m supposed to believe that driving two-ton metal boxes in close proximity to each other at 70 miles per hour is even remotely safe?
Almost two years ago, I reluctantly got my permit. I started to learn to drive, but my constant awareness of how disastrous a wrong move could be kept me from driving often. My permit expired before I finished driver’s training.
I didn’t mind that turn of events at first, but my inability to drive got progressively more irritating. Making plans around my mother’s schedule became a bigger and bigger nuisance.
So on Monday, I spent a lovely morning at the DMV getting my second permit. The process was cumbersome, of course. I don’t understand why I need to know whether the legal blood alcohol content is .06 or .08 percent. I get the point – don’t drink and drive. But I passed the test, and, when I turn 18, I’ll be able to get my license.
I don’t really mind the fact that I delayed learning to operate battering rams on wheels, although it will be a relief to have a little more independence. But even as I get excited about the chance to drive myself places, I look forward to moving to a big city where I can just ride the bus.