As of around 9AM today it has been exactly four years since the last time I drove a car. Just for the record, my license wasn’t revoked; I surrendered it as a lifestyle decision.
When I was 17, I purchased a used 1987 Buick Park Avenue, which I affectionately referred to as Lady Grey. The former owner didn’t mention this feature, but whenever the car was in reverse it blasted a tune similar to the sound of an ice cream truck. Obviously I hadn’t done much research, and in retrospect it was probably fortunate that Lady Grey never spontaneously combusted.
On July 19th, 2008, I was on my way to a shift at Starbucks when my car simply stopped moving. Before this happened I was able to get to the side of the road, but the location was not ideal and the rush hour traffic continued without me. After a frustrating phone call in which AAA informed me that my membership had expired and wished me luck, I had a moment of clarity. Despite the convenience, driving was generally a very stressful experience that wasn’t worth the expense. For the final time, I placed my keys in the ignition and managed to navigate Lady Grey to an off-road where I managed to mosey my way home at about 7 miles per hour. Once there, I took a moment to yell some profanities inside my deceased vehicle before jumping on my bike and hurrying to work. Somehow I was only 10 minutes late.
If I were the queen of the world, civilization would operate in harmony with nature and everything would be within walking distance. In reality, however, I’m a broke 23 year old trying to figure out what to do with my BA in Communications and Theater. Since I’m not ready to venture Into the Wild like Alexander Supertramp, I need to make a few compromises in order to function in a fast paced society.
That being said, I don’t regret my decision to quit driving. I’ve saved a lot of money that has allowed me to take yoga classes and public transportation, not to mention a healthy dose of long walks. Now that I’ve squandered most of my funds, it’s time to temporarily retreat to the suburbs, renew my driver’s license, and find a better job (life-guarding for 8 hours a day is slowly melting my brain).
Refusing to drive has placed me in some predicaments. One example was last night, when my friend Alexandra generously offered to drive me to the UPS store after I missed the delivery of a package containing books and a yoga block that I ordered from Amazon. I thought it would save a few dollars and be more convenient, but we ended up waiting for over an hour. Alex was extremely cool about this, but it didn’t seem fair that she was in that situation just because I don’t have a car.
In the words of Ani Difranco, “it’s not important to be defined, it’s just important to use your time well.” For the past four years, I’ve been stubborn about not driving because I was defining myself by that choice. I still care about my carbon footprint, but I also care about living fully while I’m still young. When I start driving again I’ll make a point to bike, walk, or use public transportation whenever possible, but it will be a tremendous relief to have an alternative to planning my schedule around SEPTA.
Also, after last night’s misadventure I’m not shopping online unless it’s absolutely necessary.