Those of you who know I’m not crazy about cars will no doubt be alarmed to hear that I’m learning how to drive. But it’s true. The boy with a hat may be spotted about town, carefully steering the wheel while looking out for pedestrians at the crossing. He doesn’t dare to use the horn yet, but he has learned how to switch gears, and is good friends with the brake.
I hesitated about driving school for a long time, me being a walker supreme and bicycle boy. I don’t mind taking the bus – I prefer it to being in a car, because I can observe the people and the world. Or read. My ideal way of life is free from the concerns, expenses, and risks that come with driving.
But cars are useful. And people and cats can get sick and need to be taken to the doctor. And movies at the cinema sometimes run late. And during the summer, the park is wonderful in the middle of the night. And having someone in the passenger seat can feel nice, like you have done something good to deserve it.
In the city you can do without a car. You have the subway, public transport, taxis, Uber, and friends to drive you around. In the suburbs things are more complicated. You can live without a car in the suburbs, too, and even get a sense of achievement out of it. You may be somewhat constrained by the schedule of buses, but if your ego can handle it, the rest of you can handle it, too.
But learning how to drive is an experience worth having. It’s not just that it heralds great freedom and independence. But it sharpens your senses, trains your reflexes, and gives you a sense of responsibility. It also makes you a more careful pedestrian.
Driving is not at all like writing. When you drive you can’t make mistakes and can’t change the order of things. You can’t make up signs and maneuvers. You have to solve problems logically, applying tried and tested rules, and you must stick to those rules. You don’t usually have second chances.
I enjoy driving. It’s strange to admit it. In a way, it is a celebration of the human body, of what it can build and use, of its senses and its coordination. Not quite as big as walking, but still…
I still make many mistakes. I do feel comfortable behind the wheel, though. I even look forward to my lessons. But what I enjoy even more is that liberating feeling I get when I pull the hand brake, close the door, and walk away in freedom toward the park, another lesson completed.
I still think that we shouldn’t drive cars unless we need them. Cars are not harmless, and we should remember that. After I get my driving license I will not buy a car until I need it. Choosing to live without a car rings even truer when you know how to drive, and can look at cars from inside out, appreciating their convenience yet knowing that you can live a good life without one.
And then there’s that thing about how doing what you’re not comfortable with helps you grow. Maybe. But there’s one thing that it surely does – helps you appreciate the things you enjoy doing even more, the things that really define you, like walking.
Do you remember driving school? What was the hardest part?