And I am now a pedestrian. Or a passenger.
My recent trip back to Indianapolis was my first since I moved to NYC. Traveling back to Indy steered me down all kinds of memory lanes.
I’d like to focus on the turning lane for the purpose of this post.
Getting into my car, and driving down familiar streets after not driving for four months reminded me of my rocky and pot-holed relationship with driving. I actually hate it.
It never occurred to me that driving would not be something I was good at doing. Every person I knew over the age of 15 (even those Amish neighbors of mine) could drive, how hard could it be?
It all started in Driver’s Ed. I believe I got a C, one of my worst grades ever and therefore one of the classes I dreaded the most. My high school’s Driver’s Ed car was a stick shift which I managed to not learn how to drive, despite passing the class. My driving reports would contain notes like “almost got us hit by a semi due to failure to check blind spot” and “needs to understand right-of-way on left turns”.
My Driver’s Ed teacher (who’s identity I shall protect so as not to incriminate in this post as he did his best to teach me) granted me the coveted waiver that allowed me to bypass the driving test at the DMV so I only had to pass the written test to get my license. Usually this is reward given to good drivers. I was waived because “I’m afraid if you have to take the driving test, you’ll never get your license, I don’t want to do that to you.”
I’m positive he was right. In fact, I’m not 100% sure I could pass one now despite 15 years of driving. Four-way stops and left turns are not my thing.
My first ever car came from my father. A $300, 1993 Plymouth Colt that looked like a red roller-skate with a bajillion miles on it. It made a loud sckreechy-squealy noise sporadically when it rained. This car was affectionately referred to as “Mr. Puby” by my friends and me due to the embarrassment of driving while it was squeal-eak-eeching being equal to that of the humiliation suffered during of puberty.
***Sidenote: My father deserves the blame/credit for that analogy. To him nothing is more embarrassing or hilarious than puberty so many things have become “pubic” situations I found this hilarious as a teenager and actually still do despite how gross it sounds.***
So yeah, Mr. Puby. My dad mistakenly assumed I could drive a stick shift because I’d gotten my license and my driver’s ed car was manual. For about the first month, I let my friends drive me around in my car because I couldn’t drive it without a panic attack at four-way stops where all the pressure not to stall was more than I could handle. I did quickly master the radio so remained in control of the soundtrack to which we rolled.
My dad eventually noticed that I wasn’t driving my car and taught me how to drive a stick, something I did end up mastering and am still good. This skill was born mostly out of necessity to accommodate the deteriorating transmission of Mr. Puby and learn to shift from first to third to fifth gear as they began to blow out. I also blew out the speakers. And may or may not have blown through stop signs on back country roads while honking my horn and flashing my headlights when late for curfew.
When the transmission finally quit on me, Mr. Puby went where a lot of Hoosier cars go to die… a trailer park. My dad had some mechanic friends operating out of their home who he lovingly called the “Beverlies” as in the Beverly Hillbillies… They tried to find junkyard parts… or parts to cars in their yard (aka car graveyard), to keep ol’ Puby on the road but in the end, it was his time.
My mom got me my next car, a shiny bright blue and bubbly 1997 Neon. The Neon had a TAPE deck and air conditioning.
I felt fancy. A lot of Destiny’s Child, Biggie Smalls, Puff Daddy and Mase were bumped in this car with a side of Wu-tang and Tupac. This vehicle only received a name posthumously because in life it was mild but when it went out, it went out hardcore.
This car shall be called the Bambi-Killer. I was returning to college one night, again on back country roads. Speeding as usual, with the windows rolled down and the stereo blasting 112. I found myself facing a doe and it’s fawn seconds before I ended their lives with the Bambi-Slayer. I ended up in a ditch, my car filling with water, my airbags smacking me in the face, and crawling out of the window of my car for the last time.
This time my dad went to a car auction with the $1,000 I managed to scrape together and got me a sexy (or so I thought at the time) little black Saturn Coupe. WITH a CD player I might add (the removable face didn’t work but it still played CD’s so that counted). This car had great gas mileage but horrible motor oil mileage. It could’ve been considered a dude-magnet if I didn’t mind having my intelligence questioned by a different guy at the gas station every time I pulled in to fill up and threw a quart or two of oil in the engine without checking it. They would always tell me there was no way my car needed that much oil, I must need to learn how to check my oil. The poor guy would then check my oil, realize it was as empty as my gas tank, and look at me like “uh, you’re car is messed up sweet cheeks”. Duh.
So I decided I was an adult and I was going to go to a dealership and buy a car by myself. It wasn’t one of my best financial decisions, I had no clue what I was doing and was not the savvy saleswomen I ended up becoming so I fell for every trick in the book.
I purchased a with a car that had tinted windows, a moon roof, leather seats and power windows. I thought my 2000
Grand Prix GT was really classy.Too bad it was like a huge boat that I was terrible at driving. And the (drug-dealer) tint was (turns out) illegally dark and impossible to see through at night.
Yet this was the car I held onto the longest. I was so proud of myself when I paid that thing off that I rode it into the ground. I hit two parked cars, rear-ended someone while talking on my cell phone, blew the speakers out, got pulled over for the tint three times, and let a homeless guy fix a dent in the parking lot of a grocery store for $50 and lunch at McDonalds. I repainted it, guessed at my fuel levels when the gas gauge stopped working and was the sole person who knew the trick to getting the keys out of the ignition… most of the time. I had a friend-of-a-friend slap some junkyard parts in her to hold the old’ gal together for as long as I could hold out.
What’s great about this car is that by this time in my life my financial means, my career, my house, my wardrobe, all the trappings of success and adulthood I possessed would’ve lead you to believe I drove a much nicer car. But nope, I would strut out after a client meeting in my suit and heels to my big ol’ jalopy and hoped it would start. And that no one was looking out the window or needed me to drive to lunch.
Until last summer. I agonized over the decision to buy a new car. I didn’t want to make a bad decision so I avoided it until the ol’ hoopty finally gave out on me. I wanted a car that was easy to drive, reliable but cool — damn it! I wanted an understated but nice car. So I researched cars, sought top advice from savvy car-buyers on how to negotiate, researched percentage rates and decided on a 2009 Acura TSX.
Then I decided to move to New York City 3 months later just to spite myself.
So, during my trip to Indy I cut the last tie to my former suburban life- I sold my car. The car I FINALLY treated myself to after that long history of sloppy –jalopy-hunky-junky-rinky-dink-clunker-oil-burning-pubic-squeaking-creaking-deer-slaying beasts. I sold my grown and sexy car.
This means I am serious about my NYC life. This is the first time I have been carless since the age of 16.
This also means the streets are safer. You’re welcome.
Life is a highway, a bi-way, a runway, and a cobblestone road. It’s also a subway, an elevator and a sidewalk.
So I may not be driving, but I plan to travel further than ever, in ways I never considered.