The Mr. Rogers of Driving

Yesterday I got into a car and drove, by myself, for the first time in my life. After years of being scared of driving, I’m now a licensed driver.

I’m not sure the full impact has hit me. I didn’t drive anywhere particularly strange, and I’m not good at it yet. But I can do it, no one honks at me, and I get there eventually. So, that’s the important part, right?

There’s a part of me that wishes I was having some sort of Springsteen-esque epiphany about how my loins and my wanderlust were somehow hopelessly entwined and I needed a hemi in New Jersey to sort that out. But it is hard to muster that feeling when you’re looking for parking and missing your turns constantly.

Errands hardly capture the teenage ego-unleashed-in-four-wheeled-fury! There is certainly more Mr. Roger’s in my driving style than there is Blues Brothers, and while I appreciate the incredible opportunities driving will now afford me, another part of me sees that 99 times out of 100 I’ll be making emergency runs to the store for coffee than I will be exploring my freedom as I search to, “ride eternal, shiny and chrome.”

And this is part of the problem: I’m not a car guy. I never was. My entire relationship with cars is from popular culture, and as I drive I can’t help but feel like Xander in, “The Zeppo,” where, in a desperate search for identity, he posits the notion that, well, maybe he’s a car guy? (Later, of course, he is not really seen driving again in the show.)

Not that I need to be a car guy to drive. But I can already predict the dollar signs in the eyes of any mechanic I visit, as they can tell within moments that I spent my time troubleshooting radio gear and arguing about Slint records rather than learning about car engines.

Nevertheless, I did get a twinge of excitement the moment I decided to add an unscheduled stop to my errands. The idea of being alone, without anyone knowing where I was, to go about my day and to see where I wind up and to be able to just go without any holdups. That does sound a little appealing.

I have spent my whole life as a passenger. Dependent on public transportation for commuting, and walking for everything else. Travel is hard, going out is not exactly easy, and I’m always the one who needs to spend far more time planning the trip because I need to make arrangements. My wife… has been tolerant, for someone who has done all of the driving for almost a decade. I know she is going to be excited to never need to pick me up from a show at 2 AM again as long as we are married.

Just the idea that I don’t have to ever beg for a ride home again is mentally exciting in a way that “autonomy” doesn’t fully capture. What does the future hold? Who can say?

So, I’m trying to be practical, yet positive, about what this really means.

And: I’m ready to drive!

I’m not sure I’m ready for a 12-Hour epic road trip at the end of which we all play a show and party all night.

But I am totally ready to meet up and offer you a ride, this time.

Because I probably owe you, and I really want to see where you’ll take me.

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