My boyfriend is looking at me in the way that you don’t want to be looked at by a significant other.
He’s sweating profusely and feeling miserable because he has just been hit by food poisoning. The type of food poisoning that happens when you eat something that is horribly off. He needs me to drive and I just look at him in mute embarrassment.
Because I can’t drive.
I don’t have my license and this guy I like so much is looking at me with disbelief and a bit of disappointment.
I can’t blame him.
An adult who can’t drive?
How did I end up as an adult without a driver’s license?
It’s pretty much an article of faith that learning to drive is something you do as a teenager. Everyone does. It’s a rite of passage.
While it’s a bit uncommon in the state that I live in, it’s not an unusual story. My mom raised me after my parents divorced and I watched her dash from one job to the next: on foot, via bus, and by car.
When it was time for me to start learning to drive, I was getting around town just fine. Yellow school bus and public transit for the win.
I didn’t notice that I was being left behind as my classmates began driving and received or earned their first cars.
To be honest, driving wasn’t a priority. I knew that my mom wouldn’t be able to afford to buy me a car. Besides, I honestly preferred to buy clothes, yummy food, and fun things instead. So, I put off learning to drive for more years than I care to admit.
The inconvenience of being without a driver’s license.
Initially, it was not that big a deal. As I got older, though, I became more and more aware of how socially awkward my inability to drive was becoming for both myself and the people around me.
I was pretty good at getting around town and even other cities with public transit. I could navigate a new city by foot or bus and wow the people in my life with my knowledge of the L.A. transit system (they have a metro), the Paris Metro, or New York City’s subway system.
This knowledge didn’t change the reality that my friends were resigned to the fact that they would be driving me to the mountains every time we went for the weekend (we live in Colorado).
Or, whenever we went out for drinks my friends would become the unwitting designated driver unless I took a cab. Basically, as time went on, my friends began feeling used.
Learning to drive was outside my comfort zone.
What I didn’t count on was that the older I got, the more frightened I would become of embracing the driving process. As a pedestrian I saw people talking on their phones, eating food, and generally being completely distracted behind the wheel.
I also didn’t count on the fact that public transit would improve to the point where I found myself loving the fact that I could hop on and off the light rail to get to where I needed to go within 15 minutes or less.
Uber, Lyft, and other ridesharing systems made me even more reluctant to learn how to drive. But, the older I got the more acutely I noticed how my Not Driving impacted those around me.
It was a life skill I had to learn.
So, I decided to take drastic measures and force myself to learn.
I bought a car.
Yep, I bought a car from my friend before moving cross-country. It was a great car and only cost $1,500. I bit the bullet and bought a car before learning to drive.
Making good on my investment.
In most circles, a car purchase doesn’t count as an investment. But I paid cash money for that car, and now I had to make sure it paid off.
I began the painful process of learning to drive. Ironically, the actual action of driving wasn’t the biggest issue for me. It was the fact that no one wanted to drive around with a beginning driver who wasn’t their kid.
I had a couple of lovely friends who graciously volunteered to sit in the car while I practiced, but they were few and far between.
Finally, I began taking driving lessons (which are ridiculously expensive) and finally got enough courage to take the driving test.
I finally have my license.
It does feel different. My friends, bless them, are very proud of me and have volunteered to go driving with me so I can practice more. Now I feel like a member of a not-so-exclusive club that excludes people due to lack of access to a car, fear, or not enough money to afford one.
I savor the freedom that knowing how to drive gives me. I no longer worry that I won’t be able to help a loved one in an emergency come.
I will never forget that look on my boyfriend’s face. Fortunately, that look won’t happen again.