Something that I’d never truly considered important has recently become a real focus of mine. A skill that everyone should have but many never bother with. The ability to drive.
When I lived in the United States, it was normal for people to be practising for their licence at the age of 15. Some people will say that this is evidence of a love affair between Americans and gas-guzzling motor vehicles, but for most people the truth is far more mundane. America is a big place. Some cities don’t even have places to buy food, so you have to drive to a nearby city to go to a supermarket. I lived for a little while in Willow Springs, Missouri and…
Wait… You’ve never heard of Willow Springs, Missouri? It’s okay. I’ll give you a minute to look it up.
Up to speed? Good.
So, Willow Springs had no supermarket when I was there. That meant that for something as boring as a weekly shopping trip, we had to travel. The nearest Wal-Mart (yes, I know that they’re not the nicest company, but still…) was in West Plains, Missouri. That’s twenty miles away. To go to the supermarket we either endured a half hour drive, or we had to walk twenty miles there and twenty miles back with the shopping in hand. That’s a long way to travel for groceries. And thus, we drove.
Missouri isn’t alone in having empty distances that people need to traverse. People get into the habit of driving everywhere, often because it starts out that they need to.
So I moved to England when I was 14 years old. I hadn’t started learning to drive in the US and I wound up in a city that has great public transportation links. Driving really isn’t a necessity if you live in Manchester. When I hit 17, however, the seed of driving was planted. My parents informed me that they were going to change their old car (a G-reg Vauxhall Nova if you must know) for a newer model and that the old car could be mine if I passed my driving test. I sent off for my provisional licence and received it back a few weeks later. Alas, before I was able to book my lessons, a cruel twist of fate occurred. The Nova was involved in a traffic collision. The parents were fine but the car did not make it. And so the Nova made it’s way to the scrapyard and my ideas of cruising along with the windows down listening to Dr Dre went with it.
Fast forward 10 years and I had a provisional licence which had expired without ever being used. I had a long chat with my girlfriend, Louise, about learning to drive. She has driven for a few years and travels regularly with her job. She was honest and told me that it would be hard but ultimately it would be fulfilling and that it would be very useful to have it within my skill set. The idea that I can drive around when she wants to have a glass of wine or two was a factor as well, although she claims to have been joking about that.
So here I am with sixteen hours of driving lessons under my belt and a Theory Test booked for three weeks from now. Soon I may actually have that skill that I should have gained over a decade ago. All it took was the realisation that it is a skill that will be as useful as I want it to be. That, and the gentle prodding from Louise.
If I pass my tests I’d like to get an old car. Maybe even an old Nova. And you can bet your ass that I’ll be cruising around, listening to Dr Dre and pretending that I’m 17 again. That is before I climb out of the car and my knees and back remind me of my actual age.