I suspect that most people afflicted with wanderlust categorize the moment they got their first car with the same pile of memories that include the first time they had a passport stamped, or the first time they traveled anywhere all on their own.
This was not the case for me. Although I have always loved to travel, I’ve never harbored a great deal of fondness for the act of driving. I did come late to the driving game, in fact, I had a marriage license before I got my driver’s license.
In response to your quizzical look, I will explain that:
a) I was a child bride (age 21);
b) I grew up in Manhattan. When good people visited my high school, as they do, to lecture on the evils of drunk driving, I wondered why the intoxicated didn’t simply take the subway.
I am aware that neither of these are reasonable excuses. My husband, for instance, was but a few months older than I when we wed, and also grew up in Manhattan, and yet got his driver’s license at the first possible legal moment — age 16 in New York State, I do believe. Many of our friends did the same.
And we’ve had a place outside the city for some years now, and, as a point of fact, there’s never been a time in my adult life that my household has lacked a car. But I have been the driver only when I can’t figure out a way not to be.
Perhaps I can blame my lack of driving enthusiasm on my husband. He loves to drive, in fact, his hobby is auto racing (both the watching and the doing), so his eagerness to take the wheel made it easier for me to stay a passenger over the years.
In fairness to him, I am, I should note, an exceedingly good passenger. I never scream, even if a collision appears imminent, nor do I fiddle with any controls, nor do I offer critiques of driving strategy or technique. But I am very good at keeping up a conversation for a long time even when sleepy, or, when required, am capable of keeping quiet. I have carefully maintained my expertise in the selection of road food snacks.
You can see why he wouldn’t want to give all that up.
Anyway, whoever bears the blame, the fact remains that I have passenged more than I have driven in my life. But this era seems to be at its end. This week, I became the proud owner of a very cheap, very old, very high mileage Mercedes Benz.
I got it because I am frequently without wheels up in the country place — a situation that occurs whenever my husband goes someplace in our family car and I don’t go with him.
Since the subway is not an option up there, and since there are times when not having transport is simply annoying, like the time we desperately needed cat litter and the cat categorically refused to even try to hold it in until Phil came back with the car, and since there are places I’d like to see in New York’s Hudson Valley and the Berkshires, my immediate rural neighborhood…the time for Craig’s List was clearly at hand.
This past week, we exchanged cash for key and title, a trip to the DMV was made. There are now license plates in my husband’s backpack, ready to head up to the country and this weekend we — all right, he — will attach them to my new car. And then I’ll be off.
Watch this space for reports of my all-new motoring adventures.
And pedestrians beware.
Alison J. Stein
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