I haven’t tried to drive an automobile since I was a teenager! I suppose I should try to learn, just in case. It might be handy in an emergency.
This is strange, because I live in Detroit. My city played no small part in the ascendancy of the motor vehicle. Here, if you don’t drive or don’t have someone to drive you, you’re in trouble.
Detroit has one of the worst mass transit systems of any big city in the United States, if not the world. It’s as if everything’s designed to force you to buy and drive a car!
It all started with a bad experience in a driver’s education class. I hadn’t really done a lot of preparation driving before the class and just went in there cold. I didn’t catch on fast enough and the instructor lost his temper with me. He’d yell at me and maybe fume a bit. That soured me on the whole thing. I wasn’t eager to drive in the first place. This just helped to push me in the other direction.
Quickly, I got used to being a pedestrian. I used to bicycle a lot. For various reasons, I stopped. Maybe someday I’ll get into that again. I’d rather do that than buy a car.
The Detroit bus system went from bad to worse to worse. I managed to get used to it. Just this morning, I had to wait over an hour for the bus. I’d got to the bus stop early to be sure that I caught it. It never came. It was in the 20’s and my feet got cold. The driver of the bus I got on said that the previous coach had been hit by a car! That’s the way it goes sometimes. I hope that no one got hurt.
Anyway, riding the bus does have its good points. I get a lot of reading done. I’ve read hundreds of books while riding the bus. I’ve done many hundreds of drawings on the bus too.
I appreciate the sense of being with the average, everyday people of my city. People are almost always friendly and/or keep to themselves. I’m the same way myself. Though I rarely get into conversations with people, it’s usually interesting when I do. I’ve only had to take a taxicab a few times.
It can be rough walking everywhere. It’s good exercise though. Sometimes I walk for miles and miles.
I wrote a poem called My Life as a Pack Mule about lugging groceries and packages all around. If you’re carrying a lot of stuff, you can’t just “leave it in your car.” I’ve been mistaken for a homeless person, carrying all those bags around. I wrote another poem about my life as an “arctic explorer.” It’s bad driving around in a blizzard. It’s also bad to be walking around in it or to try to keep warm while waiting for the next bus. You’re in the elements. Dress warmly. In the Summer, be sure to carry a water bottle.
I’ll take a ride when I can get it. Over the years, I have received many rides from friends, family, girlfriends, band-mates and so on. Thank you all!
Then too, there’s the whole issue of the car as a destructive force. There are car accidents and wrecks. As a pedestrian, I have no seat-belts or thick metal exoskeleton to protect me. I’ve had plenty of close calls.
Cars also contribute to greenhouse gasses and the pollution of the planet. I do believe in global climate change. The automobile causes trouble in many ways.
I realize that they have been made to be essential. Detroit’s a far cry from New York City or Chicago. In those cities, it’s not as rough trying to get around without driving. “Better Mass transit Everywhere!” That’s what I say.
Maybe someday I’ll learn to drive, but I’m in no hurry to. I don’t look down on or have serious problems with drivers. A lot of people want to or have to drive cars. I participate as a rider. Yet as far as being a driver goes, I continue to be a sort of conscientious objector.
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From Orson Welles’ film of Booth Tarkington’s novel The Magnificent Ambersons:
- George: I said, “Automobiles are a useless nuisance.” Never amount to anything but a nuisance. They had no business to be invented.
- Uncle Jack: Of course, you forget Mr. Morgan makes them. Also did his share in inventing them. If you weren’t so thoughtless, he might think you’re rather offensive.
- Eugene: I’m not sure George is wrong about automobiles. With all their speed forward, they may be a step backward in civilization. It may be that they won’t add to the beauty of the world or the life of men’s souls. I’m not sure. But automobiles have come. And almost all outward things are going to be different because of what they bring. They’re going to alter war and they’re going to alter peace. And I think men’s minds are going to be changed in subtle ways because of automobiles. And it may be that George is right. It may be that in ten or twenty years from now, if we can see the inward change in men by that time, I shouldn’t be able to defend the gasoline engine but would have to agree with George: that automobiles had no business to be invented.