I Can’t Drive… And I Don’t Care

I can’t drive.

It’s pretty humiliating to admit this, to be honest. I didn’t fail the driving test. My driver’s ed instructor wouldn’t allow me to take the test, because I “go into trances” while driving—whatever that means.

Maybe I do. Maybe that’s only because the instructor liked to yell at me, pushing me to the point where I couldn’t focus on driving; I was too busy trying not to cry. Whatever the reason, I didn’t get to take the test.

But this failure has turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Insurance for a newly licensed teenage driver is expensive. So is gas. Besides, where am I going to be driving? It’s not like I have a very active social life.

School is essentially the only place I go, and I spend most of the day there. If I were to drive there, I’d either have to take my mother’s car and leave the rest of my family with no means of transportation for the whole day, or spend tens of thousands of dollars I don’t have and buy my own car. It’s easier to stick with public transportation, which costs much less and is better for the environment.

Even though the several hundred dollars spent on driver’s ed did go to waste, I’m in a much better financial situation without a license than I would be if I had one. The expenditure wouldn’t be worth it.

When I point this out to people, they tend to ignore this and insist that I need a license. Others try to comfort me, telling me it’s okay, because I’ll get one someday. But what if someday doesn’t come? What if I don’t get a license, ever? I’m okay with that, but for some reason, many people aren’t.

Why the bad attitudes towards non-drivers? It probably has a lot to do with classism. Like I said, driving costs a lot of money. It’s much cheaper to take public transportation. Because of this, people who take public transportation tend to have lower incomes than people who drive. And all the negative stereotypes our society holds against poor people get projected onto bus users too. Because many people look down on people who ride public transportation for financial reasons, they assume that anyone else who takes the bus must be suffering by having to put up with them.

Americans also dislike public transportation due to a sense of individualism. A car is something that you personally own, whereas public transportation is often provided by the government, and requires you to be driven around by someone else and share space with others. In the popular mind, cars represent freedom. In keeping with the theme of classism, expensive cars are viewed as status symbols, as well as a way of promoting the theme of rugged individualism that has pervaded American history, especially in the American west.

But are these ideals really valuable? Everyone depends on someone for something, and navigating public transportation requires people to rely on themselves and perform the difficult task of figuring out their way around a complex, unreliable system.

Sometimes, especially when there isn’t much public transportation available, some people without licenses do put a strain on others by constantly demanding rides. If those people are able to put in the time, money, and effort it takes to become a driver, they probably should either do that or find a way to continue not driving, without putting a burden on others. However, when you depend on yourself to the best of your ability, it’s possible to not drive and benefit society by polluting less and decreasing traffic.

Whether because of environmental, financial, disability, or other reasons, some people don’t drive. And that’s okay.

ILLUSTRATION BY FELICIA CHANG

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