Monday, November 19, 2007

Wheel-less in Wheelville



If I had to name the one thing that I missed the most about New York it would have to be the subway. One simple egalitarian system for anyone to get just about anywhere they needed to go. My friends took it, my foes took it, even the mayor rides it to work. It's pretty fast, pretty reliable, pretty clean, and it runs 24 hours a day. What else could you ask for?

In NYC, people with cars were only of interest when it was cold and/or when you had something heavy to move. When you rode with them you usually got an earful of their car-owning woes from the high cost of gas and insurance to the endless parking tickets and the difficulties of finding a decent parking spot. So, most everyone I knew was moving by subway, bicycle (in the warmer months), and the occasional yellow cab ride when we were too drunk or tired to safely descend the subway stairs. It was a sweet situation that ensured that you could make it to just about any cool event your heart desired, even last minute. But, alas, I don't live there anymore. I live here in Wheelville, and while there is the trusty train to get me to and from Ljubljana, it seems that it is simply not enough. I feel like I am missing out on a little too much. And in order to rectify that I am going to have to accept that this--like many places in the world, including where I grew up--is a car place and, as much as it pains me, I am going to have to become a car person.

You might be wondering how I managed to grow up in such a car-centric place and still not be a decent driver. Well, without getting into the torrid story of my sad past with cars, I can tell you that--while I tip my hat to the people that helped me--I just didn't get the best instruction and I had far too little driving time. I had a few shakey sessions with my father, a few more with my stepfather, and quite a few better ones from a grad student I found on craigslist who I paid to let me tool around in her old stickshift Volvo. These lessons were enough to get me through my driver's test and have my smiling face stamped onto a driving license at the ripe old age of 21, but right after I got that license, I graduated from college and moved straight to New York where I drove a car a total of two times. The second time ended in peril and destruction and I felt certain I'd stay in New York forever, take the subway everywhere, and never think of driving again. As time has moved on however, I've thought more and more about how unfortunate it would be if I let that one accident close the door on my driving career. So it was with much pleasure that I was given the news that The Captain had arranged some professional driving lessons for me.

I have never had formal driving lessons since they are not required in California, but I think that may be just the ticket. In fact, I think that's what I've needed all along: a trained professional who will not flinch and jump at everything, someone who can give me calm succinct instructions in exchange for payment. Someone cool behind the wheel who will teach me how to be almost as cool. I think that is worth the price he's asking; so, hopefully, this week, I will be gliding down the road relearning the moves. If all goes well I will, slowly but surely, rejoin the ranks of the well-wheeled. Here goes...

(btw, in case you were wondering after reading both this and the swimming post in less than a month, yes I am brainstorming new year's resolutions. 2008 will be a big year.)

7 comments:

alcessa said...

Sounds like a great idea - though I think trains and subways etc. are still the better choice.

BTW, my story is quite similar (first DL at 18, moved to Ljubljana, didn't have money or need for a car, had a small accident at home, stopped driving altogether, did the test 2nd time last year) and I had real luck with my driving teacher - he was exactly what I needed.

I do wonder now how many more there are out there ... ?

And it does feel nice to be able to drive, so I wish you as much fun and success!

Anja said...

Good luck with it, and if your driving instructor will be anywhere as nice as mine, you won't regret the lessons.

And you definitely need the car in Radovljica. In Ljubljana you can kind of get around with the bus, even though you're sometimes losing your mind with it. But in Radovljica, I've noticed people take car everywhere. We have a 5 minute walk to the nearest store there, and we usually walk or take a bike, all our neighbours though always use their car.

dr. filomena said...

all I can say is :-D

Camille Remarkable said...

@alcessa: Yeah I am always going to be a subway-ista, but if I ever want to go grab something heavy in Kranj or Jesenice it'll be good to be able to make the short drive. Thanks for revelaing yourself as being "in the same boat", it helps to know there are others! I appreciate your well-wishes. :)

@Anja: Thanks!

@Dr. Fil. :D

Beyoncebodysoon said...
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BeautyinBaltimore said...

I think I read about the accident in your other blog.I am as afraid of driving as you are if not more so. My poor driving instructor. I gave the poor man hell. I have promissed myself that I will learn to drive by .8/08

Carlitos said...

I'm in a similar situation, Camille. I was born an raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where you simply can live your whole life without a car (my father sold his, and neither my mother nor older brother can drive). You move everywhere by bus, train, subway and/or taxi (which is reasonably cheap, unlike in Ljubljana!)

So I'm facing the same resolution as you have/are facing. With my wife we're moving back to the countryside, and that means one thing: I'll have to drive to Ljubljana very often, if not every day.

Driving lessons, here I come! :-)

PS: and don't lose heart. You'll learn first aid too! Yay! ;-)