Sometime in the year 1984, I moved to a small apartment that was walking distance from the factory where I had just gotten a job doing general labor for $13.00 an hour and I decided that I didn’t need to drive my well-rusted old Volkswagon anymore.
It was not the idea that I was going to give up driving forever, even though that seems to be the way it has worked out — It was just that I had gotten tired of the hassle of trying to survive all the other drivers out there on the madness of the highways …. all the other drivers I became convinced were out to “Get” me — to kill me — to murder me with their vehicles.
The very act of driving became a form of paranoia for me because as I sat behind the wheel, I could imagine all the drunks and dope heads out there with me on those highways — all the illegals driving without benefit of either driving lessons, experience or a license — and it began to overwhelm my senses after awhile.
So, I rented the small 4-room apartment close to the railroad tracks and I parked the car in the carport and began walking to work every day that the weather was nice.
Having been recovering from a devastating bankruptcy at the time, it had also become harder and harder for me to keep up the maintenance on my VW and as much as I hate to admit it, my faithful old VW finally died of rust sitting in that carport. She died of rust at about the same time the finance company who had floated the original loan to buy her with found out where I was working and came and repossessed her.
From that point on, I had no choice but to walk those railroad tracks to work every day — rain, shine, snow, blizzard or earthquake — I had to walk and walk I did!
I had gotten my drivers’ license late in life …. up in the State of Michigan …. after I had started working for a large automobile parts manufacturing plant near Detroit.
I drove that old VW for more than Seven years and never once had a ticket or a citation of any kind and I drove her for more than 250-thousand miles with only one engine and only two service-station calls to get fan belts replaced … and a muffler once.
I got a warning once for blowing a red light early one morning when I was coming home from working on the third shift at the plant but that was the only encounter I ever had with The Law while behind the wheel of my car.
That old VW took my family and I on a few trips to Ohio to visit with friends and a couple of trips into the wilds of the Canadian wilderness on week adventuring excursions — primarily along the coast of Lake Superior — way up to the place where the paved highway ran out at a fence and there was nothing from that point onward except 300 miles of wilderness to Hudson Bay.
I let my license expire a few years ago and I am now thinking that was a huge mistake. But I am also thinking that I am too old now to go through all the hassle of dealing with the Department of Motor Vehicles in an attempt to retake and pass the driving test(s) and get that license back again.
In my less lucid moments, when I am alone and thinking weird thoughts for my own entertainment, I sometimes pass the thought through my head, “If this is America, The Land of The Free, and if my taxpayer dollars have built all these darned roads and highways and bridges and whatnot, then why in the world is it a legal requirement that I have a license to drive?” “Why should I have to ask permission from the State to get behind the wheel and go wherever I want to go?” Somehow it doesn’t sound much like Democracy to me!
But the Law is the Law and we have to deal with it, so I am not driving anymore and I am not sure I really want to anyway.
Not having the driver license is not the hassle I once thought it might be. I discovered that I could get to anywhere I wanted to go via local buses, or by taxicab or there are now a few friends willing to take me places when I need to get somewhere.
That was then. This is now. Now all I have to do is pick up a phone and in a few minutes, voila! There is the car and the driver and I go where I want … when I want! Being independent is a good feeling. Having the money to do things with is another one of life’s little pleasures.
I have also long since gotten free from that mundane (albeit “Life-Saving”) crap job at that dark, dirty and dangerous factory, have gotten myself settled financially — and I don’t have to worry about driving anymore because now I can afford to be chauffeured.
It is strange how ones’ circumstances can change in just a short period of time.
Rags to riches and riches to total bankruptcy and from total bankruptcy back to stability once again. I have witnessed miracles of Life Regeneration during my time on this Earth!
One thing I can tell you that I do not miss …. a thing that I most definitely do not miss even a little bit … is driving in the wintertime. No more slipping and sliding on ice and snow while “White-Knuckling” the steering wheel in a blizzard or an ice storm!
No more standing in sub-zero temperatures, scraper in hand, struggling to remove an inch of ice from my windshield after exhausting myself for 11 hours at a back-breaking job … trying to clear ice from a windshield at 7:00 in the morning!
No, I definitely do not miss that!