Satire Non-Fiction posted July 28, 2019


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Standing on my own two feet.

Totally Driven

by shaffer40


"Do you drive?" I was walking with two friends when I posed the question, and when they both replied, "No," we all stopped short and faced off. Three non-drivers in one spot? How could that be?

I was unique in this triad in that I once was a driver, coached by my big brother Tim. I was eleven and he thirteen when he sat beside me in the passenger's seat of our father's '46 Ford and showed me the basics. A year later Dad bought a '51 Studebaker, and I graduated from stick shift to clutchless. I later discovered that those fledgling excursions on the uncluttered dirt road near our house had left me ill-prepared for the challenge of six-lane traffic and frenzied expressways.

Licensed during my teens, I drove confidently for a few uninhibited years, still in small-town USA. I was quite the speed demon, in fact, barreling down the narrow country road that led into the nearby 4,000-member metropolis. It was when I began driving in big-city traffic that my confidence eroded like faith in a fallen politician.

At first I thought urban dwellers were a rude, impatient lot, pounding their horns at every minor transgression, like when my light turned green and I failed to move at a six-way intersection, frozen with fear as I faced the assorted lights and cars from all directions. They appeared equally lacking in forbearance when I sat paralyzed on the ramp of the expressway, waiting until no one was coming before making my entrance. I cringed at inquiries such as, "Was your license mail order?" and vigorous proposals such as, "Park that thing!"

Eventually, I suspected that the trouble didn't lie with the collective disposition of my fellow motorists. There were clues other than flipping birds and airborne curses that I had missed something in my training. A friend asked, "Why do you always cut people off on the left?" Another suggested I merge from expressways gradually, rather than swerving off suddenly at exits. It was when I wedged my sister's Chevy between two parked cars in a store lot that I hung up my license for good.

As are most minorities, non-drivers are a misunderstood group. Not driving is likened to not following the Bulls or not having a cell phone. Family and friends alike are unable to fathom my refusal to take part in something as integral to adulthood as morning caffeine.

Each time they suggest I drive again, I employ my "I-could-never-afford-a-car" routine or fall back on my "Who-needs-it-in-my-neighborhood?" pretext. While these excuses are legitimate, they are not the whole story. The truth is, the process of driving mystifies me--maneuvering these bulky contraptions on wheels side-by-side, simultaneously viewing all directions in tiny mirrors, and darting from lane to lane at breakneck speed. I sometimes wonder, in fact, how they don't all just crash into each other.

There are times, I admit, when I wish I were a driver: when the bus I'm racing to board rolls by not thirty feet away; when I've entered a supermarket to "pick up a few things" and exit with two bags the weight of my own body; or when my collapsible metal cart collapses for good, just when I've purchased twenty-five pounds of cat litter.

I'm aware, too, that drivers enjoy sounder emotional health. Driving a short distance does more to release pent-up emotions than the longest hike or the most intense therapy session. As a walker with no quick escape, I am forced to employ heroic restraint as fellow pedestrians stroll languidly in front of me side-by-side, consuming every inch of sidewalk space. Drivers, on the other hand--even the most repressed--once they surround themselves with that ton of armor, grip that magic wheel and accelerate, are free to express themselves, to get in touch with their feelings, and to hold nothing back.

I feel sounder on my feet, thank you. As the world speeds by, I watch in wonder, content to be no longer burdened by this rolling mass of metal, the operation of which is simply not my forte. I'm convinced this position makes the world a safer place.


Non-Fiction Writing Contest contest entry

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Artwork by cleo85 at FanArtReview.com

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