Close your eyes. Conjure up the image of wherever you wish to go from within the deepest region of your mind. Hold the image firmly in your thoughts and don’t let go. Within seconds, a magical chariot will appear at the curb. Once you have recovered from the shock of seeing the seven to eight-feet long behemoth of metal and glass, you must approach it with confidence, knowing that this bizarre aberration is here at your behest and will convey you to the very destination you have telepathically requested.
“How far away do you live?”
I hesitated. The question seemed innocent enough.
“Well I live in Salem,” I told my supervisor. “So, probably four or five miles give or take.”
From the way his jaw dropped, you would believe that I had told him that the house where I rented a room was located in the Sea of Tranquility. Like a skilled mentalist, the subtle twitches of his ordinarily oblivious face told me that the question I had been dreading was on his lips before he even opened his mouth.
“Why don’t you take the bus?”
“Because I can’t always afford the bus,” I replied, patiently.
“Really? The last time I took the bus it was only seventy-five cents.”
If this were the only time in my entire life that this conversation had ever taken place, you might be justified in thinking that the incredible urge to remind him that the foot-powered bus of the Flintstones-era was still popular the last time he took the bus, is just me making mountains out of molehills. Unfortunately, the first twelve years of my adult life are punctuated by such conversations by people who find out I don’t drive and seem to be amazed that I can find my ass with both hands.
I don’t drive. I never have and never will. People insist that I will, whether or not I have invited their opinion. But this is not a democratic decision. The only driving I will ever do will be with the six controls and two small joysticks attached to the X-Box controller as I play the latest Grand Theft Auto. That’s not entirely true, I might play the PS4 version as well.
On one of my days off, when I was working at Target, they called to see if I could get to a store at a different location in a few hours and cover a shift there. There was no way I could make it back to my house, change and then go all the way to where this store was located in that amount of time so I politely refused the shift. The next day, I explained myself to the human resources manager.
“Well how are you able to get to work on time if you don’t drive?” She asked.
At that time I was living close by, but you could probably still understand her confusion. Maybe, because I sure don’t. Did I wake up one morning, the last person on Earth in possession of the two lower extremities upon which I have transported myself from place to place every day without fail? Perhaps this is a bizarre alternate reality that I have lived in my whole life and shows like The Walking Dead aren’t so much about zombies, but about another kind of otherworldly creature that roams the Earth and somehow did not emerge from the womb in the front seat of an Escalade.
Joking aside, yes, driving is a convenience. The ability to drive offers advantages that the pedestrian life cannot provide and I can’t claim that my inability to overcome the fear associated with driving has not bitten me in the behind more times than I can count. But that doesn’t excuse the immediate assumption that not driving makes me some sort of imbecile. Not when there are plenty of people out there who made getting their license a priority at sixteen and should be forced to wear an ankle bracelet every time they get behind the wheel.
My mother didn’t officially have her driver’s license until I was a sophomore in high school. We didn’t have a car until slightly later. Growing up, I can actually count the grades where my house was on or near the bus line in the three separate counties where I went to school on one hand. Since we didn’t have a car and both parents had jobs, how do you think I managed to avoid postponing graduation until my 30th birthday? Do you think that same careful planning and discipline that got me to school on time without the aid of a horseless carriage might carry over into my adult life, living and working in South Western Vermont, where the local bus company is about as reliable as using a cocktail umbrella and a strategically placed tea cozy to prevent sunburn?
Yet this logic continues to elude the allegedly educated individuals that I have encountered in my life. It’s important to note that I am not, nor have ever been a member of the one percent, unless that one percent refers to the number of grown, able bodied men living in this country who do not possess a driver’s license. So where does this confusion come from that leads to questions like, “How do you get to work on time if you don’t drive?”
I could understand if my job was deep in the mountains or on an island accessible only by boat or by freeway. I could understand if my job required me to carry several tons of supplies on a daily trek across miles of barren landscape. I cannot understand the confusion when my job is a simple retail position in a shopping mall that is surrounded by pedestrian sidewalks and traffic lights at crosswalks. Even if my job were not that easy to get to, if it was clear that I didn’t drive, you would expect that a person who is smart enough to have an influential position of authority, or to have earned a series of university degrees, to at least come to a reasonable conclusion about one’s natural mode of transportation without making themselves look like fools for even opening their mouths.
You might even see the examples I’ve provided and think, “Well, people in retail aren’t all that smart and I should know. I’m a professional *insert title here*” accept your reasoning would fly in the face of the fact that I have encountered this confusion in session with a number of therapists throughout my life.
“How do you get to work?” A therapist working for Northeast Behavioral Health once asked me.
“Does getting on the bus make you nervous?”
“Yes,” I said, with a heavy sigh. “Getting on the bus makes me nervous, because I’m overcome with the fear that the bus driver will discover that I have no money and will then make me walk to work.”
The sarcasm often falls on deaf ears, which is puzzling since these people are apparently trained in analyzing human behavior. But that’s another subject to rehash for yet another blogpost that will ultimately be ignored when someone with an anonymous screen name decides to give me the third degree.