driving car

People tend to bitch about driving. I mean I know you don’t. I’m talking about all those jerks who aren’t reading this (eff those guys). Especially people in New York. It’s a completely foreign experience to them. Or they hate it because they drive to Jersey every once in a while (trying to drive out of the city kinda sucks balls). Or they hate it ‘cause they deal with it through taking cabs (which isn’t driving. It’s being driven).

I understand the hate-hate relationship people have with driving. It can be a tedious thing to do. Between checking your blind spot, maintaining speed, and constantly trying not to kill someone/die in a fiery crash, it gets cumbersome (which isn’t even bringing into account having to find a radio station that isn’t terrible). Having to sit in traffic is incredibly frustrating, though it forces you to learn patience, which I’ve sorta kinda learned (when I patiently hurl every curse word I know at top volume for going 2 son-of-a-nutcrackin miles an hour on a highway). You deal with desperately trying to avoid dealing with cops. You deal with awful drivers (everyone else sucks). You’re constantly reminded that while driving you’re not, in fact, at the destination you want to be. Point is, it can suck.

But the operative word there is can. Since having moved to New York nearly 7 years ago, one of the things I miss incredibly is driving. I mean I have a car, and I do drive sometimes, and those are fun times. Say what you will, but barreling down the FDR at breakneck speeds (while being passed by most people who are going at even breakneckier speeds) is a blast. When you’re not trying to get in and out of the city, zipping around the city can be fun too. But the “it’s fun” defense of driving is admittedly subjective. Granted, it’s my point of view so clearly it’s the correct one to have, but I can accept that some people simply prefer to be wrong. Luckily (or unluckily depending on your ‘tude), my defense of driving, goes much deeper.

First off there’s the notion of technology. I’m no Carlos Mencia, so I won’t say that this is going to be an original statement I’m making here. I’m applying a statement perfected by Louis C.K. (of course), from his special Hilarious, the audio of which you can listen to here (note the NSFW language if you’re trying to blast this on your speakers at work. Also, be considerate and buy some headphones). If you’re too lazy to listen to a 3-minute clip, the idea that I’m applying to driving is that you’re in a giant metal machine going down a road at unnatural speeds. Music that’s magically beamed to your machine plays. You use the press of a single foot to go fast. There’s this area on the steering wheel that you can press to amplify anything that annoys you and literally make your car shout in anger. And that’s not to take into account the future-is-now-kinda jazz that’s today’s car tech. It’s truly a marvel of human invention.

See, when you think about that side of driving, you’re focusing on the positives. A motivational poster once told me that’s something I should do. It was a crappy poster, there was a tear on the corner, and the stock image that was being used was super-cheesy and stupid. But the point is that even in the instance of something that’s generally loved, people are just choosing to focus on the positives.

Take puppies. Everyone loves puppies. If you hate puppies then you are quite clearly a horrible person, and you’re probably going to be slapped by someone today (may or may not be puppy-related). But puppies pee everywhere. They need to be taken out all the time. They don’t know how to sit, stay, or play Pictionary. They’re a ton of work. And worst of all, you can’t even stay mad at them when they destroy your sweet kicks ‘cause they’re so damn cute. My point is that there are negatives to everything.

So my defense of driving focuses on the positives. The freedom of the road. The way that you can just get in your car and go almost anywhere. The wind in your hair. Singing along with Robyn at the top of your lungs ‘cause you’re in the protective bubble that’s your car and no one can see you. Definitely not through all the windows. And road trips? To me road trips are adventures, even the shitty ones that are more like commutes. You’re seeing different landscapes, or even if you’re seeing a lot of the same landscapes, you’re still moving. You’re a life in motion and that’s a wonderful thing.

What I’m getting at is that driving is therapeutic. In a way it’s even meditative. I remember fondly dropping the top on my ‘93 LeBaron convertible (yeah, I was a baller in high school) at night and driving around country roads. Just to drive. I didn’t have a plan of where I was going, or how I was getting there (besides getting there in my, you know, car). But focusing on driving kind of turns down the volume on other thoughts. And when you’re an overthinker like me, that’s an invaluable tool. My love for driving can be summed up by my favorite line from a book, which incidentally solidifies my introvert status. It’s from All The King’s Men, and goes thusly:

“There is nothing more alone than being in a car at night in the rain. I was in the car. And I was glad of it. Between one point on the map and another point on the map, there was the being alone in the car in the rain. They say you are not you except in terms of relation to other people. If there weren’t any other people there wouldn’t be any you because what you do which is what you are, only has meaning in relation  to other people. That is a very comforting thought when you are in the car in the rain at night alone, for then you aren’t you, and not being you or anything, you can really lie back and get some rest. It is a vacation from being you. There is only the flow of the motor under your foot spinning that frail thread of sound out of its metal guy like a spider, that filament, that nexus, which isn’t really there, between the you which you have just left in one place and the you which you will be where you get to the other place.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself.