Thirteen years ago, I was driving home from a job interview one Tuesday and got hit by a small deer on the right side of my car. It just came out of nowhere, smashed into the passenger side door, and knocked me off the road. I had another job interview that Thursday, so I borrowed my mom’s car.
A deer hit me on the left side of the car.
It wasn’t as direct — it just clipped the front end of her Mazda — but I took it as the final sign to get my ass out of the South and into some carless metropolitan area. I looked at flights to NYC the next day and bought one that left Monday. I got here with two suitcases and $500 and I’ve pretty much stopped driving.
This past month, I’ve been back in The South helping to take care of my dad after he and his wife were in a head on collision. He broke both of his arms and both of his legs (among other injuries) so I’ve been back in a car, driving around the South again and let me just definitively say living in New York City, expensive rent and all, is so much easier than needing a car to get everywhere. I was on the cusp of moving out of NYC. I’d been thinking about it for the past year. Now I realize, I could never own a car as my primary mode of transportation. Here’s why:
This one is the most obvious, especially since it’s the reason why I was in the South in the first place. My dad and his wife were on the way home one night and a car, impatient to pass slow-moving traffic, crossed the center line looking to get ahead. He’s laid up in rehab unable to do anything for himself.
When I was 7, a speeding tractor trailer truck crashed into my side of the car while my sister was driving us to get breakfast biscuits. We had to be cut out of the vehicle and the paramedics said if I was two inches taller I would have died. I wouldn’t sit in the front seat for years, because I was afraid something would crash into me.
When we drive, we are flying down the road in little armored weapons hoping other armored weapons don’t smash into us. Every time you go somewhere, you could die. It’s honestly terrifying.
People are stupid.
I could include this with crashes, but I just wanted to stress the fact that your life is not in your hands when you drive — it’s in everyone else’s. I cannot tell you how many times this past month I was sitting in traffic marveling at the impatient stupidity and recklessness of the people around me. I think folks who have to drive every day are just unphased by how dangerously other drivers behave, but as someone who rarely drives these days, I’m just flabbergasted by how many unnecessary risks people take in order to shave maybe 30 seconds off of their trip.
I was in stop & go traffic around rush hour so many times watching cars jet out into a turning lane, floor it to pass 3 or 4 cars, and then jet back into the main road before the turning lane ran out. For what? You almost killed yourself and someone else to save ten seconds. For what??
I was going from one interstate to another on a multi-lane offramp, South in the left lanes and North in the right lanes, and an entire RV tried to cut across four lanes of traffic because they were in the wrong lane when the road split. Everyone was slamming on brakes trying not to crash into each other at 65 mph, and the RV still didn’t make it. They ended up stopped in the grassy triangle between the ramps with their hazards on. Whoever was driving didn’t want to lose the fifteen or twenty minutes it would take to go the wrong way, exit, navigate back to the interstate, and go the right way, so they almost killed ten people instead.
If there’s anything this past year has taught me it’s that Americans are exceptionally stupid and exceptionally selfish and I do not trust them with my life. That applies to COVID and also to automobiles.
Rush hour is the actual worst.
The distance between where I was staying with my cousin and where my dad was in the hospital is about 20 miles. It took 25-30 minutes to get there when I would go visit a couple of hours before lunchtime. And then I would have to stay until at least 7pm, because if I tried to leave while people got off work it took AN HOUR AND FIFTEEN MINUTES to get back to my cousin’s. That is beyond obnoxious.
The difference between your rush hour commute and your off-peak commute in NYC is maybe five minutes. It is going to take you the same amount of time to go anywhere anytime of day. Even if there was a delay, trackwork, or a breakdown once a week, it’s not an extra 45 minutes every single day.
Getting lost is awful.
If I’m in a part of NYC I’m unfamiliar with and make a wrong turn, I simply turn around and walk the other way.
Every time I made a wrong turn in the Carolinas, I had to wait for the GPS to find a new way for me to get where I was going. Walking is slow. If I have to make a left on Jane Street, I can see exactly where it is for a good two or three minutes before I get there. If I have to make a left on Cunningham Road in some medium-sized Southern town with irregular spacing between the streets, no clear signage, and a 55mph speed limit, I’m right up on that sucker when it comes up so we gotta breakneck turn off the highway. Or! I turn a street too early and end up in some white people neighborhood with a dead end culdesac having to turn around in someone’s driveway and hope the owner doesn’t come out with a shotgun protecting his property.
Everybody has a gun.
Years and years ago, I was visiting the South and had lunch with two girls I had gone to middle school with. One of them was rummaging through her purse for something and I saw she had a gun in there. Everybody just has a gun! OMG! So many guns everywhere! So, that’s not specifically related to car culture of course, but I know if I get into a fight on the subway, me and whoever bucked at me will be throwing hands. If I get into a fight with somebody in traffic, they probably have a gun in the car. I don’t like that! It’s terrifying!
Nighttime travel is scary!
Also terrifying: going literally anywhere at night. If it’s 3am in Harlem and I want a sandwich, I will put on my shoes and walk down the block to get a sandwich. I will go anywhere I want in NYC in the dead of night and not think twice. Everything is lit up. People are around. I never feel like danger could be lurking and I wouldn’t see it.
Driving down a two-lane road at night in the South, I prayed I wouldn’t break down in the middle of nowhere waiting to get murdered. You can’t take a long walk at night to clear your mind because you might get murdered. Going anywhere at night just feels like you might get murdered.
You can’t drink.
You can drink, but I’m honestly terrified by how many people go out for drinks and just……..drive home. I didn’t realize how often I drove drunk when I was younger until I moved to NYC and took the subway home after a night out thinking “oh wow, I woulda been behind the wheel of a car right now.” Please stop drinking and driving. Everybody thinks they can do it, because they do it all the time. All it takes is one time to disprove that notion.
If you can’t park, your day is shot.
Well, maybe y’all can, but I cannot. I have parallel parked exactly twice in my entire life — once practicing with my sister, and once on my driving test. I actually hit the cones when I took my test, but he passed me anyway because who is parallel parking in rural South Carolina? Well, I went to Atlanta one weekend while I was down there and we had to choose the brunch spot based on who had a parking lot, because I am unable to parallel park on the street.
And yesterday! LOL y’all. I was watching my friend’s IG stories, and he couldn’t buy food to cook because the Kroger near him didn’t have any parking spaces open.
(Sorry I put you on blast Daniel Bass of Atlanta Georgia, but I thought that shit was hilarious as I walked back to my apartment with groceries from the store that is two blocks away from me.)
Car transportation is so expensive!
The most I’ve ever spent on transit in NYC for a month is $127. That’s the cost of an unlimited MetroCard. Since I took up biking last year, I’ve been averaging less than $20 a month.
I spent over $300 on gas last month. If I lived down there, that $300 would’ve been in addition to a car payment and insurance.
Near the end of my trip, my cousin’s car wouldn’t start one day. She needs a new fuel pump and it will cost her $1200. I’ve never had an expense that would cost me $1200 immediately in order to continue living my life! There’s no scenario where I have to come up with that kind of money on short notice or I can no longer get groceries or go to work.
Going anywhere is expensive if you don’t have a car.
When I left for LaGuardia Airport (the actual worst, but the flight was cheap), I walked 5 blocks to the subway, transferred to a bus, and got off at my terminal. It cost me $2.75.
To come back to NYC, it cost me $120 to get to the airport.
I was driving my stepmom’s car and I needed to get it back to my stepsister before I left. She lives far away from the airport, so we were going to meet in the middle. My cousin that I was staying with was going to follow me to a grocery store where I’d give my stepsister the car (her son would drive it back home), and my cousin would take me the rest of the way to the airport. But, remember, my cousin needs a new fuel pump now, so she couldn’t take me to the airport. I looked on Uber and put in the address of the airport and the grocery store. The trip would cost me about $50 but what other choice did I have?
So, I drove to the store, confirmed the Uber, and my stepsister and her son picked up the car and left. Five minutes later, the Uber driver canceled and I couldn’t request another — it said no cars were available. So I’m essentially in the middle of nowhere trying to get to the airport without a car and running out of time because I had a flight to catch. I had to find a cab company in Charlotte to pick me up half an hour away and then take me to the airport.
When I got back to the city, it cost me $2.75 to get home from the airport.
Driving is just boring.
I can’t text. I can’t read. I can’t knit. I just be sitting there looking at grass and trees go by.
I cannot imagine moving to any place where I needed a car. Everywhere I need to go for daily life is within ten blocks of me. Most of my friends live in walking distance or a 10 minute bike ride away. If I go to a dinner party and have too much wine, I can simply…go home. I don’t have to sleep it off or call an Uber and pick up my car another day or drive drunk and risk my life. When I go on vacation, I don’t have to worry about leaving my car at the airport or finding a ride. I could do reading for work on my commute. I’m not going to die because someone was texting. Making a wrong turn is a 30 second inconvenience.
I hate cars.
Driving in Atlanta is one of the top five worst experiences in life, somewhere between living through a pandemic and having your twistout fail you right before a job interview or first date. Anyone from Atlanta who has never been in a car accident deserves a medal.
How to Adult: Lesson #2,375
Stop giving vague invites.
THIS IS HOW YOU INVITE:
Hey, do you want to come to this specific event at this specific time and place?
THIS IS NOT HOW YOU INVITE:
Hey are you busy on such & such day?
Give your friends and acquaintances the opportunity to bow out gracefully or even come up with a polite little white lie if necessary. If I tell you I’m free on the date you propose, and then whatever you invite me to is of absolutely no interest to me and/or with people I don’t want to hang out with, now I have to be the asshole who goes “nevermind, obviously I’m not busy, but now I have to tell you why I don’t want to go.” It’s much more pleasant for everyone if you give all of the information and the recipient of the invite can decline upfront with a general “no thanks” without further discussion.
What I’m saying is, I don’t like a lot of y’all friends so don’t force me to say it out loud.
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