While I have not given up on the idea that it's possible to bike 15 miles each way to work, the jobs I'm finding here in small town-Illinois all seem to be 25+ miles away from my new home. Therefore, it is with great reluctance, and a grudging admission that winter is bound to come around again eventually, that I am learning to drive.
Perhaps I should say re-learning. I got my license in high school, but not until I was 18, I think — I simply wasn't in a rush. Over the next half-dozen years, I probably drove a total of 300 miles. At age 33, that figure remains my Lifetime Driving Total. It's been 9 years since I've been behind the wheel, and my license expired years ago. No matter, I just used my passport to get into bars and onto planes. I was always aware that driving and having a license are things people do, but I couldn't really see how I would benefit, and it always seemed so wasteful and expensive. I walked and biked everywhere, and rode trains and buses when necessary. I schlepped, and schlepped, and schlepped some more. And even if I could drive, what would I drive? I certainly never owned a car, and it's been rare to know someone who does. Especially during the 8 years I lived in San Francisco, my perspective has been, "Well, obviously nobody has a car," despite the traffic to the contrary. I figured that maybe I would drive again, someday, but eh, isn't cake-baking a much more interesting and important skill to focus on?
It is, of course, but even if you can ride your bike to a tiny local market that has sugar and flour (if not much else), you'll still need to get yourself to the job that pays for the sugar and flour. And so it begins.
I studied for my Learner's Permit, highly frustrated that I couldn't seem to get a proper Rules Of The Road booklet through the mail and had to use an online PDF. I read the whole thing, got a ride to the small-town DMV (I was the only customer), and scored a 100%. Very impressive — am I done yet? I've had my permit for weeks, and have successfully avoided not only driving, but thinking about driving. Even as I apply for jobs in the next big town over, 25 miles away, I ignore the fact that I would not be able to get myself to the interview, let alone to work every day.
Writing all this out has made me realize that all this might just be due to good old-fashioned rebellion. I love my new home, and the members of my new household, and our delicious garden, and the beautiful public pool and bike path, but I think I'm in denial that I don't still live in a city. If I ride my bike everywhere, I can pretend, but once I start driving, it's all over. I'll have to admit that though I love it here, there's so much I miss and so many things I don't know how to get used to.
Learning to drive just might be the final, necessary step in feeling like I'm home. It's not my city, it's not any city, but it's where I want to be.
(Image: Marcia Prentice/Carol's Architectural Home in the Hills)