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Grandma You Can Drive My Car

June 2, 2011

My grandma never drove a car.  She never placed her well-shod foot on a brake pedal, shifted a gear or learned to parallel park.  She never had to suffer the unbearable wait down at the DMV because she never had a driver’s license.

She grew up in the city and her whole life and family were either right there in the neighborhood or just a short bus ride away.  She and her parents and brothers walked to the shops in their neighborhood, walked to school and church, and if they needed to take a day trip, they took the train or a bus.  And once she married my grandpa in the early 30’s he assumed the role of family chauffeur.

If she ever wanted to go across town, she was dependent on another person to get her to her desired destination, but it never seemed to bother her or impede our activities.  As a child my grandma and I walked everywhere – to the store, to visit friends, to the park or the library.  If we wanted to go to Capitol Court, the fancy new mall (!), we took the bus.

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I never asked my grandma why she hadn’t learned to drive a car.  I’m not sure if it was because she was afraid, if she felt she truly didn’t need to, or if, perhaps, there was some sense that women in the 1930’s didn’t need to worry about that. (Interestingly enough, one of her sisters-in-law, same age, also didn’t drive.  So in their later years I drove BOTH of them around).

Obviously during the Great Depression they had a lot more to worry about than teaching each other to drive, and perhaps by the time the 30’s came to an end, and she had a new baby (my mother) there was just no sense of urgency around getting behind the wheel.

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I’m not sure I could handle that feeling of being “stuck” I would get from not being able to drive.  It’s like those days when you have to leave your vehicle at the mechanic all day and just the thought of being unable to go somewhere is terrifying.   Then again perhaps we need to drive because collectively we’ve gotten somewhat lazy, our neighborhoods and cities sprawl, and we have crappy public transportation.

Obviously there are some people who live in cities where one truly has no need for a vehicle.  And ya know … I think I may have a little bit of envy for those people.

Maybe grandma had it right.

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