At the age of 37 I’ve recently come into possession of my first ever car. It has happened sooner than I expected. I thought I’d make it until at least my mid-forties before succumbing to the conveniences of my rattletrap. It has come about by chance really: this old Ford Fiesta used to belong to my partner, but a rapid succession of breakdowns and hindrances (flat tyre, flat battery, knavish servicing) left her exasperated and on the look out for a new specimen. Now the rusty workhorse is mine to roll around in and concern myself with the road-worthiness over.
How I might receive this new spring of freedom is interesting. I’m tempted to go roving with wide horizons in mind, but I’m not an experienced driver and remain trepidatious about trundling too far from home. Probably the first thing I should do is to drive my friends and family around for as long as they want in order to repay them for the many thousands of lifts I’ve taken from them over the decades.
Without doubt, distances that I have grown deeply attuned to from walking have been suddenly truncated, and new personal challenges, like road-rage, are being discovered like new pockets in an old coat.
I was a slow starter when it came to driving lessons, beginning my first round of coaching aged about 24. I doubt I have drive more than 1,000 miles in the intervening years.
What has always put me off is the simple fact, one which seems self-evident to me, that cars lead onto more cars. Once you are a car owner you can never go back. Intentionally or not, you adopt habits and aspects that fix as you expand your territorial range. My fear has always been of locking myself into the necessity of car ownership, so that I couldn’t exist without a car even if I wanted to. I wonder how many other crutches I have let in without noticing? Coffee, catch up TV, Wikipedia?
Now that I have a car of my own, all this is indeed happening. I used to walk to the train station in the morning, but now I drive half the way to save 15 minutes. I like having those fifteen minutes to eat my breakfast more slowly. I wouldn’t want to give them up now.
On the other hand, I am now able to visit my friends and family with much more spontaneity than ever before. What used to be half-day excursions are now possible to fit into a lunchtime or early evening. This is a bind I am happy to put up with – one I wouldn’t want to give up now either.