Well, well, Andrew Sullivan refuses to drive. Interesting. I find that a little scandalous, quite frankly, in a kids-in-playpens kind of way. I know, I know. Andrew Sullivan’s famous, child-free, an excellent bicyclist… all attributes I lack. But I aspire to the Andrew Sullivan School of Non-Driving. Officially, I mean. De facto-ly speaking, I’m already there in the sense that I don’t see myself as a driver. In the same way that I don’t see myself as a coffee drinker. I loathe both. Driving and coffee perplex and irritate me.
I am fascinated by non-drivers. I had dinner with a famous economist non-driver the other night. He has two kids and a super-accomplished wife. He doesn’t even have a valid license! The chutzpah. So French! So Don Draper On a Bender in California Without Telling Betty. Hey, I’m in! (But seriously, how does he pull that off? Does he saddle up for emergencies when the spouse is out of town?)
I’d like to make this crystal-clear. (Gosh, I have such trouble making my true feelings known.) Believe me, I would love to spend the rest of eternity as a self-righteous pedestrian, but I really can’t go down that rabbit hole, even if Andrew Sullivan tells me to go for it. For one thing, my family would react… uh…sub-optimally. Alas, I’m in thrall to two teenagers, one 20 year-old, one ridgeless Rhodesian Ridgeback, and one
devil’s spawn Miniature Dachshund. (Definition of thrall= a. One, such as a slave or serf, who is held in bondage. b. One who is intellectually or morally enslaved.)
And for another, if we’re being totally honest here, Driving Refusal would be the beginning of an alarming downward spiral the bottom of which would find me beached on an over-stuffed barcalounger surrounded by stacks of mildewed newspapers and a slew of mangy cats, dressed in a caftan and oversized jewelry, watching people get their houses repossessed on TV while eating microwaved s’mores.
Plus, I’m not entirely opposed to all driving. I don’t “do” 95 south between Providence and New York City, if I can help it, but I do love watching the sunset over the mountains as I’m making my way north on I-89. There are three moose crossings between NH and Vermont, and I get increasingly excited as I pass each one. The roads are nearly empty. It’s a gorgeous drive. I go a super-daring 65 or 70 mph. Very Ken Kesey.
So, no, I’m not going to become a shut-in. I am, however, officially giving myself permission to write at least one more blog post about my hatred of driving and why walking is so great for my brain. Thank you, Andrew Sullivan (via John Wilson on Ray Bradbury). This is really great:
In the same vein, when [Bradbury biographer Jonathan Eller] speaks of Bradbury’s “need to read—an almost visceral need that was only slightly less of a reflex than breath itself”—he’s not indulging in hyperbole. Reading is breathing, and thinking is walking.
Why, yes…I love this idea that, “thinking is walking.” Young children do it a lot, instinctually and then, with age, a very fixed idea takes root in all but a few oddballs that sitting is where all the action is, so to speak. People in chairs or in cars are the ones wheeling and dealing and making the world hum. (Now I’m going to segue awkwardly to a case for why my non-driving makes me a superior person.)
Sitting makes me incredibly antsy; I do all my best (sic) thinking on my feet. I’ve always been a pacer. I write at a standing desk, I walk in circles while I’m on the phone. I walked everywhere when my kids were little and we lived in Chicago. Literally everywhere. I had a rickety shopping cart and a whole stable of strollers for the unbelievably, but variously, crappy Midwestern weather: the fancy wheels for un-shovelled winter sidewalks, the easily collapsible model for those fun public transport outings with three squirmy kids, the one with a built-in rain shield, the tandem … This was in the days before properly engineered strollers. They all sucked, but I collected them like prized wines, ever hopeful. Honestly, I don’t think I got behind the wheel of my car more than a handful of times in six years.
Then I did a stint in suburbia and everything went straight to hell. I bought an ugly minivan, got fat, fought with my small children in traffic. Sometimes it took me 30 or 40 minutes to cross town at rush hour (which was, conveniently, the time my children had to be picked up from one of the enriching activities they abandoned on a routine basis. (True story: When my sister lived in Russia, her kids’ fencing teacher screamed at the class, “You American kids are all Qvitters! QVITTERS!”.) The driving shtick made me utterly miserable. My flabby carbon footprints felt inferior to their sleeker urban ones. Did I mention that I gained almost 20 pounds?
Now I’m juggling both urban and rural life, trying to figure out how to be like a famous non-driving child-free gay man in Washington on his bike. But I’m too feeble to manage biking in city traffic. It just scares the hell out of me. And I think I might be too scared/un-fit to bike on very narrow, winding, hilly Vermont roads.
I do, however, like to ‘hike’ in the woods. I’m pretty sure it’s walking I’m doing in the woods, but I like to go on woodsy trails and call it hiking. This is absolutely my most favorite pastime. I bought a walking stick from a surly teenager at Eastern Mountain Stores last year, for my bad knee, which dramatically improved the experience of scrambling monkeyishly over damp mossy rocks. But I felt like a big loser with the walking stick. It seems like an accessory for the really hard-core walking enthusiast or for the really lame (possibly literally), but not for a regular person who looks like pretentious dork.
I could feel the waves of contempt wash over me like a sweaty mist as the younger, fitter, shirtless trekkers passed me by on the trails. When this kind of thing happens (a lot), I fight the urge to heft my shirt up, Mia Hamm-style, and point out my own perfectly nice obliques. Excuse me, show-offy hipster boys: I am one of the strongest women my personal trainer has ever worked with, dammit! ["Strong" is the operational word. It's code for: Middle-aged Gym Rat/Still Fat. The next step is "Statuesque" or "Queen-sized" or that kiss of death: a "handsome" woman. But I digress.]
Actually, I think I’m done with this post, having proved that I am vain, nuts, and in need of an editor. Back tomorrow with my TIME.com seriousness.