Bringing Detroit car culture to Maryland

When I was a teenager in high school, I was a bit obstinate about learning to drive. It seemed like a waste to me. I took the bus to school every day and didn’t need to drive anywhere after school either (oh, to be a nerd). Well, that’s what I told myself, anyway. I was foolishly trying to rationalize not desiring to go through the whole licensing process. Admittedly, it is a bit of a chore: you have to go to classes, take a learner’s permit written exam, do in-car driving with instructors and parents, and then take a final driving test. I just didn’t want to go through all of that. But my mom made me, and I’m very glad she did.

My mom grew up in Detroit during its heyday, when it was still the automobile capital of the world and before it started slipping towards its modern decrepitude. To say there was a car culture there would be a terrible understatement. It was simply assumed that every teenager would start driving the moment they turned sixteen. School children looked more eagerly towards the first day it would become legal for them to drive than the first day they could legally purchase alcohol. And so my mom was having none of my “I don’t want to drive” routine, and eventually got me to go through with it.

I went through the stupid class, acing all of the in-class tests. There was a brief hang-up when I failed the learner’s permit written exam the first time, with my dad accusing me of actively sabotaging the process (and wasting money). But aiming to fail a test is something that simply goes against my nature. I had some serious qualms with that test, disputing what they thought the “correct” answers to questions were. According to them, the correct answer to the question “How long does it take alcohol to metabolize in the body?” is “Never”, which is a stupid trick question that only works for extremely narrow definitions of metabolism, because alcohol is indeed broken down inside the body by the liver and is not excreted intact. You can tell how bitter I am because I still remember that damn question.

But I passed the test the next weekend and went on to do the in-car training and pass the real driving exam with flying colors at the MVA. I was a licensed driver at the age of sixteen and a few months. And immediately I realized the folly of trying to put off driving until later, because literally within a week I was reaping the benefits of convenience of being able to drive. I drove myself to my internship that summer rather than having to rely on my dad to drive me. I drove to the last school bus stop on the route instead of walking to the nearest one, saving me 30 minutes each morning and night. When I missed the bus, I could simply drive the rest of the way to school. And I was able to drive to my friends’ houses.

So being able to drive a car proved immediately useful, and I’m glad my mom kept persuading me to do it until I relented. Sometimes parents really do know best.

6 Responses to “Bringing Detroit car culture to Maryland”

  1. zordon Says:

    cars rule! hated being obligated to drive all my friends around when I was young (one of the first to get my license)

    cydeweys, supcomtalk comments to this date. forum it please.

  2. Spud Says:

    This article really resonates with me. I am a 20yr old who hasnt got his liscence yet.. partly because of the reasons you stated. I live in the city and can catch public transport to where ever i need to go.. and partly because i dont reckon my dad would let me drive his car anyway.

    Australia’s draconian Learner laws and regulations dont help either. It seems the more i put if off the longer the “learning period” gets. ATM we have to drive for 120 hours with a fully licensed driver in the car and then pass a driving test at the DMV. A year ago it was 50 hours of guided driving and i had at least 80 hours logged… Why did i let my learners permit expire!

    My folks arent big on pushing me to drive though. I wish my mother had been more like yours! It helps to have a positive influence encouraging you i guess

  3. Gordon Says:

    You know, I like taking the bus. You don’t pay insurance and maintenance for the bus, the bus company does that for you. Yuo don’t drive the bus, the driver does that for you and meanwhile you can read the paper. When you are where you want to go you don’t drive around the block for 20 minutes to find parking, you just hop off the bus. And while you are not on the bus you don’t have some punk breaking into the bus and stealing your radio.

    Oh, there is no bus in suburban America? Who wants to move to suburban America anyway?

  4. Cyde Weys Says:

    Gordon: It’s not that I enjoy driving a car (I actually dislike the actual act, especially during traffic), it’s just that I enjoy the convenience of it. You’re right, riding a bus is much better than driving a car, especially because you aren’t giving up all of that time. I have some reading I’d love to catch up on. But there simply isn’t any sort of practical bus system where I live that takes me where I need to go. My current commute is 31 miles one way. There’s no single mass transit system that comes close to handling that. But the Eisenhower Interstate System takes me all the way there.

  5. Gordon Says:

    Hey, if I lived 30 miles away from everything I’d consider moving.

  6. Cyde Weys Says:

    Gordon: Here’s the thing though. I’m an IT consultant. I’m only going to be at this client site for a few more weeks. It simply doesn’t make sense to move around multiple times per year. And this is the only site that’s even within driving distance of the home office. Every other one works on a schedule of flying out Monday morning and flying back Thursday evening (except for the international clients, which we go to for longer stays at a time).