Refusing To Drive

Jul 17 2012 @ 3:25pm

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Ray Bradbury refused to get a driver's license his entire life, despite living in Los Angeles. John Wilson considers one of his short stories from 1950:

"The Pedestrian" suggests, I think, that Bradbury’s non-driving wasn’t simply explainable as the result of witnessing a traumatic car accident. "To enter out into that silence that was the city at eight o’clock of a misty evening in November," the story begins, "to put your feet upon that buckling concrete walk, to step over grassy seams and make your way, hands in pockets, through the silences, that was what Mr. Leonard Mead most dearly loved to do." What Bradbury gives us here is a glimpse of the inner conversation that sustained a lifetime of writing. 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.

So beautifully put. My own refusal to learn how to drive a car originated, I think, in adolescent geekdom. I did not need a car to go out on dates with girls because I was terrified of dates with girls. And then I never really found myself in a position to need one. I took the public bus to school. I lived in university towns – Oxford and Cambridge, MA, where bikes are far more convenient. And then DC, where a bike is also much less hassle if you don't need to travel much. Provincetown? A car is a massive burden in the summer – and I get the hell out of here in the winter months. Having no kids helps too. And a driving husband.

But I have to say I'm glad I never learned to drive. You do see more, closer to the ground, without glass and metal sealing you off from reality. And bikes keep your heart-rate up especially if you live, as we do in DC, atop the highest hill for quite a few blocks.

And did I mention I favor a much bigger gas tax?

(From the series ‘Aerial Nudes’ by John Crawford via Ignant)