New York was the perfect place for a non-driver to hide in plain sight. You could even boost your self-esteem by becoming one of those condescending assholes who's fluent in public transportation and judges everyone who isn't. "Did you hear that noob ask if the A was running express? Who doesn't know that at 11 p.m. every other Wednesday, the A transforms into a commemorative plaque of Kanye's VMA speech?" (Answer: probably a noob who knows how to parallel park.)
Mtattrain / Wiki Commons
Is transportation without the constant scent of fresh hobo pee even transportation at all?
All of that false bravado would vanish as soon as I ventured outside of the city: to visit friends in the suburbs, while on vacation, or anytime the words "road trip" came up. During these jaunts away from comfort, I would regress into a hapless backseat child, whose schedule was dictated by whoever my adoptive driving parents happened to be that week. These temporary bursts of humility made me long for New York, where I was no less outwardly incompetent than anyone else. Whenever one of these trips came to an end, I returned home with a sense of calm, knowing I would soon regain control over my life.
Then, I moved to California. I live in a walkable neighborhood and rarely need to leave it, so I don't feel too hindered by my inability to drive. But, this is a car-centric city, and I can no longer hide the fact that I'm terrified of something that's a basic fact of life for my friends. Being confronted with this gaping hole in my skill set after years of avoidance has reacquainted me with my high school insecurities. No matter how much I've accomplished, I can't help but compare myself to everyone who manages to get on the road everyday -- 16 year olds and octogenarians alike.
This whippersnapper has totally forgotten what it's like to walk uphill in the snow, both ways.
What do they have that I don't? Aside from a driver's license, a semblance of confidence that would really come in handy sometimes. Because ...