I was born with a great deal of advantage that I don't think I really understood until I was well into my late 20's. I grew up in the suburbs, the son of two middle-class professionals; that means that even though they were divorced, things never got too rough. And I had access to one of the better public schools in the country, in spite of stupid bullshit that got us in the news my freshman year. (A subject for another day) I had my driving classes at my high school, though I can't remember if the classes were public or something my parents paid for (Like I said, privileged in a lot of little ways). This was in Michigan, so I was fifteen, and walked out of the class with my learner's permit.
Which I then kept for the rest of my High School Career. It wasn't really something that was important to me, and maybe it was the fact that we only had the one car until I was maybe a junior or senior, but I never took the final step to get my full license until the end of Senior Year and I had a job that was far enough from the house that I couldn't bike to it.
So I got my driver's license, and the aged blue car, a Plymouth, I think? It was boxy, it was blue, and it had a hole on the passenger's side that was getting larger from the time I owned it until it finally died. I drove the car for the few months I had until I left for college.
And Freshman weren't allowed to have a car. So I didn't, and I ended up living with friends who had a car when I needed it, and walking or biking to get around the rest of the time. I even kept that up after I moved to Daytona Beach, Florida after graduation.
I didn't get another car until it was time to move back to Upstate New York; my father found an old panel van that someone was willing to part with for $700 and drove it down there for us to tag-team drive up to Rochester. It was the cheapest way to move all my belongings. It was just that it was the kind of van that you expect to have "Free Candy" spray painted on the side. It was rusting, frustrating wreck that failed every three months with some problem that cost $300 to fix. I eventually gave it one final tune-up, asking the shop to make sure it would survive the trek across Canada because my mom was sure she had someone more mechanical who would be able to deal with the Beast.
My best friend and I ended up walking two miles in the freezing wind in the middle of Fuck and Nowhere, Ontario after the "Check Engine" light started spelling out "You're fucked" in Morse code. After that, I drove said best friend's old car, a white Ford, until he needed it back on account of his car failing twenty miles outside of NYC.
This was another stretch of car-less-ness for me that ended when my mom offered to give me another car that was the old one in the family set, a Pontiac Bonneville. It was a boat, but I'd been used to driving the lumbering creature that was a Ford Panel van, so it was a decent enough car. Certainly more reliable than the panel van. Lasted several years until the car's frame cracked and the Bonnie was sold for scrap.
Another friend had a PT Cruiser that he was willing to sell me, so the most recent of my vehicles was also something that I was able to get from personal connections. The Cruiser was a decent, spacious, reliable car that got better mileage than the Bonnie. And when I ended my relationship, my ex needed a car, I didn't.
It's been over a year since I've made that decision, and I've never really regretted it. I'll admit, this past winter being a mild one has helped that. For the coming winter, I'll invest in a more durable set of boots instead of an automobile.
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