I let my driver’s license expire.
There, I said it. As online confessions go, it might sound pretty tame, but in terms of what it reveals about my character it’s more shameful than admitting I’m a Brony. What kind of grown man can’t legally drive? Even more humiliating, what kind of grown man from Texas can’t legally drive?
When I moved to New York from Dallas there was no question that I wouldn’t be bringing my car. I spent my first year stealing nickels and dimes from my roommate’s change bowl to pay for $2 ham & cheese sandwiches from the world’s most threadbare bodega; at $400/month for parking, he might have noticed the missing silver.
But not having a car and not having a license are very different things. It’s not like I moved here and thought, “Oh, I can just let this expire, because New York City!” I simply quit devoting attention to anything that didn’t immediately contribute to my survival, and next thing you know I’ve got no more right to get behind the wheel than your typical One Direction fan.
You might be thinking, “But you do live in New York, so it doesn’t really matter.” It really does matter, though. If we’re friends, I will not be able to relieve you during a road trip to (see that band) (attend that beer fest). If we start dating, I will have a difficult time Zipcar-ing you to romantic destinations outside the city -- our apple picking will happen at Gristedes. If you’re my sister… I’ll probably risk driving because you’re borderline legally blind, but it’s going to be awkward when the cops don’t buy that excuse and haul me away in front of your kids, who will probably assume that I robbed a bank. Which is better than them knowing the truth -- that by the laws of every state in the union, their uncle is only statutorily empowered to play with their Tonka trucks.
Take everyone but me out of the equation, and not having a licence is still a gut punch to the soul. Forget heading upstate, I’d love to be able to rent a car just to drive to Costco, buy a package of 50 burritos, throw those burritos in the trunk, and then line my freezer with nothing but burritos. Of course if I did that, I’d have no choice but to also purchase two 38oz containers of Kirkland Signature Organic Salsa and a 30-pack of Jarritos soda. You can’t lug bulk purchases like that onto the subway. At best you’d get jostled and drop everything; at worst you’d wind up under a New York Post headline reading “Burrito Man Causes Riot on 6 Train.”
In 2012, 54% of New York City applicants failed the basic road test. So that's not very good.
Hell, take errands out of the equation, and let’s talk about the sheer joy of driving. I live in a building with walls so thin I can hear my neighbors’ forks hit their plates. If I could, I’d rent a car just to prowl the streets cranking obnoxious music to 11 and pretending like I own this town. I’m desperate for the release of being able to ROWMCO to some sweet 80s hair metal. I could spend an entire afternoon cruising around blaring the Pitbull Channel on Sirius. That channel is so amazing. How can there possibly be so many songs that are performed by Pitbull, produced by Pitbull, or recorded in the style of Pitbull?!
Of course I’ve driven a few times since that inexcusably ignored expiration date. My last trip to Dallas I drove my cousin’s car and felt like I was 15 sneaking out the family ride, “does he know? does he know?” clanging in my brain every time I passed a police car. I don’t want to overstate the stress this caused me, but I will say that my subconscious has added “Driving Without A License” to my standard panic-dream roster of “Go To Grade School In Your Underwear” and “Oh By The Way, You Didn’t Actually Graduate College.”
One mitigating factor in this otherwise wretched situation is that, apparently, other people are just as dumb as I am. I have at least two close friends who made the same mistake. I asked them about the arduous, 6-week process of retaking their driver’s test. Said my fellow Texpat, Dirk (not his real name):
“Yeah, the whole thing was a little weird, knowing that I was a better, more skilled driver than the sweaty guy telling me things. But it was a nice refresher to have a guy who knew the actual rules of driving -- like where you need to stop at a stop sign (behind the sign) that you forget.”
And my friend Steve (that is his real name):
“You should write about me instead. Because mine expired, I lost my passport too, and in order to get a new passport I had to prove my identity by sending, among other things, a photo of myself from an NY Post dating service called The Meet Market to the United States government. Anyway, the driving test is a b___ to schedule and the proctors are very strict. Why are you asking, you know this is gonna suck.”
So in other words, making my transportation game whole again is going to be a huge pain. Still, it’ll be worth it, just to feel torque pushing through my back again, or to pull up to a light and nod “what’s up?” to the driver in the next lane even though we both know that all that’s up is we’re both driving cars.
No matter how old I am when I walk back into the DMV, at least I’ll know I’m not the oldest person to retake the test -- that honor belongs to Edythe Kirchmaier, who renewed at the record-setting age of 105. Whenever I do finally renew, though, it'll have to be before I say goodbye to this city, because If I ever do leave, I’m gonna motor away under my own power, listening to a kickass “I’m outta here” driving song. Whatever the opposite of the last scene in Midnight Cowboy is, that’s how I’m going to make my exit.
Until then, how about a ride to Costco? I will give you some of the burritos.