Making the change from 100% walking and train-taking to 100% driving has probably been the biggest shift in my lifestyle since moving out West. I know how to drive—I started at 15 with my learner's permit, and passed my driving test the first time. However, I haven't been driving on a regular basis since about 2002. That's when I graduated high school, moved to New York, and gave up having a car. During the first 2 summers of college, I drove to and from summer jobs and to see friends. During the second 2 summers, I spent most of the time working at a camp, sans car. Driving is like riding a bike—you don't forget how—but it becomes much, much more nerve-wracking.
I've had a couple scrapes in my day, and my family members have liked to keep things interesting for us with more serious accidents. (Thank God they are OK.) And if living and walking in New York taught me one thing, it's that people are entirely oblivious to everything going on around them. So, picture a busy New York street, where a careless fellow might bump into you, and then give everybody—including that careless fellow—a one-ton, high-speed vehicle full of explosive, flammable gasoline. Combine this with the personal history of accidents, and I am just terrified to get behind the wheel. I walk whenever I can, mostly to the supermarket, the park, the ATM, and the drug store, all close by. (Oh, and Yogurtland. Obv.)
As time wears on, I force myself to drive more and more. I have tackled the giant LA freeways on a couple of occasions, and I have routes I know really well, to places like the library, the bank, and Target. But beyond that, I've been leaving the driving to Chris.
Not driving much is starting to make me feel trapped. On Sunday, I couldn't take it anymore and forced myself to drive (alone) to Abbot Kinney, a hip avenue in Venice that always seems to be busy. I went slightly off-course, but found street parking in a neighborhood and walked about 10 minutes to my destination. A wimpy solution, but the parking was easy and free.
I think I just have to do more solo trips like this to conquer my fear, and to start feeling like an independent person again. Last week, I checked a nearby store for something I needed, and, when they didn't have it, I considered just driving home instead of checking their other location (because I didn't know how to get to the other location). I was disgusted at my own wimpiness, so I whipped out the iPhone, pulled up directions, and forced myself to find the other store, even though it was getting to be rush hour.
I don't want to force myself into situations I can't handle, but I think I can handle most of these things and have to overcome this mental block. It's just that every time I'm accidentally stuck in a turn-only lane or someone pulls a bold, no-blinker cutoff maneuver, my blood pressure goes through the roof and I start sweating buckets.
It's only been 4 months, so I'm trying to be patient with myself. After all, I went from no driving to big-city driving in no time flat. Also, I'm thinking of getting a bike, but that comes with its own set of worries...
Were you ever afraid to drive? How did you get yourself over it?