I haven't driven since 2:45 in the afternoon on October 20, 2014. I remember the date to the hour.
My husband and I had just seen Amon Amarth play the night before, and the next day, I drove to a doctor's appointment. These two things sent me into an episode of vertigo where I was unable to get anything done for two weeks. I sunk into depression, spending hours in bed, not emerging from the covers until well-after Noon. The house and the dog became too difficult to take care of, and I stopped answering phone calls.
My doctors asked me to stop driving. And to stop going to concerts.
The car, my car, is one I've had for fourteen years. I drove it new off the lot in August of 2001, and have been repairing it ever since. It's a little blue VW Jetta, covered in bumper stickers, and now is a squatter in half our garage - undriveable with flattened tires. I've owned two cars in my life, and the other was a used Honda Civic, whose windows were tinted black as pitch. And it, too, wore stickers.
I loved driving, especially once I was medicated enough to realize that all cars on the road were actually there. I loved taking the half corkscrew entrance ramp near the house onto the curved elevated freeway, punching the Turbo to 70mph, and instantly changing lanes upon the merge. I loved listening to music at high volume with the windows down and the wind making a mess of my hair. I'd even adopted a zen attitude about traffic: I can do nothing to change this, so I must accept my fate.
Driving was an alternate joy to walking. Part thrill seeking, part control freak. I'd learned to drive in New York City, where you don't get to choose between being an Offensive or Defensive Driver. You must be either when the time is right, and sometimes you have to be both at once. Every time I got behind the wheel, it was a bad action movie where me and this weapon of destruction became one, and only I had power over it.
So, when I said, "I'm donating my car on Monday." People smiled at me. They told me how great that was. My husband started making plans for the soon-to-be-vacated half of the garage. But for me, the thunderclouds rolled in closer, and as I pulled item after item from my trunk, the memory sieve opened up, and I felt like I was saying goodbye to an old friend, rather than a piece of metal.
I'm not just losing the car. I'm losing a piece of my independence, and something that made me American. I'm not someone who chose never to drive again, the decision was made for me. It was something among many other things I could simply just not do anymore. In the months prior to stepping out of my car for the last time, my husband and I were talking about leasing a new car for me, and I had been flipping through the pages on Edmunds, drooling over the possibilities.
When I tell people I can't drive anymore, everyone says how great it is we live in our neighborhood. How it's so walking friendly, so close to the grocery store, and other shops. They're right, it is so great. And we're lucky we got this house I love so much. It is also great that I've been in the habit of walking everywhere since middle school. I used to prefer walking to driving, but once you lose something forever, it's really hard not to want it back.
So, I donated my car today to a radio station. I researched and called other causes I believed in, but they couldn't take my poor friend. It's alright. The radio station is a great way to come full circle as the car was bought at the beginning of my career in radio, and it will end its life as a radio savior. So I did a good thing, and it means something to me.
I just wish it didn't make me feel so awful.