Highway to Hell

An elderly woman crashed her car into mine as she backed out of a driveway, and I went without a car for 35 days. It was the longest I haven't been behind the wheel since I got my own car two years ago.

Previously, the longest I hadn't been behind a wheel was my time studying abroad for a semester. Once I returned home, I bought my first car. It had a very distinct smell of cleanliness when leaving my local dealership. The first time I drove on the highway in my baby, I cranked up the music, rolled up the windows and belted out songs, singing along to mixed CDs I had made for road trips. I felt like a rockstar singing along to Florence + the Machine power ballads, matching the drum beat of "Cosmic Love" with my fingers against the wheel. I loved driving on the highway because it meant not stopping at traffic lights, blasting my music without feeling like a bother to people around me, and no one paying attention to me. When you get your driver's license, you feel free -- free to drive where you choose, no longer relying on friends and family members to shuttle you places. For me, being able to play my music loudly and sing along with all my heart, which is something I can only manage to do in the car alone or occasionally while playing Rockband, was freedom.

For the last five weeks, I have relied on others to drive me places. For one, it's a nuisance to rearrange your schedule around others' free time, and I'd had enough of that when I was working at 16 and without a driver's license. There's also something relaxing about driving 60 miles per hour, passing people you will probably never meet, and rhythmically shouting, "You left me in the daaaAAaaaAAARK!"

I left the auto repair shop with a car that looks as good as new and hit the road. It smells just like it did two years ago from my old local dealership in Maryland. I was giddy -- settling into the seat felt like it did when I had purchased the car. Getting onto the Hutch to head home, I switched from the radio to my CD player. I had forgotten to take out a couple CDs when my car was towed weeks ago, and while Florence + the Machine was no longer there, I pressed play on the first CD. Strings and a man's voice singing, "Woooooooooah" crooned. The bass kicked in, and I turned the volume from 8 to 15 and knew the next words: "I'm waking up to ash and dust. I wipe my brow and I sweat my rust."

This is it. This is my freedom, I thought.

Then I missed a turn, woefully doubled back to make a left turn, and got stuck in the middle of an intersection with "friendly" New Yorkers reminding everyone else how much they hate them.

"Fuck, I hate driving."