Saturday, March 18, 2006

Driving Miss

I took another older friend to the beauty shop (why do they call it that?). I promised myself that I would, at all costs, keep in touch with people who are important. See, I learned from my mistakes with Butch.

Anyway, this lady is over eighty, had been married to her husband for sixty years before he died last year, and has never driven, not even once. I have been driving her places for a year. Every time I take her anywhere I start thinking about the differences in society that made it not necessary to drive then and almost essential now.

I started driving when I could touch the pedals and could see over the steering wheel (around 9). I drove the tractors and farm trucks first and quickly moved on to anything with wheels. I got my license at fifteen. I never considered not driving. I wanted the power and independence having a car provides. So how could this woman go through life without touching a steering wheel, even on the farm? This is what I figured out so far:
  • People didn't go to town as much and they went as a family. You really planned your shopping and did without if you forgot something.
  • People grew their own food, except for a few things.
  • There was a strong community where those who drove and had cars helped those who didn't.
  • People walked more. The cars weren't going so fast so it felt safer.
  • Women held a different position.
  • People expected their marriages would last forever.
So now, when I pass her house, embarrassingly almost everyday, and see her husband's farm truck sitting under her carport, I smile and am grateful that I have the independence driving gives me. But I'm also a little sad for the loss of community and self sufficiency of the past.

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