When choosing to forgo getting my driver’s permit in high school, I always assumed I’d get it later. It wasn’t an if, just a really late when. But 16 became 18 and 18 turned 20 and now I’m 21 years old without a permit. When asked about this abnormality, I normally answer, “It’s a choice”. I explain I’m a climate change activist and an advocate for public transportation followed with alarming statistics about greenhouse gas emissions caused by the manufacturing and driving of automobiles. I’ve never timed myself, but I guess I ramble on long enough that whoever asks in the first place no longer cares. I’m normally left with an absent bobble of the head, shrug of the shoulders and audible disappointment, “oh,” a lingering silence, “good for you then”, before they shuffle away.
If I’m honest, I never got around to getting my driver’s permit because I’m lazy. The whole task of getting to the DMV, waiting in a never ending line, and dealing with disgruntled workers didn’t seem appealing at 16 and even less so at 21. Plus, I never felt the need to drive myself around. My parents coddled me growing up and provided me with transportation everywhere; from my 6 AM track meets to late night movie viewings with friends. Even after they cut their driving services, I didn’t mind. I just learned the city’s train system and bought a bike. I was okay with not knowing how to drive, but when I considered all the qualms of my choice, I never thought dating would be an issue.
It was midnight when I first stumbled across her tinder profile. Bobbin B. Baldwin, age 21, a full time university student, and about 18 miles away. I thought she was cute with her curled pigtails and bulky bangs. Her profile said she was an environmental and sustainability studies major with a minor in urban design and immediately below it in big black bold helvetica font, “I. DON’T. DRIVE.” It caused me to chuckle when I first read it and I wondered if she felt inclined to include this seemingly random piece of information as a quirky trait or because of some altercation it may have caused on a previous date. Regardless, I swiped right; if things worked out between us, I owned a car and wouldn’t mind chauffeuring her around on date night. My thoughtfulness was immediately rewarded with the joining of our two profiles and the word, “Match” flitting across my screen. “Cool”, I thought, before messaging, “Hi! I do drive,” smiley face, car emoji. My past partner said I didn’t emote enough, so now I use emojis; I hate it.
Waiting for a response, I watch as the three little dots bounce in succession, “Bobbin is typing,” it states before disappearing altogether.
“Well Mr. I-Do-Drive, up for some impromptu stargazing?” she asks me.
Alarmed at her boldness, I respond, “With a stranger? I don’t know. Is it normal for you to get in the car with strangers?”
“Totally,” she types as if it’s a no brainer, “I mean, when you don’t drive, you exploit every opportunity you have for a free ride”.
Running my tongue against my teeth, I roll my eyes. “How cocky of you to assume the ride would be free; everything has its price.” Re-reading my response, I cringe at how sexual it sounded. Quickly, I add, “I mean, tacos. The price is you buying me tacos; perfect date food, right?” Sighing, I drag my hand down my face. “Smoothe one Scott,” I sarcastically think to myself, “smoothe”.
“I wouldn’t say perfect date food, but sure; we can get them on the way. See you soon,” she ends our conversation with a copy of her address. I guess I’m going stargazing.
His pictures looked kind enough. Scott W. Fitzgerald, age 24, part time mechanic and about 18 miles away. His choice in career was questionable, but it was almost a guarantee he owned a car. What mechanic doesn’t have a car? It would be sadly ironic if he didn’t, but he did and that’s all that currently mattered. Even though I said it was normal behavior, me getting into cars with strangers, it wasn’t. Stargazing with Jared, my former boyfriend of three years, was normal. We used to do it every Sunday night; an hour drive up Mt. Venus with homemade snacks to see the stars. Homemade snacks were definitely better than tacos, but beggars couldn’t be choosy. Plus, I had received worse offers; at least he wasn’t asking for sex. “Yeah,” I confirm with myself unknowingly nodding my head, “of all the guys I’ve gone stargazing with since Jared, tacos definitely aren’t the worse”.
Shimmying into my jeans and tossing on a band tee, I grab my keys and pepper spray before heading outside to wait for Scott. I spend five minutes in the brisk night breezes before I’m sheltered by the warmth of Scott’s car. Clicking on my seatbelt, I tilt my head towards him. I frown; he’s still in his pajamas. “What do you have on?” I ask concerned; it’s not possible to climb Mt. Venus in pajamas.
Cocking an eyebrow, he responds, “my pajamas. I figured I might as well be comfortable. We’re only getting tacos and heading to the park to see the stars.”
Vigorously shaking my head, I stomp my foot in annoyance. “You can’t stargaze at a park, there’s too much light population there; we have to go to Mt. Venus”.
His eyes widen, “You’re crazy; that’s an hour away,” he shouts.
“I said I’d buy you tacos. Why are you so fucking upset,” I counter.
He scoffs, “Tacos?! That’s a two hour drive to and from. Two hours of gas wasted! Two hours of my time wasted! Tacos won’t fucking cut it”.
“Then why the hell did you drive here?” I throw my hands up.
“Because I thought you were nice and we were doing something cute. You can’t just use people to drive you around for free!”
Unclicking my seatbelt and getting out the car, I think, “Jared said the same thing”.