I’ve been thinking a lot about driving lately. I haven’t been thinking about driving myself because I can’t but I have been thinking a bit about what that has meant in my life. There are a couple of reasons I believe driving has been on my mind.
The first reason is that I use it in my fiction writing exercise. Both of the stories I have written about involving Jillian Cage have started with her driving to work. As she drove she has thought about the condition of the world in one story and thought about the condition of her life in the other story. Putting a character in a car and having them go for a cruise is a great way, at least for me, to find out a little bit about them.
Also, part of the world that I am constructing for my character is influenced by driving. One of the topics I’ve written about in the first short story is the driverless car and its impact on her world. You’ll notice I’ve said that she drives herself but that driverless cars are a thing. There are a couple of reasons for that which I think I handle pretty well in the context of the story.
The second reason I have thought about driving so much is because I have been traveling a lot. Since the last Tuesday in February I have gone to Sioux Falls three times and been to Mitchell once. I will probably be making another trip to Mitchell soon and maybe more to Sioux Falls. It will all depend on the plans and needs of others because again, I can’t drive.
I’ve always wanted to drive. Whenever I have one of those moments where I am less okay with my visual impairment, there is a good chance that transportation has been an issue. Working hard to arrange transportation somewhere only to have it fall apart at the last minute causing me to miss something that I really wanted to see is really frustrating. If I could see well enough to drive and there was something I wanted to do or something I wanted to see, I could just go provided I could afford it.
Driving impacts my look for work. There are a lot of jobs around here, in fact, there aren’t enough workers to fill all that are available. So you’d think it would be easy for me to find a job. Well, not so much. When I would go through the job listings with my job consultant the first ones we would eliminate were those that required a driver’s license or driving as a component. That would always take away a big chunk of what was available to start and then we would have to factor out certain other specialized skills, experience required, education level and other more common factors that might disqualify anyone from a particular job.
Driving has impacted my romantic life. The last woman that I seriously dated once told me that she struggled with the fact that she had to do all the driving. Even though she considered herself progressive, there was just something about being picked up by a guy for a date. This was obviously not something I could ever do for her. I don’t know that she ever got over it. While it isn’t the main reason we stopped seeing each other it may have been a factor in our breakup when I really think about it.
If the roles had been reversed and I were a woman, perhaps this wouldn’t have been an issue. In that case, social convention would be on my side and I would be the one who could be expected to be picked up.
I should really be clear on one thing especially given what I will say after I make that clarification. I’m glad she told me it was a struggle for her. I would rather know that now than have never known it at all. If I am going to sit here and write so much about how important honesty is to me, I can’t just shut that honesty out when it is something that I don’t want to hear. But her admission has been more consequencial than I would have predicted at the time.
I never used to really think about driving as an issue in my dating life. Now, I have to wonder about it. Will the next woman I date have the same issue or will she not care if she has to do all of the driving? How far into the relationship should I pose that question to her? If it is an issue, is there anything that could be done to get around it? And if my last girlfriend had a problem with my inability to drive, were there other aspects of my visual impairment that she wasn’t comfortable with that I never knew about? Could those unknown problems also come up again without my knowing? All of those questions and likely more to consider just stemming from that one comment made a couple of years back.
Driving impacts how I sometimes feel about my friends. I guess this could also extend to the people I date but it is more of an issue with my friends because I’ve spent more time with them than I have spent dating. I sometimes feel like a burden to my friends because I can’t drive. I don’t like feeling like a burden to anyone and so when I do feel that way it is a double dose of struggle for me. My friends don’t think I’m a burden to them because I can’t drive or if they do think that they do a good job of keeping it from me. But they don’t have to because it is something that exists in my own head with abundance.
Driving has even impacted one of my friendships in a specific way. I had a friend (we’ve suffered a falling out over the last couple of years) who is perfectly capable of driving but refuses to do so. I found it frustrating because here in my mind, I would sacrifice bodyparts to be able to drive myself whereever I needed to go. And here was someone who could do it but just chose not to. Perhaps there are valid reasons for this that I just don’t know about and if I knew then the whole thing would make sense. But without knowledge of that sort of thing it is still a difficult thing for me to reconcile in my own mind.
Driving impacts my schedule. Around here, we do have some public transportation. There is a bus system that will come to your home and take you where you need to go at a cost of about $3 per ride. I used this service when I worked at the public library. So every day it would cost me about $5.50 to go to work and come home. Again, if I could drive I would obviously be paying for gas and insurance and the car itself so this is far from a bad deal. Of course that job at the library was a minimum wage job at the time so it was essentially like working an hour each day for free after factoring out taxes and such. Even so not a terrible deal all things considered.
The issue is that in order to use the service you need to give them 24 hours notice of where you need to be. In the case of something like a job where you have a regular schedule this is not a problem. Even for a medical appointment it isn’t an issue because those are often made in advance. If I need to run to the store because I suddenly realize I need something for a recipe I’m making or if I have the sudden impulse to go out to eat it isn’t going to be an option. In that case I more often than not turn to my friends for a ride because they live closer than my family does for the most part.
If you know me and where I live this is where you might suggest that I just walk to the store. The fact I’m pointing this out before you can means that I have considered this already, however. This is not always ideal for several reasons. I won’t explain them all in this entry but here is an easy one. This strategy works better in August than it does in January. It can also be difficult to use proper Orientation and Mobility techniques when you are carrying heavy bags of groceries.
In fairness, if I lived in a larger city with more public transportation options this wouldn’t be an issue. This is an example of a situational problem more than anything else. Greater access to public transportation might not have much of an impact on the dating relationship where the other person wishes I could pick them up, however. But given my desire to remain close to family and friends, especially as my dad battles cancer I must deal with the hand I have been dealt.
This is where I think I need to address the issue of driverless cars once more. I addressed them only in relation to my fiction writing project but now I need to address them in the real world. There are people both who are sighted and visually impaired that believe that driverless cars will be an asset for people with visual impairments and perhaps they are correct. I could certainly see driverless automobiles eliminating the need for one day notices for public transportation in this area. But that’s not what people, in particular those who are visually impaired believe the driverless car is going to do for them.
I am a bit synical when it comes to the driverless car. I don’t really care if they have driven X amount of miles without an accident. That’s one car on a grid as opposed to millions of cars on a grid like we find in America today. I also believe that they will be prime targets for hacking, particularly by terrorist cells in the future. And it is one thing for software in my computer to freeze up for a second as I write this post, it would be another matter for it to freeze up going the speed limit at a busy intersection. But even those issues aren’t what the visually impaired are concerned with when it comes to driverless cars and how they may benefit from them.
What people that I have talked to about the driverless car all say is that it will give them the ability to drive. However, I am going to have to rain on some parades here and point out that it absolutely won’t do that for them. In the first place, driving itself is an action. If the action is performed by the car and not by a person then it is the car that is driving not you. All you have done is moved from one front seat to the other.
The second thing is in relation to the question of emergency override. As I understand it from the last time I looked into this there are two schools of thought. One is that emergency override should be included in al vehicles giving a human the ability to take manual control of the vehicle if necessary. In a car like this I would be disqualified from driving for the same reasons that I am disqualified now, I could not take control.
The other school of thought is that manual override is unnecessary. Again, this is my synical side talking but I find this highly unlikely. If for no other reason than I think insurance companies would prefer that people be able to take control of the vehicle. But even beyond that software is buggy and GPS machines sometimes give faulty instructions. As a result I think people would be more comfortable if the ability to take control were an option. And finally, some people actually enjoy driving and would want the ability to do so anyway. Because again, driving is an action that produces a sensation.
But lets say that I’m wrong on all of these points. Lets say that driverless cars won’t be plagued by the same software glitches that regular computers or your cell phone are plagued with and lets say that they are designed to be a lot more secure. So your car won’t crash into a poll or a kid on a bike because of a delay in information being interpreted and it won’t be hacked by some terrorist group wanting to cause mayhem. Even in the best case sceenario, it is technology that is still going to be a long way from being totally accessible. In the early years where the technology is widely available it will be very expensive. Also, insurance companies won’t be so quick to embrace it because of the question of who would be at fault in an accident. So the car would be expensive and so would the insurance. I’ll just continue to make other arrangements, thanks.
Now you have read a post about how driving or not being able to drive has an impact on virtually all areas of my life. People who can and do drive often take it for granted and don’t really consider how life would change for them so much and very quickly if they suddenly lost the ability to drive. I’m not blaming anyone for that either because we all take certain things to be a given especially the more we get used to them. I might not take driving for granted but perhaps for me I take The Internet or my ability to speak for granted. It is part of being human. I just hope I’ve given you a glimpse through a window into my own life.
And if you still think that a driverless car is going to give a person with a visual impairment the ability to drive, more power to you. I am freely willing to admit that while I am skeptical of that claim I do not possess all of the answers. Quite frankly, on this matter I would love to be wrong. I just don’t think that I am.