, , ,

“Hey, need a lift?”

If you have a driver’s license and reliable access to a vehicle, you’ve probably asked this question at one point in your life – maybe even regularly, sometimes to the same person or people.

For obvious reasons, I do not drive. I am overwhelmed sometimes by the number of people who are willing and able to drive me places. I am regularly driven to or from long Sunday runs, turning what would be a 60-minute bus ride into a 10-minute drive with pleasant company besides. A few times a year, I need to run errands where taxis or rideshares are either impractical or prohibitively expensive. Before I started my new job, I was invited to a house party in the middle of nowhere, and had multiple offers of rides to get there and back. The generosity of strangers and friends alike is something that both makes me extremely grateful, and extremely uncomfortable.

I don’t feel guilty for calling a taxi or taking an Uber. I pay the fare, the driver provides the service. When I had to provide an urgent signature for legal documents, I ordered an Uber; I didn’t want to leave anyone hanging out downtown for me to take an hour in a law office. But there’s a certain uncomfortable feeling when accepting a ride from someone you know when they are driving you somewhere, even if they have a reason to go there themselves.

There’s a certain power imbalance. The person with the wheels, the keys, and the license, has the ability to make any decisions they see fit. If the driver wants to leave before the passenger is ready to, or doesn’t want to run that errand or attend that event, the passenger needs to locate their alternate transportation arrangements – if there are any at all. If the driver wants to stay at the party, the boring meeting, the holiday dinner, then the passenger performs some form of mental gymnastics about whether their desire to leave is worth bringing up at all.

I came to this realization when discussing travel with a friend. I’ve taken multiple trips over the years, sometimes alone, and sometimes with my (now former) husband. My friend asked me what my favourite trip was, and of all the ones I’d taken, I couldn’t help but realize that New York and the intrepid Journey were, by far, my preferred trips when I take a tour down Memory Lane. Don’t get me wrong, the Epic Road Trip of Awesome was… well…. awesome! But I realized that the fondest memories I have were on trips that didn’t include large amounts of car travel. In new York, the only car trips we took were the trip to and from the airport… and the ride back to my B&B with a performing jazz band; the rest of the trip was all made on foot or by Subway, giving both my husband and I an immense amount of personal autonomy. The Intrepid Journey may not have covered as much ground, or been quite as scenic as the Epic Road Trip of Awesome, but I realized that I could do whatever I wanted, held only to the timetables of the inter-city bus trips I booked (and got canceled before traveling, but that’s another story). In both cases, I could travel when and where I wanted, go back and sleep if I wanted, try new things that would bore almost anyone else on this planet… but I didn’t require the consultation of anyone else, beyond a courtesy “I’ll be back at place X by Y time… I’ll text you if anything changes.” I wonder if this is what driving feels like; it’s just on two feet rather than four wheels.

I am truly grateful for my army of support who are more than generous in sharing their wheels. And yet I am an ungrateful passenger. I’m frustrated by the need to ask – even though a part of me knows that rides wouldn’t be offered if they weren’t offered freely. I feel frustrated by any sense of mismatch in timelines – if I’m having fun, I have the feeling like I’m keeping someone somewhere they don’t want to be; if I’m exhausted and just want to go home, I feel like I’m taking someone else away from their fun for my benefit. Maybe it’s not the wheels I resent so much, but the perceived and actual casualness that comes with possessing them.