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  • Writer's pictureJustin Shaw

Why I Don't Have a Driver's Licence

Recently in a group discussion, a friend mine admitted she did not have a driver’s licence. Imagine: a fully capable adult without a driver’s licence. As she explained why, I sat there feeling an overwhelming sense of shame – because I, too, do not have a driver’s licence.

But I didn’t say anything.

It could have been a moment where I spoke up and said “amen, sister!” but I feared judgment and embarrassment. Then I resented myself for not saying anything, which leads to downward spiral of self-judgment and self-loathing, and the only upside to having these feelings is knowing I’ll never be behind the wheel of a car.

I couldn’t say it then.

But I can say it now.

It is in my fully biased opinion that people who do not have a driver’s licence are fundamentally more interesting people.

Here’s why:

Number one – people without a driver’s licence tell better stories. It begins off the bat when they find out you don’t have a driver’s licence. They look at you full of wide-eyed curiosity and ask “why?” You already have their attention. Isn’t that half the battle? They demand satisfaction – what gives you the right to be different from me? How do you live your life? How do you do the most basic things that I do everyday and take for granted? You must have some reason why you live your life this way? You must have some harrowing and epic tales of how you get from point A to point B. In my experience, suspense often makes for a better story.

Number two – you become more resilient. A milestone moment for most people is they day the get their driver’s licence. Card-carrying proof that you are an independent adult capable of looking after yourself. If you don’t have a driver’s licence, how on earth do you expect to get anywhere in life? In the 14 years I have been eligible to get a driver’s licence I have lived in four different Canadian provinces and no fewer than a dozen different residences. Getting around requires ingenuity, patient friends, and an encyclopedic knowledge of bus schedules. From not having a driver’s licence, I have learned that what can often be perceived as something that would hold you back can actually be an absurd catalyst for profound reinvention and forward-thinking. You have to work twice as hard, and more often than not that takes you twice as far.

Number three – if you’re still reading this, I have just proven number one.

Number four – we’re nicer to people. I’m not talking about “road rage” or the feelings of pure bloodlust some people feel when, god forbid, someone doesn’t turn their signal light on. I mean to people who do offer us a ride when we’re in need. What they may perceive as a small generosity (or, sometimes, a forced obligation) is usually repaid with a sincere and deep-weighted thank-you for taking them safely a great distance. I assure you, we do not take the offer lightly. In every situation in which a friend or acquaintance offers me a ride, and I open the car door, the frequent remark from the driver is “sorry about the mess.” I have never once criticized or judged the state of a car that is providing me a free ride. If you are the kind of person who does do that, odds are you don’t get offered many free rides.

Number five – you see things. Too often people with Fit-Bits or other exercise gizmos brag about “getting their steps in for the day.” For me and other wheel-less wonders, this is just called everyday life. You get to know a community pretty quickly the more you walk around it. You gain a pedestrian’s eye-view of things that may go by unremarked. In cities, you get have a sixth sense of the labyrinth of city blocks just by pure intuition. You get an intimate knowledge of the places you’ve been, and instead of a cloud of engine-fuelled smoke left in your wake, all you leave behind are footprints.

And lastly, number six – we are a strange breed, but we are a breed nonetheless. We come in all shapes and sizes and may live wildly different lives, but in spite of all these things that make us different, we have a hidden similarity. Prior to the group discussion, I didn’t think I had anything in common with the person brave enough to admit they don’t have a driver’s licence. That’s because we aren’t forth coming with that truth. It’s often teased out of us in a moment of discomfort. It’s a quiet token of secrecy wrapped around our necks like a locket, when somedays it feels like a noose. This is not quickly shared information because we fear being seen as someone who does not fit in to society’s expectations of the lives we should live. That’s why I didn’t say anything.

The reason I speak now is because, after a walk around the block, taking in the sun as it danced between the leaves on an early Spring morning, being mesmerized by the faded murals painted upon the dreary wall of an abandoned warehouse, savouring each and every step as I hear the bloated chorus of horns and ignitions of Fords, Chevys, and Fiats, I thought: why fit in when you’re born to stand out?

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