July 9, 2009

People who never learn to drive.

Do you know any? Are you one?

I was just reading about Quincy Jones — in the context of Michael Jackson, unsurprisingly — and, via Wikipedia, I see this:
"Sue! SLOW DOWN!" Quincy Jones screamed, his normally baritone, saxophone-esque voice jumping into Aretha terrain, his body straining against all six racing belts holding him in the seat. In fairness, the Maybach Exelero's salacious side exhaust pipes were bellowing so loudly he had to lean on his own set of pipes just to be heard. I acquiesced, backing the throttle off from snarl to purr. Quincy shot me one of his famous looks. "You are a wild woman! I like that."

And I like firsts (and onlys) - for instance, driving with a legend. So to celebrate my official return to Fortune after a seven-year hiatus, I achieved a double first-and-only: driving with Quincy in the Exelero, an $8 million one-off collaboration between Mercedes' ultra-luxury division, Maybach, and German tire manufacturer Fulda...

Jones doesn't drive, but as a passenger, he's impressed by the Maybach's power....

viI suddenly backed all the way off, the Exelero's power plant burbling raucously; if Darth Vader ever laughed, this is what it would sound like. I wanted to hear the great Mr. Jones explain why he had never actually driven. "When I was 14, I was a passenger in a terrible accident," he said. "After that, it never held any appeal. But this car makes me wish I could drive - it's a high-powered instrument. There's nothing like greatness, honey - please! I recognize it." Hey, I was just happy to be chauffeuring it.

46 comments:

Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

An $8 million car that you can't converse comfortably in, and whose owner doesn't want it driven fast? Money well spent, I'd say!

Crimso said...

The vast majority of the people operating motor vehicles never learned to drive.

bearbee said...

Whaaat..is it made out of gold?

Sloanasaurus said...

I like the complaints being made by LA regarding the $1.5 million cost of Jackson's memorial service.

I assume Jackson has paid 50 times that in personal taxes over the years to LA and has generated even more from his events. What a joke.

Pogo said...

A friend of mine from high school never learned. He took a driver's test at 17 and he failed right off because he straddled the center line, forcing a car off the road. The state trooper drove them back to the DMV.

He never tried again, but I still think that was probably wise, because he is still among the living.

traditionalguy said...

What's the big deal? A new Obama program will include free chauffered GM limosines for those with driving phobias, paid for by a tax on the rich self-drivers earning over $10,000 per year. So no more arrogant self-drivers will look down on the people afraid to drive.Your driver will be there to pick you up early on election day. Jobs for the unemployed ACORN activists and sales for GM all in one Democrat Deal, so everbody wins. Of course driving yourself in a non GM car will be driven out of business as unpatriotic. What could go wrong in the new Amerika?

ricpic said...

I think that learning how to drive well is a very slow process. There's no substitute for literally thousands of hours on the road. That's been my experience at least. When I think of the driver I was in my twenties and even thirties, endangering others and myself, I cringe.

ironrailsironweights said...

Based on older relatives, friends' grandmothers, and so on, some years ago I figured out that women born before the mid-1920's generally never learned to drive, while women born after the mid-1920's almost always learned. It was a surprisingly sharp division with few exceptions.

Note that this was the case in Connecticut, where I grew up, though I'd imagine that most areas would be pretty much the same.

Peter

Pogo said...

How I Learned to Drive

In the play, it meant that, and something else.

holdfast said...

ricpic - I agree, it just takes time. The basic skills are easy, but properly meshing them with the required situational awareness takes practice. Experience also helps you anticipate trouble, since you become familiar with warning signs and precursors.

howzerdo said...

I don't drive. I've received a lot of pressure over the years on this subject. People think you are crazy, weird or a combination if you don't drive. They can't comprehend how you can function in modern society without a license. It always embarrassed me.

Before I turned 40, I resolved to finally get my license. For the first time in my life, I actually practiced constantly. I even took lessons. I'd had my permit three times before. Every time I got a perfect score on it. I am a walking manual of driving laws.

When I was 16, I practiced a little and never took the test. For my second permit (in my 20s) and my third (early 30s) I never practiced at all. Those permits were simply glorified IDs.

In 2001, I wound up failing the road test four times, every time for a different reason. It was really hard to take it that many times. It is more in my nature to walk away with the message of "unworthy." I finally did give up, and never drove again. My permit expired in 2005 and I didn't bother renewing it in the two-year window.

In May of this year, I took the permit test yet again (and got another 100). Whether I actually drive a lot this time around and take another road test (and fail it again?) remains to be seen. I suspect I won't do it. I wanted my permit because my husband has been ill and I wanted to be able to drive when he came home from the hospital. As it turned out, I have only needed to drive twice.

I don't see myself ever getting over my nervousness, and frankly, the road test itself is a barrier. I know I could never pass it. Not because I can't execute all the skills competently - but because my attitude is apparent. I am always hyper-vigilant. (Not just about driving.)

Although no one at New York State motor vehicles will vouch for this, I am actually a competent driver and should have had no problem passing the test. But here's the thing: I hate driving. I have never felt comfortable in a car, whether as a driver or as a passenger, even when I have complete confidence in the driver. Other people, all those people who have had no problem sailing though the road test hurdle, just scare the crap out of me.

At this point, I've (pretty much)made peace with not being a licensed driver. What I thought in the past - that if I practiced enough I'd get comfortable - isn't true. It would take years not behind the wheel but on the couch to get the courage to pass the road test, and I don't care to invest the energy. I don't get nearly as much pressure about this any longer; by now everyone knows I tried hard and they overlook this eccentricity of mine.

Pogo said...

Is that you, Bob???

Crimso said...

"I don't drive. I've received a lot of pressure over the years on this subject. People think you are crazy, weird or a combination if you don't drive. They can't comprehend how you can function in modern society without a license."

I sympathize. Except with me it's not driving but cellphones.

Patrick said...

From my experience with your country the vast majority of people in DC and California never learnt to drive. NYC is marginally better, but maybe there are more chauffeurs there.

Maybe people in Madison are familiar with indicators, using them to change lanes, using them to indicate (shock) an upcoming turn (and not using them to indicate the successful completion of a turn), driving in straight lines, not driving as if you are looking for a parking spot in the left lane, not driving a fucken Prius like it was made of plaster,..

I could go on.

MadisonMan said...

There's a couple down the street who don't own a car. I don't think they ever have -- at least not in the decade I've lived on this street. Don't know if they can drive though.

the wolf said...

My mother never drove. My mom was born in 1924; I was the youngest (by far) of five and most kids my age had parents a generation younger than mine. Consequently, my friends all thought it strange that my mom didn't drive, not to mention that she was a stay-at-home mom. I never thought it was that strange though until I got older and saw how difficult it could be for an adult to manage without a car. Living in a big city with multiple public transportation options helped but I'm still amazed at what my mom managed to accomplish without a car as an option without my dad around.

TMink said...

Quincy had more bad stuff happen to him as a kid than 10 kids deserve. I wanted to watch Back On The Block, where he revisited his childhood locals, but it was too sad to bear.

Trey

former law student said...

The whole thing, but particularly the Maybach Exelero's salacious side exhaust pipes were bellowing so loudly reminded me of this:

"WE'RE going through!" The Commander's voice was like thin ice breaking. He wore his full-dress uniform, with the heavily braided white cap pulled down rakishly over one cold gray eye. "We can't make it, sir. It's spoiling for a hurricane, if you ask me." "I'm not asking you, Lieutenant Berg," said the Commander. "Throw on the power lights! Rev her up to 8500! We're going through!" The pounding of the cylinders increased: ta-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa. The Commander stared at the ice forming on the pilot window. He walked over and twisted a row of complicated dials. "Switch on No. 8 auxiliary!" he shouted. "Switch on No. 8 auxiliary!" repeated Lieutenant Berg. "Full strength in No. 3 turret!" shouted the Commander. "Full strength in No. 3 turret!" The crew, bending to their various tasks in the huge, hurtling eight-engined Navy hydroplane, looked at each other and grinned. "The Old Man'll get us through," they said to one another. "The Old Man ain't afraid of hell!" . . .

"Not so fast! You're driving too fast!" said Mrs. Mitty. "What are you driving so fast for?"

"Hmm?" said Walter Mitty. He looked at his wife, in the seat beside him, with shocked astonishment. She seemed grossly unfamiliar, like a strange woman who had yelled at him in a crowd. "You were up to fifty-five," she said. "You know I don't like to go more than forty. You were up to fifty-five." Walter Mitty drove on toward Waterbury in silence, the roaring of the SN202 through the worst storm in twenty years of Navy flying fading in the remote, intimate airways of his mind.


My sister never learned. Never wanted to, never needed to -- she moved to a big city as soon as she could, then moved to a tourist town where every thing was in walking distance.

traditionalguy said...

Seriously, those born and raised in the days before the Model T changed habits looked at women as the man's responsability to take wherever needed. If no man was home, then the brothers helped give rides, or money was spent for a cab ride. Very few of our grandmothers drove themselves, although they probably could have if they had wanted to.

Debbie said...

In the 1930's my Grandfather decided that his mother (born 1887) needed to learn how to drive. Maggie lasted for one lesson. As she was attempting to pull into the freestanding garage she forgot how to stop the car. She valiantly cried, "Wow, wow!" as that was how she stopped the horse. The car didn't stop, it went completely through the back of the garage. When it came to a stop she got out, handed the keys to my grandfather and never drove again.

Jeremy said...

In defense of LA drivers, there are hundreds of thousands of them on freeways built for tens of thousands. Most are not out for a fun Sunday cruise but are trying to get home, like, now. So the game is go as fast as you can - even if that means not leaving enough space or jumping three lanes or whatever. Most do it pretty well. But asking for polite driving in LA is like asking for polite shopping on Black Friday.

-The Other Jeremy

former law student said...

To minimize the pain of driving with Angelenos, if I have to go to southern California, I pick my airport very carefully. The need to do this was driven into my skull during the nightmare drive when our secretary booked a flight into LAX for a conference in Anaheim. Now I know: Orange County for Orange County, San Diego for Temecula, LAX for Torrance, and Burbank for Hollywood.

Methadras said...

I have an aunt that is absolutely petrified of driving. She tried like 5 times but just couldn't do it and even if she did get her license she would never use it. She just walks around her neighborhood or takes a taxi to wherever she needs to go.

Dave said...

My grandmother was born in 1915 and taught me to drive in the early 1990s.

I live in Manhattan though, and so don't own a car and drive only a couple of times a year.

I don't find driving scary or annoying but rather boring. I have driven on the Autobahn in a high performance Mercedes, though, and that was thrilling.

bagoh20 said...

I agree Other Jeremy, I think LA drivers do pretty good, except in rain which they get far too little practice at, and therefore immediately crash at the first sprinkle, because as you imply they simply will not drive slow until the impact slows them, I mean us.

A large percentage of LA drivers are from countries that virtually have no traffic laws and it shows.

On people not driving: I just find it incredibly sad, like never having sex or falling in love. Although, I have driven for hours nearly every day of my adult life, I still love it.

It's the ultimate,at your fingertips today: climate control, audio entertainment, communications, power, comfort, exhilaration, a changing visual panorama, security, and the ability to flee life's real or perceived monotony, with the slight push of a pedal.

Every morning on the way to work I have to struggle to make the turn and avoid just continuing on into the Mohave Desert and the great unrestricted beyonds. I'm completely in control and free when behind the wheel. I don't need anything or anybody...Oh yea, except a credit card.

It is bliss and I pity those with out that at their disposal. I have learned to sail boats, fly planes and hang gliders, but driving is the most free, powerful and complete of transports.

Sometimes, I don't make that turn to work and it's glorious.

Freeman Hunt said...

I learned to drive in the parking lot for the Wal-Mart home office in Bentonville, AR. A sea of concrete and no cars on a weekend night.

I have a friend, early 40's, who's never driven. Takes the bus everywhere.

bagoh20 said...

If you don't enjoy driving, I recommend a pickup truck (4WD) with a large dog in the back. It's not about the vehicle - It's the journey and where you can go physically and mentally when behind the wheel. I do all my best thinking behind the wheel on lonesome roads, sorry if I clipped you, I was dreaming and living it at the same time.

bagoh20 said...

See you guys later. This economy is great for cruisin' Weekdays off are awesome. I gotta get out here. Thanks for reminding me. Come on Spirit, let's go girl. Get in the truck.
Byyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyye

howzerdo said...

bagoh20: I have both a car and a 4WD pick up truck, and two fairly large dogs. They never ride in the back, though. (Remember, I am hyper-vigilant.)

junyo said...

In the south where I grew up, not driving really isn't an option if you want to have a life. Distances are measured in minutes on the highway. I ditched enough Drivers Ed that i had to wait until i was 18 to drive legally, and that was considered weird.

In NY, I run into lots of people that don't and won't ever drive. Kind of understandable, you can get most anywhere in NYC via public transportation, and if you don't own a car (which the conditions in NYC actively discourage,)or have a friend with one it's an expensive proposition. But it still seems shortsighted; it's a useful skill, especially if you ever plan to go anyplace outside of a major metro area.

Ralph L said...

My brother's m-i-l (born 1922) didn't learn until she was 57, when they moved from Brooklyn to Westchester and her husband died.

My mother was taught in the forties to drive by her brother and cousin in her aunt's car. They came to a Y fork, and one said go left, the other go right, so she went straight. Into a tree.

When I was 12, my grandmother began letting me back her new Cadillac out and around the driveway circle. Yes, I was the favorite grandchild.

steve austin said...

“People are broad-minded. They'll accept the fact that a person can be an alcoholic, a dope fiend, a wife beater and even a newspaperman, but if a man doesn't drive, there's something wrong with him.” -- Art Buchwald

Dust Bunny Queen said...

In the south where I grew up, not driving really isn't an option if you want to have a life. Distances are measured in minutes on the highway

Same here. Distance is measured in time, hours not miles.

I can't imagine not knowing how to drive. What a helpless trapped feeling.

When my daughter was learning to drive I insisted that she learn on a stick shift over her objections that it would be too hard and besides "everyone has an automatic". Being a realistic Mom, I knew that at some time in her high school career, she would be at a kegger or other party without my knowledge. (Get real....you know it probably will happen to every teen.) My come back was that if that were the case and she was stuck and wanted to come home or had to drive because some one else couldn't; I would want her to be able to drive ANY vehicle that was available. It was that.... or she would have to call her MOM (OMG the humiliation) to come and get her. Stick shift it is then.

Kelly said...

I live in the south and know several farm wives wo never learned to drive. No one born after the 1950s though.

former law student said...

Distances are measured in minutes on the highway.

Driving in the country is easy, once you've mastered going from 0-60 immediately after turning out of your driveway. Eight lanes of stop-and-go urban traffic takes a psychic toll, whereas the only downside of rural driving is the occasional head-on. I'd gladly drive anywhere the most complex directions are "Turn left at the blinker."

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Driving in the country is easy, once you've mastered going from 0-60 immediately after turning out of your driveway. Eight lanes of stop-and-go urban traffic takes a psychic toll, whereas the only downside of rural driving is the occasional head-on.

Agreed. Having grown up and learned how to do urban assalt driving in the Bay Area and now living where the closest stop light is about 30 miles away, where is no comparison. I can hardly stand the stress anymore when I go back to visit family.

It is interesting the age divide between the women who don't learn to drive, as Kelly pointed out. It was common for the woman not to drive and to be addressed as "Mrs." Jones. There were a couple of the farm wife types that I never knew their first names. Just Mrs. Different times.

Beth said...

My partner's grandmother, born before 1920, was a public health nurse. When she got the job, she realized she'd have to drive herself to all the little towns and hamlets, so she went to the car dealer, found one she liked, and said, "so, how does this work?" He told her, and she drove off in it.

My mother, poor thing, born in 1923, managed to get run over by one of only two cars on the island where she grew up.

junyo said...

Driving in the country is easy, once you've mastered going from 0-60 immediately after turning out of your driveway.

Amazingly enough, the destination of those trips is oftentimes a city, with stoplights and lane markings and everything.

And the better driving of people from urban areas is belied by the number of drivers on the I95 corridor between NYC and Baltimore that have apparently have never grasped the subtle nuances of merging at speed, using signals, not riding the brake or operating their vehicle on any surface other than dry pavement. When you can run a 1/2 ton truck and trailer full of building supplies down the interstate at 90, get across three lanes of highway, down a ramp, into the Walmart parking lot, and back into a space without a) losing any of the load, b) hitting anyone, and c) spilling any of your beer, then come talk to me.

Ralph L said...

One of my grandmother's friends, who died in 1992 at 108, had a '59 Chevrolet with a manual. She apparently regulated her speed with the clutch instead of the accelerator, so she went through several clutches before they installed a truck transmission in the car.

jdeeripper said...

People who never learn to drive.
Do you know any? Are you one?


I don't drive.

Neither does comedian Norm MacDonald, Spike Lee, late reporter/writer Jack Newfield, Ralph Nader.

It would be interesting to find a full list of celebs who don't drive and who've never driven.

NKVD said...

My ex-MiL never learned to drive. She was born in NYC in 1920 and managed to get everywhere she needed to be just fine, including working downtown during WWII.

After her husband retired to RI in the 70s (bloated pension plans even then - he was all of 52) she still didn't need to drive.

She was one of the nicest people I have ever known - that is totally OT - but just thought I would toss that out there. I wonder if she would have sworn if she had to drive in the city.

former law student said...

Amazingly enough, the destination of those trips is oftentimes a city

Why? There are no "Farm and Fleet" stores in the city.

Cities have less and less of what I want, anyways. I live in a city, but if I want well made clothes at a reasonable price I have to mail order them from Maine.

PJ/Maryland said...

Just to be contrary, I will note that both my grandmothers drove (born in 1890s). Don't know how they learned, but they were both housewives. One did a lot of volunteer work, and both were involved in parties and social life relating to my grandfathers' careers.

The people I knew who didn't drive were the moms of friends in Queens NY. They would have been born in the 1920s or 1930s. Some had jobs after the kids grew up, but didn't drive; took the bus or subway, I guess. I know at least one who learned to drive after her husband retired.

Methadras said...

Now that I've moved to the east bay to work I do have to say that there is a distinct difference between drivers in San Diego and drivers here in NorCal. The drivers in NorCal are fucking crazy.

Kev said...

It is bliss and I pity those with out that at their disposal. I have learned to sail boats, fly planes and hang gliders, but driving is the most free, powerful and complete of transports.

Agreed. And you only appreciate that more when you can't do it for a while. I've been unable to drive for over two weeks since my knee surgery, and I really miss it. Thankfully, I got my "emancipation orders" today, and I can start driving again this weekend!

When my daughter was learning to drive I insisted that she learn on a stick shift over her objections that it would be too hard and besides "everyone has an automatic".

I learned on a stick as well, and every car I've ever owned has been one. I realize that the mileage difference between standard and automatic isn't the same as it was 20 years ago, but every little bit helps, and I enjoy paying the cheaper price for the car as well.

Incidentally, I won't be reunited with my own car for a while, as part of the recovery from surgery. I'm cleared to drive an automatic for now, but it will be a while before I'm operating a clutch again.

dick said...

A good friend of mine never learned to drive until she was in her mid-50's. We finally forced her to learn when her husband had a heart attack and we told her that if she were out somewhere and he had another one she needed to be able to drive him to the hospital. She was terrified. Now she zips all over the place and it is hard to get her to be a passenger.

My ex-MIL was the same way. She got a job as public health nurse and they were going to get her an assistant to drive her around. She had to take some certification classes in Columbus, 50 miles away, so we got her to drive so she could get herself there and back. She also never liked to be a passenger once she learned to drive.

For my generation growing up in a small town it was a rite of passage. As soon as you were old enough to get a license it was almost automatic that you learned to drive and got the license. I was lucky that the country sheriff was our next door neighbor and he taught me to drive in the sheriff's pursuit car (he used it to chase down Corvettes and Ferraris) in the winter on icy gravel roads with a stick shift. I learned a lot but I also got a heavy foot. When you were driving a car that would do over 60 in first and over 120 in second it was hard not to. Unfortunately he would never let me see how fast it would go at the top end - and this was in 1956. Loved that car!!