I find it interesting that millennials are applying for driver's licenses less and harbor an indifferent attitude about cars.
With the onset of Uber, Lyft, the availability of mass transit and bike lanes, this generation balks at the idea of the immediacy of securing a license, much less owning a car. The rite of passage of passing the driving test has fallen by the wayside. Millennials can “meet” each other through texting, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Vine or any other social media. Making eye contact is not necessary, thus negating the reliance of a car to get from A to B with a date or buddies.
In my generation, all of my friends could hardly wait for their birthday to take the test that very day. I learned how to drive from my dad’s friend who taught drivers’ ed at another school district, because mine did not offer the course. My wise mother knew that if my impatient dad attempted to teach me, I would probably rather hitch rides from friends. I passed my test in April but didn’t muster the courage to ask my dad for the car until September.
Of course, I was only five minutes from my house on my solo, virgin ride, when I sailed right through a stop sign and T-boned another car, while daydreaming about my cheerleading at the football game that night. Thankfully, no physical injuries occurred. But my dad traded in his car every two years. The new car was set to arrive the following week. Now, however, there was $500 damage to our car and $300 to the other, quite a bit of money in 1962. Needless to say, dinner times at my house for days after were so quiet that I shied away from asking my dad to “please pass the salt.”
It goes without saying that I never asked for the car again after that fiasco, so I relied on my girlfriend, who had ready access to her dad’s black Edsel, which we aptly named Eddie. Gas prices were about 25 cents a gallon then, so if we all chipped in a quarter, she could load up on five or six gallons, enough to take us cruisin’ on Friday nights, to the pool in the summer, and off to buy frozen custard after that. Six of us could squeeze in easily in those days before seat belts. She cranked the tunes, and we would joy ride the country roads outside of town in Eddie the Edsel. You just can’t get that on an iPhone!
I never learned to drive a stick, but when I met my husband-to-be at college, he insisted he could easily teach me. He volunteered to take me to a relatively empty parking lot on campus for the lesson. The lesson lasted five minutes. Somehow I could not master the ever-menacing, foreign third pedal — the clutch. When I tried to follow his instructions, the coffee-grinder noise grated on his last nerve. He treasured his precious 1950 Chevy, which he bought for 50 bucks from a friend who found it in a canal upside down. It goes without saying future lessons did not materialize.
Everybody remembers their first car. My first car out of college was a 1967 green Chevy sedan. I felt such a sense of freedom, independence and pride of ownership getting behind the wheel. Three years later, my husband and I headed 3,000 miles to the West. Behind his car, we towed my Chevy. The thought of leaving it behind never entered my mind, even though the rust from the salted roads during snowy winters took its toll on the once-pristine car.
Let the millennials ride their bikes, take Uber, or walk while they bury their noses in the latest technology. Those who opt out will never intimately know the thrills, chills and spills of the four-wheeled wonders.
Judy Entinger lives in Medford.