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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

question of the weekend: Do you enjoy driving a car?

I don’t mean merely, Do you enjoy the freedom that a car can give you in getting from Point A to Point B? I mean, Do you get some sort of buzz merely from the experience of operating an automobile?

I do. I really like being behind the wheel… and I’ve never driven anything like a performance automobile (well, except for that one time my friend Gail let me take her awesome little Audi for a quick spin, but that was just a taste). I’d like to: I’d love to attend one of those fantasy driving camps where you drive race cars or learn precision driving techniques.

First, though, I want to learn how to drive a stick shift.

Do you enjoy driving a car? Do you think your answer has anything to do with when you learned to drive? (I’ve noticed that many people who don’t actually like driving tend to have learned as adults, not as teenagers. I got my permit as soon as I could, at 16, and my full license at 18.)

And for the nondrivers: Do you have any plans to learn how to drive?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD/QOTW, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTW sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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  • Isobel

    I love driving! Always a manual, though – automatics make me nervous as I feel like I”m not properly in control, somehow (odd, I know!).

    My Dad taught me to drive when I was 20 (I wasn’t really bothered about driving before then) in his work Ute on a big field so that was easy to start with, then just in the family car. We were living on a tiny island just off the coast of Auckland in New Zealand (Waiheke, for those who know it) that has one roundabout and no traffic lights, but lots of steep twisty roads and unmetalled roads too. I think that’s why I enjoy driving – it was stress free and fun, no sitting in traffic and dealing with road rage on the motorway.

  • AlsoKT

    Hate it. I’d rather take mass transit, but that’s not an option in my current location. When I have to drive, I prefer small vehicles to big and standards to automatic. The only thing I like about driving alone is setting the soundtrack and singing along. I can’t even do that much with other people in the car, and they always want to talk and I really need my mind on the road. Hate it, hate it, hate it.

  • Rick B.

    I really enjoy driving, always have, ever since I got over my 16-year-old fear and got my license at 18. Growing up in Detroit, you kinda needed to drive, as the auto companies have ensured that the local mass transit system is horrible.

    For the last five years, I’ve been driving a 2000 Miata, and it changed my driving life. Where I had previously driven mostly on highways, I now take back roads as much as possible, and drop the top when there’s the slightest hint of warmth in the air. WIth a convertible, you feel much more like you’re driving through a place, rather than isolated in a metal chamber. Where I had previously been an afficionado of computer driving simulators, once I got my Miata, nothing could compare to real life.

    And to echo other respondents, manual transmission whenever possible – I’ve never owned an automatic, and only drive them when I rent cars on vacation.

  • JoshB

    Depends completely on the situation. I get some pretty severe roadrage, so I like to avoid driving as much as possible.

    Open mountain roads with low traffic are a joy to drive through. It’s downright Zen.

    Also, a manual transmission is the way to go. I will never buy an automatic. I hate the sensation of going for the clutch only to hit empty space. It’s like missing a stairstep.

  • misterb

    I enjoy the open-road – don’t particularly care for commute traffic, but overall love to drive. I recently had to drive a stickshift rental car after 20 years of nothing but automatics. After 3 days of driving the stick, I find my left foot going for the ghost pedal; it’s amazing how quickly your muscle memories return.

    I particularly enjoy my Prius. Justifiably or not, I do feel less enviro-guilt in it, and it’s a surprisingly smooth and powerful ride.

  • Mimi

    Not as a matter of course. And less now that I’ve been hit on two separate occasions by red light runners and am a little skittish as a result. Driving around town on everyday errands in everyday traffic ranges from blah to boring to blood-boiling.

    But sometimes… on the open road, up to speed, little traffic, radio loud… yep. For sure. And especially if I happen to be in a cute, sporty little car.

    I got my license at 16.

  • amanohyo

    I’ve always made it a point to never own more than a single car load of stuff so I’m free to pack up and move whenever I feel like it (I leave the mattress/furniture behind or sell them). I like that feeling of freedom and it’s dependent on having a car, but for errands and commuting I can’t say I really enjoy or hate driving.

    I actually wouldn’t mind if all cars were required to drive themselves in the near future and we just punched in the destinations, or ideally (and more realistically) if reliable, environmentally friendly public transportation was available everywhere, but I understand that’s just not practical or desired in most of America.

    Oddly, I do enjoy non-realistic driving games like F-Zero GX, but not games like Gran Turismo (or even Burnout and GTA). I think it’s because I don’t really care about or even like cars. Maybe if there were no traffic laws and there was no chance of anyone getting hurt or killed and I wasn’t required to pay for repairs and there was just enough traffic to make things interesting but not enough to cause a trafffic jam, then I would have a lot more fun driving (but still wouldn’t care about what kind of car it was).

    So basically, if the entire world was a consequence-free destruction derby it would be fun. As it is I’m constantly reminded of the lives that are ruined or snuffed out in the name of having “fun” driving. Two of them were friends of mine in high school. There’s a very thin line between having fun and being reckless when 2 tons of metal is moving 30 meters a second. I will admit though that once in a long while, when the car crests a hill and my stomach nudges the bottom of my heart, I get a brief taste of the joy that people who enjoy driving must feel on a regular basis. And then I’m over the hill and the feeling has passed.

  • Paul

    I haven’t owned a car in ten years. I’ve never bought a car; I just used hand me downs from when my mom got promotions at work and bought a new car so her new colleagues wouldn’t subconsciously look down on her. When I look at a car I see $$$ being sucked away by a vacuum cleaner. Money for insurance, money for gas, money for repairs, oh, and yes, money to buy the damn car in the first place. I purposely live in cities with decent mass transit, and I’ve never heard of a city without good mass transit that I’d want to live in anyway.

    I got my license at 17 because practicing driving was boring. I only bothered because it comes in handy dating, and when you’re a teenager that’s usually the first priority. Remember, I’m from Iowa, and a girl’s idea of a date isn’t standing around in the bitter cold winter for a half an hour waiting for a bus.

  • CoriAnn

    The around town/commuter traffic I can’t stand most of the time, and construction traffic is a bit harrowing as well, but put me on the highway or a nice empty back road and I am pretty happy. A good audio book or the radio up nice and loud with a song I know the words to is just perfection. Even family road trips are good times in my book.

    I think I get it from my dad, we’re both road warriors–if we have a trip to go on and we *can* drive rather than fly, we will drive every time.

    Sometimes, on pretty days, if there aren’t a lot of cars on the road, I’ll drive by my house and go around the block a few more times just because I don’t want to stop driving.

  • Gia

    I positively loathe driving. I got my permit and went to driver’s ed when I was 17, but didn’t get my license until I was 22. It has less to do with not enjoying the feel of being in control of your own transportation, and more to do with the fact that my eyesight is bad and I have terrible depth perception. I suck at parking.

    The fact that I managed to wreck my first car, breaking my ankle in the process, and then being unemployed for four months might also have something to do with that. You never know.

  • I absolutely love to drive. I got my licence at the age of 21 so was relatively late to learn compared with most of my friends. The moment I got my licence though was just brilliant, and I’ve loved the freedom I’ve had from it ever since.

    I enjoy the act of driving too. I’m very lucky to live in the countryside amongst beautiful scenery to drive through, and have ready access to the motorways for when I went to get somewhere and have the opportunity to put my foot down.

  • Anne-Kari

    Hate with the searing burning heat of a thousand suns. HATE.

    I was born and raised in Manhattan. Had I not moved to California for a time I don’t know if I EVER would have learned – as it is, I got my license at age 20.

    I hated driving then, and 21 years later I think I hate it more. At this point, I hate it the most because I live in the suburbs where you have to drive everywhere. Everywhere.

    I want to be able to WALK when I need a gallon of milk. I want to be able to take the M104 to get to the bookstore. I want to take my kids to school on the 1 or 9 train, for them to learn to use a metrocard, and to not complain when they have to walk for more than a block.

    I want to move back to New York, dammit. Can you tell?

  • Joanne

    I like it, but I don’t do it very often. Passed my test just before I was 18 and drove Mum’s car a bit until I went to uni. Drove in the holidays and a bit at uni. Then I didn’t get behind a wheel at all until early 2007, in New Zealand, and was surprised to find I remembered it quite well. In NZ I loved driving to new places, with stunning vistas opening up round every corner on nice quiet roads. But now I’m back in the UK I’m cycling everywhere again and I suspect the next time I drive will be somewhere on holiday.

  • Ben

    Well I got my license when I was 15 (I am from New Zealand, so technically I didn’t have my full license until I was 16 and a half) and I don’t really mind driving either way.

    I am however completing my PhD in Traffic Psychology – after working for a couple of years in the area. So I thought you might be interested to know that people who enjoy driving, are actually involved in more crashes, even if you account for the fact they drive more. Sad, but true – in fact driving “just for the fun of driving” rather than for a trip (A to B) is one of the most dangerous types of driving.

    Personally, as I say, I don’t mind driving, its not bad, its not great – but if given a choice I prefer to walk to see the world at a human pace and be able to interact with people. Thankfully I am currently studying in the Netherlands, so that is very possible (not so much back in New Zealand – which meant I used to drive nearly every day just to get around).

  • Althea

    I used to like driving, and had a family history of sports cars, cool stuff. I even wanted to race cars for a while. Had a Triumph TR2 for a while, that was heap cool.

    Then I had an accident in the 70s – not serious, but traumatic for my delicate juvenile sensibilities. After that driving was okay but I developed a low threshold for long distances. Then another accident 8 years ago, and even the memory of the thrill is gone. Takes an effort of will to use the freeways. Will not go very far from home unless absolutely necessary, and people grossly underestimate me when I tell ’em I don’t want a job far from home. They think 10 miles, I think 2.

    Even so I fancy myself a skilled driver. I’m just paranoid about everybody else on the road.

    I only ever had one automatic, and I can ditto lots of the other comments above on what a nuisance it is when you want to actually have control of the car and you just have to wait for it to catch up. These modern versions where you can gear up without a clutch? Phooey. How do you double-clutch that way. Stick all the way for me!

  • JasonJ

    I can’t imagine life without driving. I have driven everything ranging from M1A1 Abrams tanks to 18 wheelers to the many, many cars I have owned since the late 80’s. I commute 15 miles one way to work. I drive up to 300 miles a day for my job, and drive that 15 miles back home. I have owned an assortment of vehicles ranging from motorcycles to boats to sporty cars to pickup trucks to SUV’s to sedans. I currently own an 02 Jeep Grand Cherokee and a 99 Dodge Intrepid, both paid for. I do not finance vehicles, I save money and look for good deals. I paid $4000 (normally goes for over $8000) for the Jeep this year when a dealership went out of business. Neither vehicle has over 100,000 miles, and there has been no major expense.

    I would eat my service pistol before I would live in a place that required me to use mass transit.

    Do I love to drive? You bet. My next near term plan is to get my private helicopter pilots license, because the only thing I like more than driving is flying.

  • Accounting Ninja

    There’s nothing quite like the feeling of being able to take off when you want to. I hate it when I am with friends and they want to be my ride. No, I want my own car! You can come with, but let me drive.

    My car is like my second space, totally private. It’s messy, filled with music cds and smells like a pleasant combination of the perfumes I’ve enjoyed wearing these past 9 years. I’ve done some of my best thinking in my car.

    I can drive a stick, because my parents made me learn on one. Their reasoning was that if you can drive a stick, you can drive anything. Plus there might be an emergency situation where only a stick is available.

    I hate driving sticks, though. I am a music-listenin’, coffee-drinkin driver. I don’t want one hand on the shift. Pain in the ass. Good skill to know, though.

  • StevenM

    My car is my sanctuary and my escape. I delivered pizza for a few years and it was the most fun I’ve ever had working for somebody else. North Georgia has some beautiful scenery, and there’s nothing like driving 30 minutes outside the city to the top of a mountain and watching the stars. The interstate can even be enjoyable at 3am on a Tuesday. Driving through Atlanta is a bitch on wheels, but I’m sure it beats driving through a lot of other big cities.

    For my money, there’s no better way to spend a day than driving through the hills with some quality tunage and finding new places to explore, then driving back home in the moonlight.

    But, I HATE riding with most people. Most of the people I know couldn’t drive their way out of a paper bag… Or something.

  • Les Carr

    Driving? Meh. I can take it or leave it and I don’t understand how people can get excited by cars/driving. I do watch “Top Gear” for the comedy value, but it’s like watching “Up” in that I’m thinking “I could never travel that way”.

  • I use to enjoy driving as it was a big part of one of my previous jobs which required me to do a lot of travelling. But then a couple of years a go, due to health issues, I had to stop driving and to be honest I don’t miss it at all. In fact these days I actually dislike travelling by car, which may be partly down to having to be a passenger and not in control but also because the roads here in the UK are getting more and more dangerous to drive on. Fortunately there is a decent public transport where I live and so I can pretty much go anywhere with out much inconvenience.

    There certainly is a huge difference in the roads from when I learned to drive which was about 20 years ago and I think even if I could still drive I would probably try to choose other travel options where possible.

  • Left_Wing_Fox

    Frankly, no. Not really. I tend to be a bit on the ADD side, which can lead to the occasional white-knuckle moments. I would be more than happy to have a robot chauffeur driving the car for me.

  • I haven’t driven for 10 years. I’m not a natural driver – it took me six attempts to pass the test and I’ve always viewed cars as dirty, expensive monstrosities that turn normally reasonable people into belligerent wankers. The last time I had to drive for work I used a company pool car, but my parking is so bad that I scraped it against a concrete pillar in a multi-storey car park. Not long after that I moved to London, where having a car can be a positive hindrance.

    Now that I hope to spend the next 20 years travelling, there’s no way I’d risk my life behind the wheel of a car – particularly not in the developing world, where many drivers have never had a formal lesson, let alone a test.

  • Paul

    The number one cause of death of Americans overseas is reckless driving, and not our driving. The State Department once put up an advisory so frightening about Mexican and Egyptian driving that their governments formally protested.

  • PC

    I can remember the delicious pleasure of those last years of high school and graduating from a pushbike to a car. Hills were transformed from a major expedition to a slight squeeze of the foot and friends were just minutes away – not the hours they were before.

    So how the worm turns: At 50 I’ve handed the keys to the Porsche to my wife and ride a pushbike to work to try and find that 30 something physique again. Of course this hasn’t stopped my mates and I spending more money on these bikes than we did on our first cars and boasting about our carbon fibre frames and trip computers with more buttons than a car dash.

    The pleasures of self-transportation are timeless I guess.

  • RogerBW

    I enjoy the act of driving, and didn’t bother to learn until I was 27 (living in London there’s really no need for it unless you often need to shift things larger than you can carry).

  • Helen

    I love driving a car. I am always the one who is volunteering to drive when we are carpooling with friends to go somewhere. But for me it also does matter what kind of car I drive. I love my car, it’s very nice one. And when I watch Top Gear, I am extremely envious… Oh, and I started to drive when I was 30.

  • e

    I got my license around 16, but I avoided being the driver at all costs. I never had confidence in driving, and didn’t trust anyone on the road. I’ve become more confident as I have to drive (southwestern sprawl city) to my job. But after an accident in May of this year, where a guy made an illegal turn and my swerving saved me tboning him, but made me total my car, I’m paranoid. I think people are too distracted, or are on autopilot too often (myself included.)

    This all being said, I love slow cruising at night with no cars on the road and a good song on.

  • chuck

    I own a Prius, a Porsche, and a truck. I’m complicated.

    The truck and Porsche are for weekend fun, the Prius get’s me to work and back. Just took the Porsche on a 1000 mile round trip a couple of weeks ago.

    If you are in a city like New York where you don’t really need a car, but want some fun anyway, then don’t get a daily driver, seriously consider a good condition second hand sports car. Convertible if possible, something like a Porsche Boxter, Honda S2000, or a nice Corvette. Don’t get to hung up over the transmission, some of the newer automatics are quite good, it’s personal thing. A car like this will let you go on weekend cruises or take it to a track day and really unwind.

    In many areas there are clubs that get together for weekend drives, AutoCross racing and the like. Your area probably offers the same. Some of the clubs, like the Porsche club,


    can also provide high performance driver training. It’s safe cheap and really fun. They’ll put you out on the track with an instructor in your car and bring you up to speed.

    How about when it’s freezing ass cold this winter you consider flying to Phoenix and trying out the Bob Bondurant driving school.


    They have a huge selection of cars and courses and it would give you a chance to try it before you buy it.

    If you just want it to get the heck out of Dodge for the weekend than almost any car that catches your eye will work.

    Good luck, life’s too short so at least give it a try.

  • The State Department once put up an advisory so frightening about Mexican and Egyptian driving that their governments formally protested.


    My late father used to tell me about how aggressive the drivers in Mexico City were. And I always thought it ironic that the one place on earth that my Mexican-born father found as challenging to drive in as Mexico City was–you guessed it–New York City.

  • Ben

    The number one cause of death of Americans overseas is reckless driving, and not our driving.

    Forget about overseas, the number one cause of accidental death for Americans in the USA is road accidents…

    Which btw, is also the number one killer of visitors to the USA…

    (hint – these two facts applies to most countries)

  • There’s nothing quite like the feeling of being able to take off when you want to. I hate it when I am with friends and they want to be my ride. No, I want my own car! You can come with, but let me drive.

    My car is like my second space, totally private. It’s messy, filled with music cds and smells like a pleasant combination of the perfumes I’ve enjoyed wearing these past 9 years. I’ve done some of my best thinking in my car.

    Apart from the references to music cds and wearing perfume–and in the rest of her post, driving stick–what Accounting Ninja said.

    I’ll admit that there are some conditions in which driving is obviously not enjoyable. But then those are usually conditions in which just walking to the corner store can be an exasperating experience.

    Of course, I found driving even more fun when I had a passenger. Especially my last ex-girlfriend.

    But, alas, that’s not what you asked.

  • No. I don’t like driving car. I enjoy walking to all destinations.

  • MaryAnn

    Are you being sarcastic, Lawschool_Douchebag? If not, please elaborate.

    If you are, I ask you again to stop living up to your handle and join the conversation as a grownup.

  • LaSargenta

    Short answer: No.

    I can drive, I consider myself a fairly decent driver, I’ve only been in two accidents in my entire driving life (and a lot of miles that has been, too!) and neither resulted in any injuries. I’ve had safety driving and defensive driving courses. I like using a manual transmission.

    I like tinkering with cars. I used to have an old diesel mercedes who’s fuel delivery system I adapted to a two-tank with heated fuel line so I could run it mostly on vegetable oil. I like pulling the injectors and putting them through their paces to check the spray pattern. I like knowing how to maintain my vehicle and how to bleed brakes.

    HOWEVER, I can also tinker with a bicycle. Or fix the dripping tap at home. Or I can build my son a model or I can re-do the gaskets on the paper cones on my very old AR speakers.

    The car as a love object? No more than anything else. It is just a thing and just a tool. If I own one, I feel guilty if it isn’t maintained. But, I feel guilty when I let too long go by without sharpening my kitchen knives, too.

    I also most certainly do not consider it an extension of my self (I intended that to be two words). I don’t personalize my vehicles much. I don’t like to keep clutter in there. I’ve got tools, flares, tire chains, and a small survival kit. There have been CB radios. Despite having a huge music collection, I don’t really enjoy putting in my own music and I don’t want to keep cd’s in someplace with extreme heat and extreme cold.

    And, I really like getting out of my car.

    My favorite travel experiences have ALL, every single one of them, involved either a train, a canoe, or my feet.

    I live in NYC so I can avoid owning a car altogether…of course, I also have a job here. But, not having to have a car is really, really, really fantastic!

  • LaSargenta

    PS: I got a permit at 14 (it was a rural area and it was as an emergency option because there was only one adult in the home) and I had actually learned to drive before on ag equipment.

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