The other morning, I was in RaceTrac getting my usual breakfast and there were a couple of kids in the store. I say kids, but I don’t mean like little kids. Probably teens, probably 16. They were milling around and eventually bought some stuff, then milled around a bit more. A few things struck me as kind of odd about that.
First, there weren’t any parents with them. I’m not sure why I thought this, since they’re old enough to be out and about on their own. But the idea that they didn’t just go in the store, buy stuff, then leave made me think they were chaperoned.
When I was growing up, when you got to your teens, you wanted to be independent. You demanded independence. Because I lived in such a tiny town, I would drive almost 45 minutes just to eat at Wendy’s. I would drive over an hour to go to a decent mall. Even today, I still don’t see any problem driving half an hour for food.
As a completely-unrelated aside, this current era is nothing like my youth. I distinctly remember standing alone in a checkout line and the cashier wouldn’t even acknowledge my existence because I didn’t look old enough to buy anything on my own. Kids now have purchasing power and don’t get ignored if they want to buy something.
But back to these teens, when they made their purchase, I expected them to head right outside and leave. One probably just got his or her driver’s license. But, because they remained in the building and just hung out, it was pretty clear they didn’t have their own vehicle, which is another oddity to me.
I’ve read plenty of articles saying that the new youth have little care for cars, which completely boggles my mind. Having a vehicle is freedom. It lets you get out and see more things, on your own terms. I must assume that because so much entertainment is at hand via phones and TV, there is less desire to find entertainment through exploration. Also, since everyone is so isolated in their virtual worlds, there is also little desire to get away – because they are always “away”.
The GF is the same way. Maybe it also has to do with growing up in a small town, where you had to have transportation to do anything or see anything interesting. But that desire to see and explore continued long into our lives. On a vacation a while ago, while driving on some random highway, I observed that unlike other couples that sit at home and watch TV, this (identifying the car seats) was our couch, and this (identifying the windshield) was our television. It’s not like we couldn’t see other places and other things by sitting home on the Internet, but that’s unsatisfying for us.
Recently, we wanted to go to touristville, which ended up with a crazy meal at a steakhouse. Instead of taking the interstate, which would have been a minimum trip time of an hour (with no defined maximum due to traffic), we chose to take all back roads, which gave us a more predictable, although longer trip time. But more importantly, it gave us something to experience other than stopped traffic.
Similarly, when I moved from the wasteland across the great commonwealth, I would sometimes return home to visit friends. The first (or last depending on direction) leg of the return trip, I had a choice to take an interstate or take a smaller, alternate route. Without fail, whenever I chose the interstate for time concerns, I always regretted it because the drive was so uninteresting and fatiguing.
Driving is embedded in my being. If I lost the ability to drive, I think I would have a very difficult remainder of my life. Driving is freedom; driving is experience; driving is risk and reward. America is a big country and deserves to be seen down low, not from far above.