When I was a kid, I wanted to be a long distance truck driver. Except without responsibility, city driving, or timelines. I wasn’t against the idea of hauling cargo across the country, I just wanted to pick it up at lonely country depots and leisurely make my way to the drop off point at an equally lonely spot.

In college, I looked into delivering cars as a potential summer job. What they call “driveaway companies,” delivering cars all over the US to the incompetent and the filthy rich alike. Typically, there’s no pay involved outside of a fuel allowance. Say someone in Idaho is having some car delivered in some stupid way near me, in DC. So I pick it up and drive it out to them and find my own way back.

That’s how it works for the incompetent. The rich use a more professional company, where there is hope for the driver to earn something.

Either way, it’s back to the issue of a due date. Especially with the professional companies, there’s a fixed route and an expected ETA. So no 1000 mile side trips to see the largest ball of string this side of Ole Miss.

I looked into the professional side, because I wanted to make some money. By “professional,” they meant “over 23, in possession of a valid driving license, and no previous felonies.” Like, in possession of anyone’s driving license?

It also seems, strangely, like a boring job. For example (I still keep an eye on the sites in case somebody wants to move a tank from DC to the Rockies using only US 50 and allowing for a one week side trip to the Corn Palace), there’s only one car in the DC area currently available. It needs to get to Ft. Lauderdale and it’s a 2002 Honda Civic.

So…put in my name, get cleared (it takes just one day), and then I can hop into a Honda Civic and drive down 95 like a lunatic because OMG it needs to arrive by 4:01pm! That would be fine if it was a Bentley or Hitler’s favorite tow truck or something… But a Honda? Please rush me my eBay purchased ricer!

Anybody in Nashville? Somebody in Vegas needs their 1999 Jeep Cherokee ASAP.

It’s a good thing I dropped the whole trucker thing, considering that my inspiration was Duel, Road Warrior, and Goliath from Knight Rider. So, you see, being a long distance trucker wasn’t about independence and exploring America, it was about killing commuters. And…post apocalypse people in dune buggies.

Here in my pre-middle age, I have more respect for the driving aspect of the dream. A few years ago, I put 4000 miles on a rented Chevy driving from the Texas border on the New Mexico side to Needles, CA, mainly following Route 66, though I took several side trips to see White Sands, the VLA, etcetera. Besides finding out that everyone in Roswell hates tourists, and the Grand Canyon is too spectacular to describe, I discovered the power and beauty of that long ago trucker dream – just me and the country. Even though my average speed, on 66, was about half of what the truckers were doing on I-40, which I roughly paralleled for many miles.

I was never much into driving as a youth. My family has bad luck with cars – a whole series of accidents from a great aunt who was forced off a mountainside in West Virginia by a logging truck in 1942 to my mom who committed Suicide by Oak Tree in 2000, building up enough speed to catch air and burst into flames after totaling the car. It took the cops weeks to ID her remains and contact us.

Needless to say, I think about such things when I’m behind the wheel. Probably more that long dead relative than mom, because mom was a whack job. That long dead relative was just tooling along when – blam! – truck. I also blame driver’s ed, where the old gag film title from The SimpsonsAlice’s Adventures Through the Windshield – isn’t far off from the sensationalist shit they showed us. And here’s a crushed corpse! This man was killed….in a time before seat belts and when everyone was drunk.

How about some modern crash footage? What happens today when you’re belted in and surrounded by airbags? But all of today’s footage fails to capture the horror and dread of a car accident. If you showed a 2007 car wreck awareness shitfest in Driver’s Ed, it would probably be World’s Craziest Trucking Accidents or something. He’s driving the truck down the side of a building! Crash! Oh no! Hahaha! We’ll be right back after these commercials with more rended flesh!

My spell checker says rended’s not a word, which is precisely why I don’t use spellchecker. If I make a common grammatical error, I want you to know that you’re the idiot, not me. English is a fluid, living language and has always been shaped to our will. American English is completely made up by Noah Webster, anyway. One fucking lunatic can have a dramatic effect on how we communicate. So if I confuse “there” and “their,” for example, it’s your fault for being a stick in the mud. Or, as we say downtown, a “cunt.” Which better describes you, I’m sure. Ask your parents.

I don’t even own a car these days. Public transportation all the way! I get to be that lone white face on the Rough Bus from the Silver Spring Metro to the dreaded outer reaches where, even at 6am, drunken hooligans fitting a few dozen black stereotypes assault me. But, no matter what, it’s better than riding the bus in south London. No one has yet started flicking matches at me. I’ve made that my tipping point –once a lit match goes down the back of my neck and/or I’m gang-raped by MS-13, I’ll look into buying a car.

I don’t think MS-13 is active in my neighborhood. All the graffiti advertises the E Street Bangers. Which is strange, because we’re far away from E St. The old school quality of the name (and geographic incongruity) somewhat endears the Bangers to me. Especially compared to MS-13, which I do not find endearing at all. I picture the Bangers all sitting around in an apartment much like mine playing on a stolen Wii and drinking malt liquor. Stuff that I wouldn’t mind doing, when you get down to it. Would I join an old school black gang just so it’ll be acceptable to drink Colt 45 out of a paper bag? Yes, I would.

Instead, I’m a white guy. So I sit in my apartment reading the paper and drinking Rogue Ale or a fruity drink of some sort that involved lots of time and a blender. Of course, I’m a 100% match for every serial killer profile, so that gives me street cred. Especially when I walk from the bus stop to my apartment arguing with myself in a variety of different voices.

I didn’t get rid of my car because of any sort of psychological or emotional reason. It was just 20 years old and costing more money than it was worth. Then, after it was gone, I enjoyed the whole idea of not having a huge, gaping wound in my bank account so much, I figured I’d just do without. Besides the Metro, there’s Zipcar, and the kindness of friends. And I rent something nice every once in a while and drive west until the gas runs out.

It’s the cautious driving that I’ve adopted, perhaps, in response to car-related family deaths. Therefore, exploring the old roads of America is perfect. You rarely top 55, and you get to putter through small towns at impossibly slow speeds. Nothing like going 25 through some forgotten mining town along US 250. You can be dying of cancer and a drive like that will perk you up because, Jesus, there’s shit in those West Virginia hills that ain’t human anymore.