"You don't have a driver's license?" That was from a 12 year old girl years ago when I just moved to Central New Jersey. The response was one of disbelief but her facial expression? Priceless. She looked at me as if I was an alien that just landed in Central New Jersey from the planet Mars. I have to say hers was one of a couple of reactions like that from people 18 and under in response to me not having a driver's license. There were plenty more reactions to that known fact about me that came from people 25 and older who I realized later were from non-urban backgrounds.
"You're over 18 and you don't have a license?" The expression that accompanies that phrase is usually one of mild shock or disbelief. Followed by an unstated "How do you survive?" as though I've been living, trapped in my house for the last forty years.
Before I moved from the city, having a license was a rare thought in my head. Sure when I was 21, I took several road tests and failed them all because I thought I was ready to drive, when I wasn't - but I didn't need a license to get around. It was optional. A preference. A choice.
I didn't realize the significance of having one until I moved out of the city. In a lot of places in this country of mine's, driving is the only choice. This girl was used to hopping on subway trains and hailing yellow cabs (of which there were plenty) daily to get around. I didn't realize the uniqueness of that situation. Didn't most people do that? Everywhere? No?
Uh, no. That was part of urban living and only in select cities: Chicago, Atlanta, San Francisco, where you could exist generally without needing a car because of the comprehensive public transportation system. It was not the norm.
It was then, I had my epiphany and realized I was just as guilty as my license-driving friends who got their licenses at 17 years old and assumed most everyone, everywhere had done the same thing.
But really, I am not an alien or someone who had her license revoked. I'm just a native New Yorker born in a city where taking public transportation was/and still is as normal as breathing in air or say, driving a car?
And truly, I'm not the only one.
Footnote: This city girl's working on getting that license now. Once I get it, I guess I'll truly have options...