“It is dangerous and illegal to walk on the highway.”
—Quote from the Michigan driver’s ed manual 
I grew up in Detroit, Motor City, and so my delight in carless transportation has always seemed a bit perverse. But anybody who is a writer knows the feeling. What we do might not be dangerous or illegal, but it can sometimes look a little crazy from the outside.

Driving Me Crazy

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On Saturday my son will make his first long-distance road trip alone, driving home to Virginia from college in Connecticut. When I was his age (20) I really didn’t drive at all. I had a license but not a car, and I lived in Manhattan. The first time I did a long-distance solo drive, like the one he is about to do, was . . . well, let me think . . . it must have been back in . . . a few months ago.

So maybe it’s not surprising that I have some trepidation. I’m not afraid of flying. Statistically, it’s much more likely that a car will crash than a plane. I’m not afraid of driving, either. But I’d rather do just about anything else, if I had a choice (though I don’t, so I drive every day). Perhaps my less-than-ardent relationship with cars has something to do with the fact that my father died in a crash when I was little. Or maybe not.

Part of me wants to tell my son to take a plane or train. Part of me curses his decision to attend an out-of-state school. Though luckily, the other parts—the saner parts—always win.

Worrying doesn’t make anyone safer, so I’ll try not to think about my son’s post-final-exam trek from north to south. It should be easy to focus on other things. After all, I’ll be at a funeral.

The deceased was in his sixties. He wasn’t in a car or a plane. He wasn’t a soldier or police officer or a sky-diving stuntman. He was an economics professor who sat down to breakfast the morning after Thanksgiving and had a heart attack, out of the blue.

What’s the lesson here? It’s not that we should avoid eating breakfast. Or driving cars. Or taking planes. Maybe it’s that every day we can’t be sure it’s not our last. Every day is like Thanksgiving. So I’ll give thanks right now. Or at least when I see that silver Corolla pull up in the driveway.

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