Thursday, January 29, 2015

Why drive when you can write about it?

-I was just alerted to Adam Gopnik's learning-to-drive-as-an-adult essay: "There’s a rich literature about learning to drive written by women, for whom it represents a larger emancipation from the feminine roles of enforced passivity, of sitting in place and accepting helplessness," writes Gopnik, surprising those of us who'd thought that literature consisted of Katha Pollitt's essay and various failed attempts at reinventing that power-steering wheel. Gopnik has instead produced some learning-to-drive literature for men, which involves unfurling a long  New Yorker essay (sample observation: "Writing a book seemed as mysterious a process to him, one as much in need of elaborate advance and afterthought, as driving a car was to me.") about wanting to drive to Cape Cod (not the Hamptons), and feeling (but not actually being) privilege-checked by a road-test examiner of the black and female persuasion.

Now, my learning-to-drive essay, which I will sell to the highest bidder, will be quite different. It won't be a tale of feminist triumph, at least not in the usual sense - I had to learn because I'd relocated for my husband's work, and he's the one who taught me. (That means no folksy story about connecting with the Common Man via driving lessons.) Nor will it end, as Gopnik's discreetly does, with an announcement that, the license now secured, the time has come to muse about it over however many thousand words, but not to actually, like, use it to drive somewhere. Getting the license is not quite the same as learning to drive. That's the main takeaway from the last two years of my life, and most especially of the last few days.

-Speaking of driving (are there other topics?), this evening was my first time ever pumping gas. While my husband helped me figure it out, I'd already been prepping, which is to say I Googled it and watched a couple YouTube videos. I also read the comments to those videos from incredulous and vaguely irritated people who can't fathom how anyone (who'd be in a position to need to know) wouldn't already know how. I also read the other comments that offered the very reasonable explanation: New Jersey law. It's not about having a butler who does this for you or whatever it is these commenters might imagine.

-Also on the agenda: trying this green juice they speak of. It sort of must be done, for when-in-Rome purposes. I'm working my way to it slowly - I got a soy espresso drink one day, which was actually quite tasty in a yuba sort of way, and am making my way through tremendous amounts of non-pulverized fruits and vegetables (and chocolate croissants). I want the full aesthetic experience, which involves leggings and green juice. I want to announce - on the basis of pseudoscience - that I glow.


Anonymous said...

How interesting. It would have never even occurred to me that pumping gas could be a new experience for an American adult, nor that there would be youtube videos explaining how to do it. But having driven through New Jersey and been somewhat baffled by why I wasn't allowed to pump my own gas, it does make sense. I guess my "middle class having grown up in the West and learned to drive before I was of legal age" privilege is showing.

Phoebe said...

Yes, this is certainly a case where privilege-analysis fails. At any rate, it didn't prove to be that difficult - figuring out how to open the gas thingy of this rental car (as would have been needed in NJ as well) was far more difficult than the gas-pumping itself.