So it’s taken me a while to write about this. I kept telling myself that between bullies & fashion school & my tireless attempts to find parties at warehouses in Bushwick, transportation’s pretty dull, right?
But that’s not it at all. Truth is I’m embarrassed. I’m a pretty high-functioning person overall.
But I can’t drive.
This is a problem for a lot of us, right? I mean, driving takes all of your energy. You’ve got cues coming from all different places. Sensory overload. Noise. Other drivers sitting at a merge expecting you to know exactly when to slow down and speed up. And then you have to time said slowing down and speeding up in order to let them in.
Worst case scenario, you crash. Best case they beep at you, distracting you even more and making you feel like an asshole.
Four-way stops are the worst. Not only do I not pick up on signals; I lose track of the sequence. I also have problems with consistency. Like I’ll check for traffic at a merge where almost everyone else forgets and then I’ll run a stop sign.
I do have a license. I got it on the third try. My parents live in the boondocks, so I’m still working on automating my skills enough to get myself from Point A to Point B, as long as I can avoid the highway. I must have driven to my college over 150 times.
It used to be such a pain in the ass. I lived in the dorms in school, so everything I needed was right there. Sometimes I managed to befriend people with cars so we could go to the city on the weekend. But I spent the greater part of two summers sitting in the dorm by myself. Since college I’ve tried to get my parents to pay for me to live in cities so I could take public transit.
But I spent well over a year living at home waiting for my friends to come pick my ass up. I learned that more people cared about me than I thought. Several people from town regularly made the 40-minute drive to my place. My friend Pablo and I chilled like three times a week. But still. My self-image suffered and God only knows my sex life suffered. I feel like I’d have gotten significantly more mileage out of my twenties if I could just navigate a vehicle without worrying about spacing out and running a red light a la Six Feet Under.
This New York Times article says only 24 percent of autistic people drive. I’m skeptical though. It seems like most autistic people I know have been driving for a long time. And the funny thing is that our ability to drive seems to correlate little if at all with our ability to do anything else. Like have an 100-or-over IQ or hold a five-minute conversation. I’ll hear some godawful story about an aspie driving a bunch of terrified people deep into corn country to look for meth labs. My first reaction is always “You mean that motherfucker can DRIVE!?”
I think the lesson we can learn from driving is that those pesky low-functioning/high-functioning categories blur more than we think they do. Sorry for getting ranty here. Hopefully some other autistic people who can’t drive are going to feel comforted reading this. Or if you’re a small-town scrub with another mental illness and you can’t afford a car. I know there’s plenty of you out there. Holler.
*Image from Howcast on YouTube.