Not driving sucks. There is just no other way for me to put it. Sometimes I try to put a positive spin on it by pointing out the $$$ I save on car payments, gas, insurance, etc. Or I attempt to brag about how eco-friendly I am walking most places. And I try to feel thankful for the extra pounds I manage to shed from all that walking. While I am typically a “glass is half full” kind of gal, this subject is something that I cannot sugar-coat.
I found it somewhat amusing this past year when both my maternal and paternal grandmothers complained to me about having to take a break from driving. They both have their licenses back now, but each had to take several months off from driving due to some health issues. (neither health issues were vision-related) Both of these energetic grandmas are in their early 80’s and have never had to experience life without driving until recently. They both made comments to me like, “My family, friends, and neighbors have been so nice about offering me rides, but it just gets old after a while” and “I feel like I’ve lost so much of my independence from not being able to drive”. Both grandmas live far away from me, so they couldn’t see the smirk on my face while they were on the phone explaining to me how difficult life is without a driver’s license. It took them each about 10 minutes of complaining before I heard a pause on the phone, and then a “Oh….but you probably already know how that feels, right?” It’s funny because I don’t think that most people, even my dear sweet grandmothers, really think about what life is like not being able to drive unless they experience it for themselves.
My husband is so great about driving me places, my friends and family are constantly offering me rides, and I am truly thankful that the people in my life go out of their way for me. But just like my grandmothers pointed out – it gets old having to rely on other people. It’s not like my car is temporarily in the shop and I need extra help for a week. This is every day. I constantly need to strategize about who I am going to inconvenience next, and I am always on someone else’s schedule. There is so much coordinating involved, especially now that I am a mom. I shouldn’t complain too much considering I just have one child. Sometimes I feel dizzy just from listening to Joy describe all the coordinating she has to do just to get everyone in her household to where they need to be. “Ben has to be at work early, so friend A is going to pick Lucy up in the morning and take her to the playdate, and family B is going to pick Elliana and I up for the party mid-morning, and then Ben will meet us at the party at x time, and friend C will get Lucy and bring her to x spot so we can all head home”. Not to mention transferring car seats, baby gear, etc.
I often wish I could just hop in the car and go somewhere – anywhere – by myself. I want to get in the car with Joy, and just have it be the two of us. I want to make an uncomplicated trip to the store with my daughter. But instead I feel like this “eternal pre-teen” having to ask my mom to pick me up from the mall.
Despite all my complaints about not driving, I am often relieved not to have this added stress in my life. The driving issue is a major topic of discussion amongst the RP community. There are a lot of people with visual impairments still driving, and many struggling with whether or not they should still be driving. From my understanding, the type of visual tests that most states require at the DMV typically only test central vision and side vision. So, a person with low visual fields could still pass a driver’s test in many states. This often leaves the decision of whether to continue driving up to the individual. And of course, most people do not want to give up this independence. Unfortunately, I have come across several devastating stories of people with RP causing fatal car accidents. I think about how awful I feel when my vision causes me to accidentally stumble into someone, and so I can only imagine the horror that would encompass my entire being if it was me causing the fatality. I recently heard about a woman with RP who thought she was still okay to drive, but did not see her neighbor’s daughter sitting on the curb one day. This woman took away that child’s life, and ended up taking her own life as well. I considered not including this story as it is very disturbing and probably a terrible way to conclude a post. But I think it serves as an important reminder that although driving comes with lots of benefits, it is a huge responsibility.