During one of my visits home when I lived in San Francisco in the 1990s, it was decided by my mother, my uncle and me that I should be the one to tell her that we were going to take action to have her driver’s license revoked; she had several fender benders with innocent light posts at several of the local malls. We were fearful that she would lose control of the car and hit a child. Granted, hitting any human being would be horrifying enough – it’s just that a child being run over by an out of control driver seems more tragic.
The decision was made with the assumption that she would be resentful at the person who delivered the news. Since I would be returning to California shortly after the scheduled talk and my mother and her brother would be remaining and have to deal with their mother afterward, I agreed to be the one against whom she harbored any angry feelings.
The afternoon we sat in her kitchen for our serious talk is forever burned in my memory. I think I would have been less nervous if my plan was to come out to her; instead, I was about to tell her that the rest of the family had determined she could no longer have control her own life.
Before I had the opportunity to tell her what I had been assigned to tell her, she stated that she had something to tell me.
She told me she had reached the conclusion that she needed to give up driving. She referred to the incidents in the mall parking lots. She said she was afraid that her coordination and reaction time had diminished and as a result she feared being in a more serious type of accident. She then told me that in addition to forfeiting her license, she was going get rid of her car – by giving it to me; that was if I was willing to drive it back to California. Naturally, I agreed to take the car.
Finally, she asked me about what I wanted to talk. My answer was, “Oh. Ya’ know what? I forget. It must not’ve been important.”
I know I lied, but I saw no reason at that point to take away her dignity.
Several years ago, I began to lose the vision in my left eye as a result of AIDS-related CMV. (see EYE = PVB ÷ PVC) The vision in that eye has been completely gone for about the last year. I still have vision in my right eye, but now my entire left side is one big blind spot. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve bumped into people, walls, etc.
It is because of this blind spot that I have made the decision to revoke my own driving privileges.
I’ve been told by my sponsor that he knows someone who also has only one good eye and still has a driver’s license. He explained to me that there is a way for me to get my license if I want to.
It’s not that I don’t want to have a driver’s license. It’s not even that I don’t need a driver’s license. It’s just that I feel I would be a danger to others (and myself) were I to get behind the wheel of a car. I believe that, for me, getting a license would be a self-centered action.
And, to be totally accurate: the idea that I need to drive is not entirely true. Yes, it would make a few parts of my life a bit more convenient, but the public transportation system in San Francisco, while leaves some things to be desired, is good enough to get me to most places in a reasonable amount of time. Even the outer sections of the city are not that difficult to get to – if I time my trip properly, I can actually use the travel time to catch up on whatever required reading with which I may be behind.
When I was finally fully committed to living a truly sober life (about 2½ years in) I knew that I wanted to do everything within my power to live in a manner in which my actions matched my words and my beliefs. In regards to driving, this commitment has taken me back to that day in my grandmother’s kitchen.
First, I wouldn’t want my selfish actions to put anyone in the position to have to tell me that I cannot safely do something – especially when I already know that to be the case. Second, I want to follow the example that my grandmother taught me that afternoon; she showed me that a responsible person evaluates his or her own abilities, and, if those abilities become diminished in a way that could result in another person being harmed, then the right thing to do is to cease any actions revolving around those abilities. Third and lastly, I don’t want to ever be accused of living a “do what I say, not what I do” type of life.
What this all comes down to is what I consider to be quality of life. Not driving in any way diminishes my life’s quality. It doesn’t because I don’t let it. If anything, not driving actually enhances my serenity and well-being – I don’t have to worry about paying for gas or car insurance, finding available and affordable parking, and I don’t ever have to worry about getting a flat, dropped tie-rod or busted transmission. I do get to ask for help when I need to go grocery shopping or get to and from certain medical appointments, which provides me with more time to spend with the friends for whom I care and care for me.