Ayikho ilayisense lokushayela

going to a professional

no drivers licenseHere’s the final installment about having no driver’s license. According to the translator, Ayikho ilayisense lokushayela means no driver’s license in Zulu.

In 1987, I did decide to seriously try to get my license. A friend of mine told me of a job in the music industry, one for which I was definitely qualified. But I needed a car, which meant I needed a license.

Forget getting friends and family to teach me! I’m going to one of those certified driving instructors. We were out and I thought it was going OK. We were on Watervliet Avenue in Albany and he told me to make a left turn. At this intersection, there were two possibilities; the one at 9 o’clock was Livingston and the one at 10 o’clock was 3rd Street.

I turned onto Livingston and he starts SCREAMING at me! “I said LEFT!” “I TURNED left!” I don’t remember much more than that. We returned to the original site. And that was the last time I’ve been behind the wheel. Too much negative reinforcement.


In the early 1990s, Z, who didn’t drive, and I, moved from an apartment off Lark Street, with decent access to the bus routes, to an apartment complex on Hackett Blvd. This became problematic because the Sunday service on CDTA made it difficult to get to church. I got a ride from a couple in the choir. But she, who went to a different church, didn’t have that support system.

In hindsight, I could have suggested that the couple pick up both of us and take us to my church. Then she could have walked to her church, which wasn’t that far away. It was one source of stress between us.

My bride has a car. This has meant I can get to remote or distant places when necessary. Still, I’ve always gone to work by bus or bike.

When we first had a child, I thought again about getting a license. But I just knew by then I was too old for this dog to learn that new trick. Having no license did force me to get our doula to take us to the ob/gyn’s office, which turned out to be fortuitous since it was the day our daughter was born.

When she was going to daycare, I took the girl there on the bus. I used to take her to the doctor’s before his offices moved to a place with infrequent bus runs. Her elementary school was right across the street.

My daughter HATED taking the designated bus to middle school because the kids were too rowdy. I escorted her a few days to the two buses she could take in the alternative before she rode them on her own. Her mother could not take her by car because she had to be at work too early and in the opposite direction.


Because I’ve read the manual so often to pass seven driver’s permit tests, I know a lot about driving. My wife often says that I’m really good at anticipating what other drivers will do – turning without signaling. That may be a function of being a damn good pedestrian and following the rules for bicycling.

Not incidentally, more than once, I’ve gotten into arguments with both bicyclists and auto drivers about the correct behavior of bike riders. The drivers SHOULD know better, at least in New York, because the rules are in the manual.

“Bicyclists and in-line skaters have the right to share the road and travel in the same direction as motor vehicles.” Yet, people have insisted I should be riding against traffic.

Here’s a bit of dialogue I was dragged into. A guy insists I should ride my bike on the sidewalk, though the driver’s manual says otherwise.

One last thing: an old friend asked if the risk of Driving While Black played into my non-driving. Not consciously, but I do recognize that not driving has made me less of a target.

So this is a very long answer about why I don’t drive. It’s occasionally inconvenient, but it has honed my great skills about bus routes, made me more patient, and allowed me time to read and think.

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