Friends have been going on at me for years about the fact that I don’t have a driving license. Actually, more specifically, it’s the fact that I don’t drive. I actually passed my test with no problems. As long as your definition of “no problems” is passing it second time round having failed the first time for skidding on the emergency stop after it had just started to rain. And for driving too slowly. And for rolling back downhill at a roundabout, and then mounting the kerb when I was taking a left turn. But apart from that, no problems whatsoever.
It’s so long since I’ve driven that I’ve still only got one of those pink paper licenses – the kind that fits in your wallet when it’s folded up, but when unfurled and in its natural state, could conceivably used as some kind of cover for the hole in the ozone layer.
I’ve always justified my driving-free existence by saying that for the last ten years or so, I’ve been living in London. With a tube or train only moments away, who needs a pollution-producing, money-guzzling, dirt-gathering rustbucket? And besides, a journey on the trusty 209 bus across Hammersmith Bridge while the sun was setting was always one of life’s great pleasures.
Now I’m in New York, it should be no different. OK, so the F train doesn’t exactly come with alarming regularity. I don’t think the word ‘regularity’ even features in any New York MTA literature, to be honest. But it gets me from a to b in plenty enough time to get to work, while the congestion charge-less roads overhead are clogged up with belching traffic.
No, the problem’s not that I now need to drive (although my poor suffering girlfriend would probably disagree after she’s driven five hours upstate while I’m merrily popping Skittles into my mouth with liberal abandon), it’s that I need a driving license. And one with my picture on it, rather than my bedsheet of a UK license.
You can’t do anything in this country without picture ID. If you want to buy a DVD with even a 15 certificate in Best Buy, you need ID. Want to use your credit card to get some new CDs at Virgin Megastore, you need ID. If there’s even a vague chance you could be up to no good in the United States, you’ll need ID to somehow prove that you’re actually a good, true and respectable citizen.
Which puts me in an awkward position. Not that I’m not good, true and respectable, obviously. But given that I’m not a citizen, and at the same time don’t have a driving license, even getting into my office building can prove challenging at times. I’ve taken to relying on my British passport. Although given that only 27% of Americans even have passports, the reaction I get when I pass the security guard my little maroon book suggests that I’ve accidentally handed over haemorrhoid cream.
There’s only one thing for it. I’m going to have to take a driving test. America, watch out.