“How does it feel to be home?” It feels like I’m sixteen again.
Reverse culture shock has thus far manifested as a newfound appreciation of things I used to take for granted, and a newfound love of driving has claimed a spot at the forefront. Very ‘Murican of me, I’m sure. Generally, I’m a proponent of environmentally conscious options like biking, walking, and mass transit. But that doesn’t mean I’m not a little in love with being behind the wheel.
On Saturday, for instance, I drove downtown to visit a friend. Due to an accident on the Kennedy, the GPS told me to get off the highway MUCH earlier than I otherwise would have, and I found myself dealing with city traffic and stop lights. It took me at least an hour longer than it should have to reach my friend’s apartment; the trip probably took longer than it would have if I’d just toughed out the highway traffic. I sat in almost-unmoving traffic for several blocks and over five minutes to get through one light that needed, but did not have, a protected left turn.
And yet the experience was, overwhelmingly, a positive one. I had my own seat, rather than sharing it with at least one other person. I had control over the radio, and I could understand the things being said on it. No one tried to sneak through too-small spaces or make illegal, illogical turns that turned the intersection into an innavigable mess of cars pointed every which way. No one took out their frustration at being stuck by blaring their horns at the cars in front of them, perhaps realizing that they were not sheep who would scatter, but fellow drivers who were just as stuck and just as frustrated.
It was lovely.
But it’s not just my new-found appreciation of first-world conveniences like paved roads and required driver’s ed that makes me enjoy driving. It’s that if I want to go somewhere beyond walking distance, I can just hop in the car and go. I don’t have to pore over over hard-to-read maps to figure out which buses go that way, if buses and maps exist at all, or argue with mikr drivers about when I want to leave and whether I get my own seat, or ask five different people whether mikrs even go to my intended destination and where they stop. I don’t need to look up and write down all the words I might need to use for the encounter, or fend off insistent drivers eager to fleece an unsuspecting tourist. I can just go.
In fact, I think I will.