I didn’t grow up watching my dad, grandpa, or uncle work on cars. My parents never had any cool cars when I was a kid. I never raced go-karts or flipped through mail-order catalogs building dream engines in my head.
In Arizona you can get your learner’s permit at age 15 and 7 months. I never got around to it until I was 17. I’ve only ever owned one car: a crappy 90s GM front-wheel drive econobox. At the risk of losing my last shred of credibility with my readers, I never learned to properly drive a stick shift.
So, what got me into cars?
From the moment you are born, your whole life is controlled by other people. As an infant, your parents decide what you will eat and when. They decide when to put you down for a nap. As a child, your teachers dictate your activities in school. Your parents have strict control over what clothes you have, what you eat for dinner, what you can watch on TV, and when you go to bed.
Then when I was 17, I got my permit to drive. I got a hand-me-down clunker of a Cavalier as a graduation present from my mom. As I got comfortable taking solo trips in the car, I experienced a revelation: for the first time, I was in complete control.
As the driver, I could choose my speed and direction and route. I could pick the radio station, the temperature, and everything else. Although it sounds cliche, driving gave me a sense of freedom like I had never experienced before. I still feel a tingle of that freedom every time I turn the key.
Sometimes while driving to work, I fantasize about what would happen if I missed the exit and just kept on going. I wonder how far I could go and what adventures I would have before I finally broke down or ran out of money.
I think that for me, the appeal of cars is the feeling of freedom they give you.