Where NYC Legs Don't Quite Cut It

How one New Yorker is experiencing the effects of never attaining a license.

I’m from New York City, where, in short, teens don’t do a lot of driving.

I spent four years taking two different subway lines to and from high school. I lived in the borough of Brooklyn and my school was on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, so the trip was a little less than an hour each way.

Spending so much time commuting allowed me to learn the subway system inside out. During late nights I might opt for a taxi or an Uber, but in general the subway system was/is thorough in its coverage across the city.

In November, as a second year student at IU, I finally realized that knowing subway systems and having this type of coverage has been unable to do one thing: teach me how to drive.

This wasn’t an issue at home, because no one drove. If I did have a license, my parents would probably have enlisted me in moving our car on days when alternate-side parking was in effect, which is a nightmare.

Back at school, not being able to drive became an issue once I moved off campus, where having a car is essential.

Returning to Bloomington after break, my inability to drive felt amplified. Not being able to drive in New York meant not having to move the car, but here it meant not going places I should be traveling to, especially the supermarket.

I had gotten a learner’s permit that previous summer in NYC, and after returning I checked the Indiana BMV site to make sure I could get some practice in before winter break. I thought, maybe I could schedule the road test then and have a license Spring semester.

It turns out Indiana doesn’t recognize out-of-state learner’s permits the way New York does. It won’t even give a permit or license to anyone who is here for school.
I took it as a blessing, not a curse.

A week or two after I got back from Thanksgiving in New York, applications at the Indiana Daily Student were sent out. I have my ambitions set on political journalism, so naturally I wanted to cover the politics beats.

To quote Billy Joel (and later on Nas), I was still in a New York State of Mind. The F train in New York doesn’t stop in Bloomington, nor can it take me to the State House in Indianapolis, not that I actually thought it would. How does one cover state politics by foot? Not very effectively, I thought to myself.

See, at home we have the concept of “New York legs.” Having New York legs means if someone told me a walk would take ten minutes, I’d get there in five, and I’d be arriving with beverage and snacks from a bodega on the way.

New York legs couldn’t get me to Indianapolis, and apparently neither would my out-of-state learner’s permit.

I sucked it up and applied for other beats.

This wasn’t the worst thing in the world, since I’m happy with what I’m reporting.

Fortunately, writing about the school’s administration is not a driving-intensive beat. Also, not knowing how to drive is not something I should be complaining about.

During and after Thanksgiving break, I had to grapple the fact that not being able to drive has become a speed bump in my environment, and now my career. Luckily, it doesn’t have to last forever.

The urgency to learn is present, and although I cannot practice in Bloomington, it’ll be in the front of my brain the next time I go home.