Monday 24 Oct 2016

Biking or Driving
Matt Seinberg

What did we do before we had our driver license? We walked an awful lot, or rode our bikes. At least that’s what I did when I was a kid. Today’s kids think it’s uncool to ride a bike, and expect their parents to take them everywhere they need to go.

I’ve lived in many places over my life before I came to Long Island, the two most notable being in upstate New York, Poughkeepsie and Spring Valley.

Poughkeepsie was a great place to grow up. It had both a city and town, though the downtown wasn’t that great. The development I lived in was huge. It had its own elementary school; the junior high was just down the road and a new high school under construction when we moved.

My friends and I would be out all day riding our bikes, flying down the hills and generally having a good time. We played baseball at the park, had lunch at each other’s’ homes and stayed out of our parent’s hair.

Who needed a car? We had our bikes. My first bike was a gold-coloured Schwinn, with monkey handlebars and banana seat. For my 13th birthday, my late grandfather Herman bought me a new cool orange 10-speed bike, which I still have hanging in my garage today. I won’t get rid of that.

When we moved from Poughkeepsie to Spring Valley, my parents had a garage sale, and I had to sell a lot of my stuff. I had original Hot Wheels cars and track that I had to get rid of, along with my first bike. I was not happy about that, as they are now collectibles.

I also had original made in England Matchbox cars that I gave to a cousin in New Jersey. I can only imagine what those are worth today. The only toy I kept was my Aurora HO cars, which I mentioned previously.

I got my driving license, in Spring Valley, when I turned 16. I took the test in my 1968 Volkswagen Beetle, my father owned; it had an automatic stick shift. I did so well parallel parking that the instructor turned to me and said, “Nice job kid.” At that point, I knew I passed.

When I got my license, I begged my mother to let me drive whenever she went out. That deal got old, real fast. Who wants to be seen driving around with their mother all the time?

I got my first car, a green 1970 Volkswagen Squareback when I was almost 18. While I was happy to have a car, I hated this one. It only had an AM radio, and hardly any heat in the winter until the air-cooled engine warmed up. Did I mention it also didn’t have air conditioning?

Eventually I put in an FM converter, but that car had many stupid little problems. It had a leak, so whenever it rained the back seat got wet. I had to fix the rear floorboard because it rusted out. We took it to a mechanic that specialized in VW’s, but he couldn’t find the leak either. It finally stopped by itself.

I guess the whole point of this is Michelle is soon to get her driver’s license and it brings back all these memories. She is a smart, responsible young woman, but driving with her or almost anyone else makes me nervous. Then again, they say the same about me.

I admit I’m a bit of a cowboy driver. That comes from wanting to drive a racecar, when I was younger. Don’t get me started on my 1986 Mustang GT 350.

As Michelle and I were out walking tonight, which is now part of my new exercise routine, we saw a neighbour around the block we hadn’t seen for a few months. We stopped to talk and catch up. Kelly, my neighbour, was telling us how her oldest son got his own car for his senior year of high school and is going to attend SUNY Albany, in September.

Michelle knows that she is not getting her own car anytime soon, so if she has to go anywhere, she’ll be using Marcy’s Altima. That car has a new minor problem, which is the motor that controls the front and back adjustment no longer works. To repair it will cost about $400.

I can’t drive the car sitting that far back and I don’t understand how Marcy does it, as she is shorter than I am. I just hope that Michelle doesn’t have a problem when she has to take her road test.

Given a choice, I’d rather be 16 again and riding my bike.

Matt Seinberg lives on Long Island, a few minutes east of New York City. He looks at everything around him and notices much. Somewhat less cynical than dyed in the wool New Yorkers, Seinberg believes those who don't see what he does like reading about what he sees and what it means to him. Seinberg columns revel in the silly little things of life and laughter as well as much well-directed anger at inept, foolish public officials. Mostly, Seinberg writes for those who laugh easily at their own foibles as well as those of others.

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