To T or Not to T: The Question of Driving in the City

Lectures during syllabus week are always a toss-up. You could go from one class with a no-nonsense professor at the helm, or maybe you have the “Let’s spend five minutes-a-piece saying our names, majors, hobbies, past medical histories, and favorite One Direction member” kind of lecture.

Models of Politics with Professor Hayao started on a different tone.

He asked the class to list reasons why Bostonians are bad drivers. “Narrow, hard-to-navigate streets.” “Young population.” “Bad weather conditions.” “Lack of substantial testing before issuing driver’s licenses.” “It’s in our blood.”

There I was, expecting to learn a little bit about my syllabus, or my classmate’s favorite guilty pleasure song, or maybe even, you know, politics—but instead I was confronted with a list of reasons why bringing a car to campus this semester might have been a horrible mistake.

I grew up 40 minutes outside of New York City, so you would think I’ve had experience with aggression behind the wheel—both receiving and giving it. But in my small town of just over 7,000 people, to honk your horn at another car would run the risk of honking at your teacher, your neighbor, or, worst case scenario, your mom.

So regret and fear sank in as I sat in my first class of the semester and listened to my professor cite a study that concluded Boston is far-and-away the worst American city to drive in.

I’m not an aggressive driver. I’m not a skilled driver, either. I don’t have great reflexes on the road, nor do I have great navigational instincts. While my professor had moved on in his lesson to speak to the possible policy shifts a city could undergo to make changes in this phenomenon, I simply stared at the chalkboard that was now filled with reasons why I had several days to live before being demolished by a devastating four-car collision or somehow fly off the Zakim Bridge into the Charles River.

Before that 9 a.m. revelation, I planned on using my car for my job or my 4Boston placement—both 20-minute commutes. But now venturing 20 minutes into the city seems like a fatal endeavor. Where’s the good in being from New York if you don’t inherit a skillful road rage?

After one trip from Newbury Street on the T, I found the good.

I may not have acquired an over-confidence on the road from the Empire State, but the Northeast did give me that perfectly pretentious combination of irritability and pride. And it was with that narrow-minded, self-centered attitude—you know, the one that makes you look at the world and everyone in it as obstacles in your way and not worth your time—that I sat on a broken-down T outside of Beaconsfield. Once arriving at Reservoir (30 minutes and two Adele albums later, mind you), I waited yet another 20 minutes for the Comm. Ave. shuttle.

My experience that Saturday morning was not unique. It’s happened before—to me, to BC students, to Bostonians. This time, however, I sat on those tracks and waited in the cold for that bus knowing I could have avoided all of it if I got over my fear of driving in the city.

An hour-long trip on the T that could have been 15 minutes—that’s what gave me the motivation to drive to work the next day. And the day after that. And the next day as well.

I haven’t had any near-death experiences on the road. I haven’t had any epiphanies that take the shape of “I really can do anything if I back-up my convictions with courage, hard work, and the right attitude!” Nor am I ashamed that the motivation to conquer this fear was what many would view as a vice: impatience.

The culture of bad driving in this city may be a sad reality for our insurance rates, but it’s also one of those rough-but-endearing characteristics of Boston that sets it apart from other places—like the harsh weather or easily agitated locals. It’s nice to know that at least on that front, I fit right in.

Featured Image by Kelsey McGee/ Heights Editor

About Magdalen Sullivan 21 Articles
Magdalen Sullivan is the Managing Editor for The Heights. She knows the Preamble by heart and will spend the rest of her life hoping for a situation in which that would be useful. Follow her on Twitter @maggiesulls.