Why I'm happy to be a non-driver

The assumption that "anyone can drive" has caused more deaths than I care to think about.

Another "request blog" today, in response to this:

Mark, I wondered if some time you might like to write a blog about being a grown man unable to drive. We are in an extreme minority. In fact, I reckon I meet fewer people who share this unusual characteristic than my other ones (not drinking alcohol, not owning a mobile phone). Why do you not drive? Do you not want to, or have you just not got round to it? What is people's reaction when you tell them you don't? Are you often pressured to learn by friends and family? I'd be interested to know. -- Andrew

It's true, being a non-driver at my advanced age of 50, or 30, or whatever it is, does place me in a minority. There are certain minorities I'm happy to be a part of but being in this one does feel like something of a failure. All the same, I'm fairly comfortable with my non-driverness.

It was never a conscious decision but the fact is that, at the age of 17, I didn't feel anywhere near ready to take charge of a motor vehicle. In general, I think this is a mentality that more people could do with adopting. The assumption that "anyone can drive" has caused more deaths than I care to think about. Quite a lot of people could do the world a great service by not going anywhere near the driver's seat. However, in my case, it was (at least in part) a symptom of the cowardice that has defined a fair bit of my life. To put it simply, I thought I'd probably be shit at driving so it was better not to even try. And if that's your mindset at 17, you're only going to get more and more like that. Learning to drive is a good example of something you should get out of the way early; the more you go through life not having done it, the more it feels silly to try to do it.

It's been quite rare in my adult life that I've regretted this gap (one among quite a number) in my accomplishments. In my early career as a club comic, I would rely heavily on lifts from other comedians. Sometimes, this would result in my being dumped in central London, an hour's bus ride from where I lived, at 2am after a gig where I'd only been onstage for ten minutes. It would be raining or snowing and the birds would be singing by the time I got home and it seemed as though I would probably have been well advised to give up comedy and do something more sensible, like dentistry. But, even then, I didn't really regret being a non-driver. I think that if I'd had to drive to all the shit gigs I did between 2002 and 2006, I would have been even more knackered and discouraged and would perhaps have let it go altogether.

However, now that I'm a dad, there are many moments when I wish I could drive. There is no doubt that, at some point, I'll have to acquire this skill to avoid being the weird dad who can't pick his son up from the party. And when I've got my "L" plates and people peer into the car and clearly see that I'm 35, I will feel pretty stupid for not getting this out of the way when I was half that age. But that's the way it goes; better late than never, I suppose.

So, in conclusion: I never thought I'd be good at driving and I don't want to drive -- and I've never needed to drive that much. But the day is coming when it will become an inevitability.

Non-drinking and non-mobile-phone-ownership, I can't help you with. Andrew, you are a rare specimen.

This post originally appeared on Mark Watson's blog.

Mark Watson is a stand-up comedian and novelist. His most recent book, Crap at the Environment, follows his own efforts to halve his carbon footprint over one year.