Charlie Nadler grew up on Martha’s Vineyard and graduated from MVRHS with the class of 2002. Until mid-March, he lived in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles where he worked in the film and television industry and performed stand up comedy. He’s just relocated to New York City, where he will continue to muse about his life on and off Martha’s Vineyard in his weekly “From Afar” column.
I’ll never forget that first solo drive. I was sixteen and a half and had miraculously received my license that morning despite leaving the emergency brake on for the majority of my road test. I took my dad’s white Geo Metro for a spin around Viera Park, glanced over at the empty passenger seat, and rejoiced in this benchmark of independence that every young child dreams about from the moment they handle their first matchbox car.
Thirteen years later I get that same feeling looking over at all the vehicles on New York City streets, but this time I am elated that none of them are mine. Any potentially deflated tires, leaky gas tanks, disintegrating brake pads, feverish radiators, geriatric clutches, and electrically-challenged taillights; replaced now by my MTA MetroCard.
Before you read ahead in your minds and get the wrong idea, I am not “that” liberal. I respect trees, but I don’t hug them. I recycle, but I don’t compost. I could do better when it comes to carbon, but I take solace that my footprint is relatively dainty.
I don’t have a problem with the institution of driving; ideally, my next automobile will not be too far off and it will be a “Vineyard car.” The problem I have is with driving excess, the signature element of Los Angeles life. I used to think it was so wasteful for people to spend so much money on their vehicles, but after crawling through traffic and being either wildly early or late to appointments for close to a decade, I finally understand their need for comfort. In fact, I think Angelenos should go a step further and wallpaper the insides of their car and acknowledge their vessel for what it is: a second home.
There are plenty of drawbacks to my new alternative life of public transportation. It can be inconvenient, bumpy, smelly, and sometimes scary. But it functions, and in New York City it functions particularly well. Most importantly, you can text without getting a two hundred dollar ticket and you never have those LA conversations of “I’m leaving now, I’ll see you at the restaurant in about 30 minutes, unless the 101 is jammed up in which case I’ll have my office call your office and we’ll look at March 2016.
I also find that the subway is invaluable from a sociological standpoint. It might not always be pleasant to ride next to a homeless person, listen to yet another depressing plea for money, or almost get kicked in the fact by a break-dancer, but it’s invaluable to be submerged in all walks of life. Racism, ignorance, and apathy stem from homogenous environments, and while it might be comfortable to enjoy your privacy locked in your car with your seatbelt fastened, it’s easy to lose perspective and forget about the millions of Americans who can’t operate or afford a steel bubble of their own.
Plus, a lot of fancy suits also take these things down to Wall Street, so it’s a great excuse for me to get all my thirty second get-rich-pitches together.