Warning, this is going to be a bit of a rant.

I was at my credit union the other day (move your money!) and as I was signing the receipt I noticed something a little odd that bothers me still. Beneath the signature line was a line labeled “Driver’s License Number”.  Innocent enough, you say.  But those three words speak volumes about our American society.

Why? It does NOT say “Identification Number”.  It says “Drivers License Number”.   Who ever wrote the text for those receipts assumed everyone doing business with the credit union would have a driver’s license. You can’t get one without a driving test, so you must have access to a car.  Ever heard of someone renting a car for someone else to use for their driving test (you can’t rent a car without a license) ?  Didn’t think so. (note: I checked, and they have no problems accepting non-driver’s-license valid government issued ID, state ID cards, passports, military ID etc) There are more people than you realize who don’t have licenses.  The very poor, the mentally ill,  the disabled or very elderly – by and large they get around by begging rides.  And, of course, people convicted of DUI or who have lost licenses for other reasons. I’ll get to public transportation in a bit.

The city where I live is not pedestrian-friendly.  Many streets simply don’t have sidewalks.  I’ve been out running and seen several places where the sidewalk simply dead ends at a patch of dirt. Wonder where the sidewalk ends? Ask me, I’ll show you.  I wondered about this, and I did some research; the city was chartered in 1956 – the era of the interstate,  of American domination of the world auto industry.  The suburbs were exploding, and it was rapidly becoming impossible to get to work or visit friends without driving.   Every family had a car (well, almost) and it was a  status symbol to have the “two car garage”.

Before I moved to California, I was an avid bicyclist in Boulder, CO.  Boulder has an extensive bike/foot path system, and it’s usually faster to bike than to drive because of this.  When I showed up at work out here on my bike, after a ride of less than a mile on quiet side streets the first thing everyone said to me wasn’t “good job for going green!” Or “good job, get some exercise”. No, what they said, every one of them, was “What’s wrong with your car?” I’ve since moved several miles closer to the hills.  But I don’t ride my bike much out here. Why? I was nearly killed on my motorcycle a couple of years ago.  Bicycles are even more vulnerable. During my recovery I got back on the bike to work my leg.  I noticed a couple odd things.  First, the city lets people park their cars in the bike lanes, forcing cyclists into traffic and second, the bikes lanes on the large streets are also turning lanes for cars. It just isn’t very safe to ride your bike on the streets. I’ve tried taking the local buses. A trip that would take me fifteen minutes or so in my car took  over an hour, and I still had to walk about a mile to reach my destination.  Round trip? Over THREE HOURS.  I really began to pity people who didn’t own a car.

I’m not making this up.

And people are worried that Iran will build a nuclear weapon, start a war, and OH NO! Gas prices will rise! It will cost more to drive my precious car!  What about all the death that a war would bring?  The destruction and misery?

Wake up, people. We are responsible for much of the strife in the middle east. We still practically drink gasoline.  I’m not sure how we can change, but the problem isn’t a lack of oil.

Think about it.

Whew. Rant done. For now.


Please see “Gasoline Perfume” for more on my thoughts about a war with Iran.

Please see “Your Vote Doesn’t Count – Because You Can’t Place It”  for my take on requiring photo ID for access to the voting booth.

  1. Sahm Ataine King says:

    THANK YOU for writing this! We don’t seem to be able to think beyond our own materialism. It’s strange, too, that people believe that gas prices going up really has something to do with Iran, or our government not allowing drilling (and strange they fail to take note of how much revenue Big Oil generates, and how much of it is pure profit). America, America… God bless America.

  2. Carlos Alvarez says:

    The elderly?? What do you perceive as elderly? And how do you qualify what a person’s mental ability is at a certain age? I am 70, have been driving since I was 23 and still consider myself aas alert and adept behind the wheel as I ever was. Maybe you should have said, some elderly.

  3. Sahm Ataine King says:

    You know, I’ve been wondering if I should be surprised about President Obama not pressing the green energy thing as hard as he alluded to being prepared to do. It’s rather disappointing. It’s a shame people are really this worried over Iran. Of course, there always needs to be some excuse for big oil to raise the prices and fill their coffers to beyond bursting. It doesn’t help that a lot of places of such poor infrastructure (like where I used to live in Texas) that you’ve got no choice but to drive, or otherwise, walk. This is something that was much more easily conceivable than “The World of Tomorrow”, yet, we missed, just like we keep missing the fact that the economic bubble bursts an average of every four years, and has done so since the country was born…

    Long-winded, I know. Excellent…rant.

  4. Paul Weiss says:

    Many, if not all, states offer “non-driver ID’s”. (It looks like a driver’s license, but does not confer the privilege of driving.) They would have a number that would satisfy your credit unions requirement.

    That being said, I do agree with your general premise. We are entirely too dependent on automobiles and thereby petroleum.

    • Matt Johnsen says:

      Um, well aware, that was kind of my point – that there are many who do not have DRIVERS licenses, but who ever wrote the receipt didn’t think of that. Didn’t intend to imply that you could not do banking at the credit union with an State ID, just that the mind-set of most Americans assumes and able bodied adult will have one, hence the label on the receipt. My bit about not having ID is in the “Your Vote Doesn’t Count” link. Different topic.

  5. Amy Mayo says:

    After spending nine weeks in Ireland, it is weird to be driving again. It is also weird how inefficient our public transportation system is compared to theirs. You can get pretty much everywhere by bus or train, and the towns are so much more walkable. Granted, there are historical and geographical reasons for the differences between our public transportation and that which exists in much of Europe, but I think the main reason that we have failed to develop a more efficient system in the US is mainly socio-economic: own a car or fuck you.

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