A few weeks after I went to the doctor following my first seizure, I got a letter from the Ontario Ministry of Transportation revoking my learner’s permit. My expired learner’s permit. Brutal, right?
For multiple obvious and valid reasons, the inability to drive is one of the biggest practical and social issues faced by people with epilepsy. In fact, in a national survey conducted by the Canadian Epilepsy Alliance in 2008, “driving regulations” were ranked the second most important concern (“negative depiction in the media” was first).
It might surprise you, then, to read that I was immensely pleased that the operation of motor vehicles was legally off the table for me. Finally, an epilepsy silver lining!
In the decade that elapsed from when I turned sixteen to when I was diagnosed, I never bothered to learn how to drive. I got my learner’s only because of peer pressure, which wasn’t strong enough to make me exert any subsequent effort. Since then, besides an interlude in a town in Italy in which everything was within walking distance, I’ve lived places with good public transportation, so my failure to obtain a license has never been a major obstacle to my freedom of movement. If I’m perfectly honest, I’m also intimidated by the responsibility factor: it’d be so easy, after all, to mow someone over while behind the wheel, not that you should think about that the next time you get in a car.
In sum, I’ve never really conceived of driving as a privilege or as a symbol of independence or as a possible convenience. When I consider it at all, I usually see it at best as an annoyance, at worst as a potential prison sentence.
My husband, on the other hand, grew up in an American city in which getting a license was a rite of passage. He was thus shocked when I told him that it was a skill I lacked and pestered me for years to take action.
“Even if you don’t need to drive now, you’ll have to some day,” he periodically reasoned. “What if you’re stuck alone in the middle of nowhere and there’s an unlocked car that miraculously has keys in the ignition?” (OK, I’m paraphrasing. He came up with more plausible scenarios than that.)
His logic was frustratingly sound, and though I was content to let him chauffeur me around while visiting his parents in their bus-poor NC city and to sleep through road trips, I was forced to agree with him every time the topic arose.
I still found various excuses to put it off.
So when I got that letter, I involuntarily emitted a “yesssssss” under my breath.
I did, however, manage to compose myself, assuming a mournful expression before relaying the news.
My husband saw right through me.
Of course, just because I’m a lazy coward doesn’t mean that I can’t recognize why millions of people value that passport to liberty called the driver’s license. I understand that driving is critical for getting to work, school, appointments, etc. in a multitude of geographical areas and that it represents more than a mode of transportation, and I’ll admit that I’m starting to wish I were able to do it, mostly since I’m no longer allowed to. Maybe that’s not a bad thing; this could be the push I’ve needed. Although the rules vary from province to province and country to country, if you have epilepsy and live in Ontario, you can have a license/have your license reinstated given certain conditions, the most notable of which being that you haven’t had a seizure in six months (Epilepsy Ontario summarizes the others here). If I meet the criteria one day, I guess I’ll take the plunge.
It’d be nice to be able to hit the road whenever the spirit moved me, preferably in this: