Why Drive When You Can Walk?

Judith Heaney
4 min readOct 24, 2021

Curating a Creative Life — Saturday Stories

Do you remember what it was like getting to drive yourself to school? Pretty cool, right? No having to wait for the bus or find a seat or deal with the cacophony of conversations all around you. Driving to school was a taste of freedom like nothing else, and it didn’t matter the car you drove.

I remember taking over the 1969 Chevy Nova my older brother had taken back and forth to school. When he moved on to a (slightly) newer used car, I took over the Nova. For those of you who may not know, a 1969 Nova was pretty much the equivalent of a ground tank for a 16 year old teenage girl. But I wasn’t put off by that, especially if it put me in charge of when I left for school and came home.

credit — Dušan Naumovski

Because as it turned out, it wasn’t the tank-like size of the Nova that gave me the greatest challenge. It was the horn. Yes, you read that correctly — the Nova’s car horn created perhaps my most challenging and unpredictable moment; in fact it’s a moment we still talk about today, 38 years later.

As a high schooler, school started at 7:05, and with it being at least a 20 minute drive from my neighborhood to the school, I tended to head out no later than 6:30. Which is exactly what I did on this particular morning. I had no sooner backed out of the driveway and started down the street when the Nova’s horn began blaring for no reason at all.

Seriously. I had no reason to lay on the horn in our sleepy little suburban neighborhood at 6:30 a.m. For one thing there were only three houses on each side of the street and for another, no one else appeared to be up in most of the neighbor’s homes let alone getting on the road like me. Imagine the sound of the horn of a classic American-made car slicing through the silent morning; this wasn’t anything like the demure foreign car horns of today. This was like the horn of a cargo ship crossing the Atlantic. It was startling, it was l-o-u-d, and it was . . . stuck!

Nothing I did had any effect on the blasting horn: I banged on the steering wheel to no avail; I yelled at it to quit, but still it blared on. By this point lights started coming on in my neighbors’ houses. Given my unpredictable predicament, I did what any seasoned driver would do — I jumped out of the car and ran the half a…