A Knight’s Tale (115: Why I No Longer Drive)

Early in the 1990s I visited a good cafe in Islington for lunch on my way to my consultancy at the now closed adoption society, Parents for Children.  Deep in The Times crossword, I was vaguely aware of a male figure taking a seat at a table adjacent to mine.  I was completely unaware of his departure a very short time afterwards.  Reaching for my brief case which I had placed on the floor beside me, I was completely unaware of that too.  It was gone.  After I had looked all around me, it gradually dawned on me that it had been nicked.  It was the proprietor who told me of the man’s rapid departure.

Concerned about the preservation of my suit jacket, I had done what no sensible person ever does.  I kept everything in that brief case: my wallet, cheque book, mobile phone, books, favourite pipe, lighter, and just about everything else except my biro and copy of The Times.  I couldn’t phone to cancel the cards.  I couldn’t pay for the meal.  Fortunately the cafe staff helped me out with coins for a wall phone and would not accept even a contribution for the food.  I did, of course, return the money soon afterwards.  I reported the theft at Islington police station, knowing full well I would not see my belongings again.  The system, however, is that you must waste your and police time to provide a crime number for the insurance company.

One item in the wallet had been my driving licence.  I duly collected a form for a replacement from Newark post office, filled it in, wrote out the cheque and stuck it in my ‘to do’ tray.  This was because I needed a photograph for the new style licence to replace my old paper one which had needed no picture. 

Several years later I came across this paperwork and managed to get a couple of photographs out of a machine, this being no mean feat in itself.  Of course, by then the £2.50 or so cheque I had written probably wouldn’t have been sufficient.  So I put it all back in the tray for several more years, whilst I got around to checking.  It could be there still.

This passport photograph was produced twenty years later.

Not driving was really no problem during the years I was commuting to London.  I used public transport all week and Jessica drove at the weekends.  This is because I didn’t mind who drove, and she couldn’t bear not to.  It seemed quite a satisfactory arrangement.  After her death and my return to live in Central London a car would have been a liability.  Even running across London was quicker than driving.  Finding somewhere to park was a nightmare, and paying for it exorbitant.  The congestion charge was soon to be introduced. And, of course, with a London address, I was given a senior citizen’s Freedom Pass which meant public transport within all six London Transport zones was free of charge.  And you could get quite a lot of cab journeys for the cost of running a car.

Where we are living now a car is pretty well essential.  But now I have a beautiful chauffeuse who has her own car.


    1. hey non-smoking lady bug – wanted to note that I have heard someone say they sometimes travel with a fake wallet in certain areas – just in case they get cornered or pickpocketed – and then they keep the real pouch with id and stuff close to their chest

  1. As well as frustrating, it’s scary to have someone steal all your personal information, as well as checkbook and credit cards.
    I can understand not needing a car in London, and how nice about the transit pass. Our older child didn’t need one in Boston, but they drive now that they’re in western Massachusetts.

    1. Driving in Boston is a suicide mission. If you do manage to survive, you’ll go bankrupt paying for parking. Your older child made the right decision!

  2. I’m sorry that you were a victim of this rotten guy, Derrick, how frustrating! Identity theft is an even larger problem today. I had to look up what a Congestion Charge is, that’s a really expensive and unjustified charge in my view, and they are so strict about collecting your money!

  3. What an interesting journey you’ve had. I live somewhere with little public transit and can’t imagine not driving. I drive easy 5 hours a week, but maybe someday I’ll live somewhere it won’t be as necessary.

  4. It’s so annoying having everything stolen because you have to spend a significant amount of time (and money) first cancelling and then replacing everything.

  5. I am sorry you lost everything. Glad that you have Jackie to drive you around. I always wondered why Jackie always drives. Now I know.

    Where we live a license and a car is necessary. The two and a half aisle grocery store is hit or miss on things like bread and milk let alone anything else. It is twenty miles to a store you can afford to shop in.

          1. I know. Right now trucking rates are not increasing fast enough to compensate for the jump in the price of fuel. But the minute the fuel price drops the rate sure does. We had our most costly fill-up yesterday of $900. And as long as the cost to fill up a semi is that high everything anyone buys is going to be high to compensate.

  6. Interesting! I had wondered why you didn’t drive, and I must say I never would have guessed why. However, it does make sense. If you can manage without a car, then you save yourself a lot of money and hastle.

  7. I am sorry to hear this happened to you, Derrick! What an awful experience.

    I agree with Laurie, if one can manage without a car, so much the better. Where Rick and I are, a vehicle is a necessity.

  8. Traumatic. Once on a vacation when my children were little, w were playing with a little boy on the beach in Tahiti. While we played, unbeknownst to us, his mother stole my camera. We didn’t know who stole it and continued to play in the ocean with the sweet little boy. Hours later, as we packed up to leave, the boy snatched something from his mothers bag. It was my camera. He brought it over and gave it to me. His mother watched the whole thing. She didn’t say anything. Later when I took the film to be developed, I saw the photos the woman had taken of her family. This episode has stayed with me.

  9. Hi Derrick – your stay share here reminds us that in addition to the vulnerable and violated feeling that comes with being stolen from – there is also the major inconvenience –
    and the way you described it – I could feel the setting so well.
    and like that passport photo

  10. Somewhere in your subconscious, Derrick, you must have known you didn’t need to keep your driver’s license! Where we live, we couldn’t make it without a car, but my city relatives manage well without using one much.

  11. Brave man … no, not really this time for your passport photograph looks like a fair reflection of that we have seen of you. Here we have to produce photographs for both ID cards and driver’s licences. The only trouble is that that these are used for ‘office purposes’ whilst a photograph is taken with a computer linked camera. I have yet to find anyone with a passport, driver’s licence or an ID card that does not make them look like a criminal.

  12. It’s quite a headache to have one’s briefcase or handbag stolen with one’s personal information. How great to be able to get around London without having to drive! Getting around Los Angeles using public transport is very time-consuming, but then again, we now have Uber and Lyft.

    1. Uber and Lfyt costs a lot! It has cost $210 for my last ride in LA recently and that was only 20 minutes with not much traffic! Public transportation is also not efficient! I agree with you.

  13. I well know the steps needed to replace everything after a wallet is stolen! No easy task around here.

  14. I’ve been mugged myself, and found it a wholly unsatisfying experience. I’m glad you weren’t physically injured, but that certainly doesn’t negate all the frustrations associated with any sort of crime. The great irony is that my assailant made off only with a purse and a wallet with 87 cents in it. Two days later, an elderly couple found it in their geranium bed and called me. Everything was intact, though I don’t remember now if the 87 cents still was there.

  15. Ah…and now we know!
    I am still using a twenty year old photo on my driving licence that was taken from my passport. Keeps renewing without question! The photos aren’t that clear so I decided it didn’t really matter seeing as my hair has gone full circle style wise and is now quite similar to what it was. and I’m not yet grey.

  16. Well that mystery of why you don’t drive now solved. My curiosity about that had heightened with your prior posts about your early driving experiences.
    It’s so disheartening when things are stolen, and a bother to replace. But at least you weren’t personally threatened. Some small mercy, I suppose.

  17. Having your brief case stolen was a huge inconvenience at the very least, but you adapted well and wisely. I wish I didn’t depend on a car.

  18. Norm lost his wallet 3 weeks ago. After a huge hunt from home expanding across the river ferry and every everywhere in between, he cancelled all his cards and applied for everything new including a new wallet. Two weeks later the old wallet fell out of the car just as he got out. Honestly, I looked there first. Anyway, all fixed now. What a pain.

  19. Very sorry you had to experience this Derrick! But to lose your favourite pipe, did you stop smoking then or buy another one? My dad smoked a pipe also… often it was not really lit for long, just stuck in between his teeth 🙂

  20. Losing your briefcase like that is awful. I had my hand bag stolen once. Terence and I were dating and we visited a casino. It was stolen in a similar manner to your briefcase. Replacing everything here in South Africa is was a nightmare, even back then. The easiest replacement for me was my British passport.

  21. Derrick I’m glad you had the support and understanding of the folks at the cafe. It must have felt like such a violation when it happened. Mike attended a trade show many years ago and left his briefcase unattended for a short time. He lost his work laptop in that theft along with passports, and other personal items. It was a slog replacing everything.

  22. My first husband grew up in NYC and never learned to drive. I love to drive so that was one way we complimented each other. Sounds like you haven’t missed much, taking the passenger seat.

  23. Mrs Widds and I sorted out, very early on in our relationship, that she was/is a worse passenger than I. 😀 … hence, she drives almost all the time. 😀 … on such things are great marriages built. 🙂

  24. I have misplaced or forgotten my wallet many times but so far have been lucky enough to be able to retrieve it each time!

    It is fortunate that you haven’t had a need to drive in so long!

  25. If I lost all of my documentation, I would quit more than driving. It is bad enough getting those things without having to go through the process of getting them replaced.

  26. What a story, Derrick! So glad you have Jackie to take you out to entertain us. My daughter drove for a year or two until she left for college in Brooklyn, NY. She lived there for many years and never drove nor wanted to. She’s just moved back to New Jersey and will have to start driving again since there’s less public transportation.

  27. I wonder what the person did with your driving license? ? it must have been very frustrating!
    I really don’t like to drive, so I’m glad now at least I can use public transport or a cab when needed ? But a personal chauffeur is the best ?

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