When I and my friends turned 16 in rural New Hampshire, we couldn’t wait to get our own cars. I purchased a used Ford after a summer of working to earn $1500 to pay for it. It was six months after my birthday. Most of my friends purchased their own cars in roughly the same time frame. Our cars were symbolic of who we were, from the music on the radio or the tapes we played, to the objects hanging from our rearview mirrors. We stopped taking the school buses or relying on our parents to drive us around. We had freedom.
Babysitting jobs got easier since I could get there myself. If I felt like driving out to the store or the library or meet someone at the café the next town over, I suddenly could. It was a movement into adulthood, complete with gas purchases, oil changes, worries about weather and digging out from snow.
This is the world I grew up in. The car was the only way to get around. I lived two miles from my school with some major hills between. There was no other way to get downtown, where we had a single blinking light, library, pizza shop, and a few banks. The lake was further. And any fresh food or clothes shopping was impossible without a car unless you planned for a daylong walk, which would have been a ridiculous idea. Most of the way lacked any sidewalks and meant walking along some roads with posted speed limits of 55mph and up.
I never questioned any of this. I loved it.