A facet of growing up in a small town was that it was safe to get in a car and ride to just about any destination with a new friend, including on a first date. As I mentioned in a previous post, my family and I knew everyone I was destined to become friends with, and there was no danger associated with going to the beach, a restaurant, a movie, or a variety of other places with them. When I moved away from Fort Myers to places such as Miami, then Jacksonville, I soon realized that I had left my comfort zone, never to return to it. This realization prompted a change in my behavior that was quite profound: I drove myself, in my own car, wherever I needed to go, meeting my new friends (both male and female) at our destination. Having my own car provided me an escape, if one were needed for any reason. Having my own car also protected me from being driven by someone who was not well known to me, who might be impaired for reasons unknown to me. In addition, as long as I was in my own car, I controlled where I went, such that it was impossible for anyone to take me someplace I did not want to go. Driving one’s own car on dates and to get togethers with people I did not know well also precluded these casual acquaintances from coming to my house until I was ready to invite them. For the most part, I still prefer to drive my own car unless I am going somewhere with someone I know well (or unless I am riding in a taxi, limo, or other hired car). I routinely suggest driving one’s own car to my employees when they inform me they are getting together with a new friend. The extra mileage and gas are well worth the peace of mind that stems from being able to leave when I am ready to go, instead of when someone else says I may leave.
Melissa drove her own car, a bright red Camaro, when we first went out for dinner, movies, or other dates. I don’t know how long it was before she decided to let me pick her up and yes, it seemed strange to me for her to be so cautious. But, as I learned about her upbringing in the small community of Fort Myers, as well as some of her experiences with people who were not cautious, or well intended, it made sense. And, it makes even more sense in today’s world to control one’s own destiny. Of course, there are more options than ever for “escape” possibilities with Uber or Lyft available at one’s fingertips. Melissa also always carries cash for cab fare in case of an emergency. She still does! Uber and Lyft have reduced that need, but the strategy of having an exit plan of some sort never hurts. Better safe than sorry!