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Facts & Arguments Podcast

Mom without wheels

From Tuesday's Globe and Mail

My daughter's friend asks why I don't drive. How do you explain phobias and anxiety to a five-year-old? ...Read the full article

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  1. Lord of the Sith ! from Vancouver, Canada writes: I share your pain. I was an obese kid who grew up in an immigrant family of fearful parents. Imagine not being able to ride a bicycle because you are so fat that you can't peddle because of your sheer weight. Furthermore, my parents were always teaching me to be afraid and not take chances so they never bought me a bike to learn at my leisure. I thank my grade 3 friends who tried to help me in their innocent caring way which at the time seemed like teasing and needless public humiliation. My biggest fear was being asked to go for a bike ride with a girlfriend in my mid 20's and then losing her because she felt I was not interested in her passion for cycling when in fact, I was fearful of rejection for my perceived incompetence. After that incident, I decided to buy a bicycle and take it to an abandoned parking lot at 5 am every weekend and after many falls and yards of lost skin, I learned to ride a bike for the sake of it. I still fear being asked to go for a ride but I am now able to tell people the truth that this was the card that life dealt me. You're no different than me not that you need my reassurance. You're no less of a person and you should learn when its convenient for you. Good luck.
  2. Interested Citizen from Vancouver, Canada writes: Wow - this is me except I don't have kids - yet! I too have given it a good faith effort and always returned from my driving ventures completely overwhelmed. I am a smart and highly educated person - and look with envy at all the people around me who seem to drive effortlessly. I also live in a city with great public transit which I hope will get me around, even if I have kids. Explaining this in a society that so wholly depends on cars is a challenge in itself though. Glad to hear I'm not alone!
  3. Lorna Poole from Canada writes: You don't need driving lessons, you need help for your phobia. Phobias of all kinds are the easiest mental health issue to overcome - fear of flying, spiders, driving - all can be managed with a decent behavioural therapy program.
    I let many phobias run my life for a long time until a cognitive behavioural therapy program gave me back control. Fear is not the same as a lactose intolerance and, clearly, from the tone of your submission, you yearn to overcome this fear more than you're admitting to yourself.
    Get some help. It's available, it's effective and it will truncate other fears from invading your life (as they invariably do over time).
    Best wishes.
  4. Valkyrie 23 from Guelph, Canada writes: Driving isn't so bad! My sister is scared of driving, but that's only because she has had two accidents (her fault entirely), and she still drives once and awhile (we're trying to make her drive more, but she doesn't 'like' too - she's also a student, so she doesn't really need to). I think you should learn for your kids' sake. Sure, when they're older it will be nice to have an excuse to not drive them to the mall, but I think you're denying them extra-curricular activities and sleepovers. And what about an emergency? I realize that some people don't HAVE cars, but even most of them could drive if they needed to. I think you should go back to drivers' ed, maybe see if you can talk to someone who can talk you out of your anxiety, and try again. Honestly, I have an two hour commute through T.O. each day, and it's not too bad. Just stay out of the far left lane if you're going slower than 130 - that drives me crazy! Good luck! :)
  5. afewacres ofsnow from Ferrara, Italy writes: I don't like driving either. I don't trust anyone else on the road. I also think that the more education you have, the harder these things are, whether it is learning another language because you have moved to another country, or getting in your car and driving. I've noticed that people without a university education just get on with it instead of worrying about it (and good for them!) We get blocked by thinking too much about it instead of just doing it.
  6. Another vicious kick right in the face from Miller to Toronto, writes: How do you explain phobias and anxiety to a five-year-old?

    Um ... Don't.

    There's no particular reason 5 year olds need to be have disclosure of the rationale for all your personal choices.
  7. trikebum of Peterpatch from Canada writes: Bonnie, feel good that you are not car-dependant. You and your daughter are getting daily exercise which most motorists don't, and by walking and using public transit you are able to interrelate with people and your environment instead of leading the insular life of the motorist. You are showing your daughter a better way to good health and quality of life.
    Another thing for those who feel marginalized by not having a car: be caeful what you wish for. It costs about $10,000 a year to own and operate a car, and many hours of frustration idling in gridlock.
  8. Billiam Smith from Montreal, Canada writes: Yeah, you have to practice driving before you're comfortable doing it. Downtown Toronto probably isn't the best place to learn - a rural area with little traffic would be a good place to start.
  9. The Pinch from Toronto, Canada writes: I don't have a car anymore. It took a year to wean myself off of them, but when I saw the Nat Geo photos of the Mississippi Delta getting destroyed by global warming.....

    I save about $8,000 a year this way - money that, in this day and age, can be put to better use.

    It's a nuisance sometimes, but so is road rage, fender benders, and drunk drivers.

    I'm in better shape, and I am in once piece.
  10. Arent Wee from Canada writes: I beleive you have to know the fear before you can make general statements about someone in this day and age not driving. How do you handle being in a constant panic every second you are behind the wheel of a very dangerous machine, being unable to unclenth your two hands for a few minutes after driving, or throwing up the minute you are out of the vehicle? I did this for four years and are a few reasons why I no longer drive. It was much easier for me as we lived in a small community while my children grew up and did not have to rely on being driven everywhere.
  11. Dr. Colleen Franklin from Sudbury, Canada writes: I raised two children without a car. I am chuckling at those comments that suggest women without cars are lazy. I walked all over our city when the kids were small, one in a Snugli and one in a stroller. Then we all walked as I took the kids to their lessons and playdates, and as I went to work and ran errands. My children never grumbled or complained about it, as this was just the way things were--we couldn't afford a car, as my husband went to university as a mature student, and then I couldn't afford a car myself when our marriage broke down and I went back to university. Neither of my children, now aged 26 and 28, own vehicles themselves--they and their partners walk and bike and take the subway all over Toronto, where they now live. The youngest even biked from Vancouver to Winnipeg last summer! I currently own a car with my partner, but I still don't drive and I continue to get myself around when I need to go somewhere without him. As a result of our choices, my children and I are healthy, leave smaller carbon footprints than do many of our peers, and have saved boatloads of cash. Yes, I face astonishment and even derision from those who can't imagine life without a car or two or three, but I am entirely comfortable with that, as I am thoroughly convinced of the benefits of going car-less. In fact, I am constantly astonished that more people don't make MY choice. Bonnie, hold your head up and rest assured that you are doing what's right for you--and it may turn out that you will be able to look back as I can now and see that you have done what was right for your family and for the environment, as well.
  12. Nicole B from Canada writes: Bonnie, have you tried therapy? It's one thing to prefer not to drive but entirely another to be crippled by fear such that you are unable to drive. What if there is an emergency with one of your kids while your husband is at his conference? How close is the nearest ER? How long will it take a taxi/ambulance/friend to come pick you up?

    I don't particularly enjoy driving but it's important to be able to do manage behind the wheel - particularly when you have children.
  13. M G from Canada writes: That's pretty intense, but a smart choice if it is something that makes you that uncomfortable....after all there are a number of people on the road who may not have the fear, but certainly don't have the skills to be there safely.

    While the author is probably not looking for unsolicited advice, maybe considering some sort of therapy or counselling around this would be helpful. At least then in the long run, if driving was required, say in an emergency, it could be done with more confidence.

    I will tell you that I was hesitant to learn how to drive when I was in high school. I lived in Toronto and this is how I got over it...I worked and my parents said if I got my licence there would be no issue with me using the car to get to work...if I didn't get my licence, they would no longer be driving me, I would have to take the TTC. So, the choice of a 10-20 minute drive versus an 1 and 1/2 hour bus ride made my decision pretty clear.

    Daily, I am thankful that I drive and am not uncomfortable doing so.
  14. Stephanie Fortin from Canada writes: Just like everybody else on this board that says they don't drive, I don't either. It's just a simple fact that I have no interest in driving. I do live in a city with a great public transportation system and very gladly take the bus if I can't walk to my destination. It saves me money and I know it's one less car on the road polluting the Earth.
  15. D N M from Canada writes: Dr. Colleen Franklin from Sudbury, Canada writes: 'I raised two children without a car. I am chuckling at those comments that suggest women without cars are lazy.'

    Exactly. I can't think of a better way to get (and stay) healthy than to use your own 2 feet ( or pedal bike ) to get around. The pedestrians aren't the lazy ones, it's the drivers, many of whom can't even be bothered to get out of the car to eat or take money out of the bank(hence drive-through fast food windows and ATMs).

    Good for you Dr. Colleen.
  16. Chrissy Simon from Canada writes: My mother didn't drive, but back when I was a kid most of my friends' moms didn't, either. Growing up in a small town with hardly any public transportation, we walked everywhere and carried everything home (ie. groceries) when my dad was working and couldn't pick us up. I learned to drive as soon as I could so I could help with driving my mom places. Now, I'm an adult, and I wish I didn't have to drive. I find it stressful and I'm not one of those people who enjoys the experience. Although I can't get away from driving on work days, my kids often walk to do our errands on the weekends, and I think it's a good day if I haven't been behind the wheel. Anyway, long story short, your children will be fine as the kids of a non-driving mother.
  17. Leila bagdhadi from Toronto, Canada writes: Bonnie,

    I learned how to drive from a race car driver (my brother)! But I choose not to drive because I know that I am helping myself and helping the environment, instead I ride my bike.
    My 2 years old son commutes to his daycare everyday in the back of my husband's bike (we have a trailer for winter). I even bring my groceries home on the bike (I have a small basket).

    So keep your head up and continue walking home because if nothing else you are helping a great cause (save our planet and teach our children to use their legs!)
  18. S K from Alberta, Canada writes: I drive because I have to not because I like to. In the summer I'm willing to walk to a place as long as it's within 10km. Having a car doesn't mean you always have to use it, it's there for convenience. It just feels like some people become too dependant on their car. I walk as much as I can, I live downtown to accommodate this. I had a friend from the suburbs come over once to go out. The restaurant was 8 blocks away and they asked when we would call the cab.....8 Blocks! With lights included that was a 10-12 minute walk, waiting for a cab would have taken just as long and it was a nice summer night out.

    If you're getting on fine without a car don't feel pressured to drive. It seems as though you can drive if an emergency were to arrive, you have done it before despite your fear. This is all you really need. I would take a drivers ed class every few years though, just to keep your skills up and maybe boost your confidence level.

  19. D N M from Canada writes: Anvil Rob: A good husband is more than willing to do things, even mudane things, for his wife.

    The fact that the 2 women you spoke of walked everywhere instead of driving gave them exercise which is the exact opposite of lazy. Phobic of driving? Sure, but you can't be lazy and walk everywhere, that just doesn't happen.

    My grandfather and father brought home eggs, milk or bread happily (with a smile and a kiss on the cheek as I remember it) for the woman who took care of them, their children, and their home. Your 2 (fictional?) women could have done SO much better, poor things....
  20. Brenda P from Vancouver Island, Canada writes: Hallelujah! I'm not the only one who doesn't want to drive!! Thank you so much for writing this article!

    I got my license thirteen years ago (after driving classes in Downtown Toronto at rush hour... yikes...) and haven't driven since then. And I'm pleased to say my blood pressure is just fine, and my doctor couldn't believe how long I could stand during the delivery of my first child -- thank you, walking legs.

    Today, we live in the downtown core of a small city, and my kids and I walk everywhere. I know all about feeling somewhat sheepish and dumb when I have to say, 'I don't drive' but now I tell myself that all those years of not driving has been a big help to the environment and my health -- long-term investments that outweigh the short-term benefits of driving.

    However, I do feel guilty about relying so much on my husband, mother and friends for rides when they are needed. So, I have resolved to re-learn how to drive for those times when it's absolutely necessary, although I have been procrastinating a bit about this. But at least this isn't Downtown Toronto during rush hour...
  21. KP Canadian from Canada writes: There's lots of options other then relying on others.

    I didn't drive when I lived in T.O. because it was cheaper and easier to take public transit.

    I have a fair number of friends who don't drive for the similar reasons. They don't rely on others they rely on themselves, public transit, and the occasional taxis. Many grocery stores will deliver for free or a small fee.

    A recent article, in Vancouver, reported about a mother of two young children who strives to be environmental and either cycled with her kids or took public transit. Not as easy to get your kids around, but she proved she could get her little ones any where with a few different options.
  22. Megan Ratcliffe from Toronto, Canada writes: Yay!! I loved this article, because I do not drive either. LIke the author I did try and get my license, I had my G1 for a while, but was unsuccessful in getting my G2. ANd as I was moving to Toronto for school anyway it really didn't matter. Then, a couple of months ago, I learned that the learning disability I had struggled with all through school, also affected my ability to drive..as in I cannot judge distance properly, and so when I tried to drive, I would either miss the turn, or stop way ahead of the stop sign or light.As a result, I have come to the conclusion that everyone else is safer if I stick to public transit, or walking. Sometimes I do feel as though I should try again, especially if I am going to my parents as they live in an area with no public transit, but my younger sister also lives in Toronto, and we can usually ride together. My parents and siblings all understand that driving is not something I will ever be able to do, so they don't mind picking me up. But I am also aware and do not ask for rides if I can help it. Keep your chin up Bonnie, and keep taking transit and walking.its good for you!
  23. Shanny Bee from Edmonton, Canada writes: I myself do not drive and it`s a personal choice. I dont have kids myself yet, but if I ever do have them, they will have fun on the bus and walk with me everywhere. It`s really not that bad. I live in Edmonton so there is a great public transit system going on as well. I actually enjoy myself when Im bussing`to my destination and it`s only one quick bus to work. Less hassle and much better for the environment!
  24. BC Philosopher from Canada writes: You aren't entirely alone in being blocked by human fears. To some degree we are all riddled by our fears, we navigate our life through what we are willing and unwilling to do and much of what we are unwilling to do is because of fear. There is an older movie whos name escapes me, a man dies and is judged in heaven and the key aspect of the judging is how much of his life is controlled by his fears. It is an interesting movie and an honestly profound insight into human behaviour. I was riddled by fear and a lack of self confidence most of my life. Bullying divorced parents and a few other things lead me down that road. About 2 years ago I realized where I was and decided I couldn't tolerate it anymore. It has been a long and often painful road to change so much of who I am and what I do and am willing to do. Its worthwhile though, facing these things is the only way to move past them and so often the consequences of what we fear are far less than we fear them to be. I personally am with you in that I don't drive, but I am changing that this year amoung a great many other things. I have made a lot of progress but have so much more yet to do. Face the fear and move past it, the worst is in that single moment before that fear takes its deepest hold, once past it you never feel that same fear again.
  25. Darren X3 from toronto, Canada writes: Quite a few people here missing the point. There is a difference between choosing not to drive and being unable to due to fear. This is a phobia that is worth overcoming, if only for your own self-esteem. How can you encourage your daughters to face their fears when you will not face your own?

    Get your husband to drive you to a mall parking lot on Sunday morning, and do some driving. Get used to the gas and the brake. Get used to steering. Next, find some country roads and get used to driving on those.

    You might start to like it.
  26. Peter The Not Quite Great from Canada writes: A healthy dose of fear while driving would do us all good. Driving is an inherently dangerous activity and most of us (myself included) are far to blase` about it.

    This woman should get counseling though. She has a definite phobia that limits her, and her kid's lives, unnecessarily. She still might not want to drive most of the time but at least she will have the option.
  27. Peter The Not Quite Great from Canada writes: I suppose with the money saved from not driving taxis might be an option. It doesn't sound like the phobia extends to riding while someone else drives.

    And just wait until the kids are old enough to drive and you can bug them for rides to the mall!
  28. Andrea from Vancouver from Canada writes: Although we have a car, we strive for car-free living. We live downtown and walk to work, preschool, community centre, library, stores and so on. My friends often use taxis (with boosters or car seats in hand) to ferry their kids to places outside of walking distance. But there's also the bus.

    It sounds like the author needs to consider using taxis (bring a car seat) or transit to navigate around town. Help your children attend activities or playdates by embracing alternatives to driving. You might also want to relocate to a less car-centred area. I can't even imagine a world where someone without a car would be treated like a freak, but I live in urban Vancouver.
  29. J Broomer from Toronto (but really Etobicoke), Canada writes: My mother was a fine driver with one exception, backing out of our garage which was located behind the house and required a bit of an 'S' turn to miss the house, in the span of about 12'. When my father deemed me old enough, which was about 13, he taught me how to back the car out of the garage. After that, I made it a habit to ask if I could back the car out, as if my mother did so, I sat impatiently wondering why, oh why, couldn't she get the hang of this. I really couldn't imagine being without a car, I suppose if you live a block above or below Bloor Street between Jane and Runnymede, it's okay, otherwise out in the suburbs it's a nightmare.
  30. Lorraine Douglas from Canada writes: Thank you for writing about your anxieties about driving. I really understand them. I had a license for over 25 years but did not drive. But then eight years ago I went out practicing with a family member who was a driving instructor - lucky me! I gained confidence and learned how to make that dreaded left hand turn which was my major fear. There are pros and cons to driving as there are to every decision we make - but for me it is great to have that choice determined by what I want to do and not by anxiety.
  31. Western Girl from Canada writes:
    What most people here seem to miss is that the author herself has identified it as a problem, and is trying to justify it as a choice rather than as an incapacitating fear. Thing is, if she conquers that fear, gets her license, and becomes a confident driver, it can be something she uses as a tool when necessary and leaves behind when not. THAT would be exercising a choice. Casting her as an environmental hero completely misses the point (plus, she's increased her carbon footprint by having kids anyway, so that argument is moot). If she can beat this, something she now sees as insurmountable, it will help give her the confidence to handle the other challenges she will inevitably face in future years. I agree with the posters who encourage her to get help - there are lots of desensitization and cognitive therapy approaches that have a great track record at overcoming phobias.
  32. StelKel Ottawa from Canada writes: The biographical note says that the author lives in Toronto, but I assume this must mean the suburbs, since she stands out so much--I know many Torontonians, including those with children, who do not have cars. They are simply NOT a necessity in a city with a decent transportation system (at least, in the case of Toronto, if you can manage to live near a subway line).

    That said, I think that trying to conquer the fear would probably be useful. Not so that she can drive, but so that not-driving can be an active choice, rather than a phobic condition.
  33. Bob Cajun from Canada writes: afewacres ofsnow from Ferrara, Italy writes:

    .. I also think that the more education you have, the harder these things are, whether it is learning another language because you have moved to another country, or getting in your car and driving. I've noticed that people without a university education just get on with it instead of worrying about it ...........

    I can relate. I once got roped into a club at university by a buddy of mine. Turns out their club was doing an out of town outing. Problem is, of the 8 3rd year students, I was the only with with a driver's license. I was shocked. It is like all these people missed a stage of growing up.

    By the way, is it just me or is the proportion of women commenting on this story much higher than a typical Life article in the G&M? Does this phobia of driving have a gender divide or is it socially constructed?
  34. gloria garvey from Canada writes: How lame. I suppose it's a small luxury that you can indulge when you're married, the avoidance of driving. As a single woman, refusing to cope with driving would severely limit just about everything I do, from where I live to the work I do and how I spend vacation time. All the work I have done and the places I have lived for the past 21 years have required me to drive. I can imagine the looks I would have gotten and the jobs I wouldn't have been hired for if I had said 'Oh, I don't drive'. Getting a dog to the vet is very difficult without a car. I'm glad I'm not like this because I would be forced to live in the middle of a large city, and could never go camping without prevailing on someone else to come along and do the driving. What a restricted life this woman must lead. I'd go crazy living like that.
  35. Jacaranda Jill from Australia writes: I've had a driver's licence for years, and have driven regularly, but never really enjoyed it. For a couple of years I lived in downtown Ottawa, didn't have a car, and either hoofed it or used buses and taxis to get places. I loved it, and even using a taxi a couple of times a week worked out to much less than the cost of owning, maintaining and insuring a car. These days, I live in a smaller town and have no choice but to use the car pretty regularly because local public transport is just about non-existent. I still don't really enjoy it, but I do it. I think that, if you live in the core of a city, not using a car makes a lot of sense both financially and environmentally. Further out in the 'burbs, or in rural areas, you don't really have the choice: driving becomes a necessary life skill like any other. It might be one you only use minimally, but it is one you need to have.

    But I'm not sure this story is really about driving; it sounds to me that it is more about fear, and being unable to deal with it. And fear is a crippler. So yes, I think the Mom needs to get counselling and overcome that particular phobia. She may never need or want to drive much, but she should let that be her choice, and not the phobia's choice. And, in the meantime, pay for taxis to take the kids to and fro, because they shouldn't have to sacrifice their sleepovers or gym classes because Mom doesn't drive.
  36. David Wilson from Toronto, writes: imagine the streets of this city without cars, or, say, with only TTC & essential cars, maybe your 'phobia' would make good policy :-)
  37. Lynn Hughes from Toronto, Canada writes: I live downtown now and love it, but when my kids were growing up I lived in small to medium-sized cities and I, too, was the only non-driving mom I knew. At first I felt guilty about inflicting this burden on my children. But when they reached their early teen years, I realized that they were much more self-reliant and independent than their parent-chauffered friends. Their familiarity with public transportation gave them a sense of mastery and self-confidence. Also, since it was easier for us to go to the nearest large city than to get around in our local area, they had gone to plays, museums, etc. They are both grown now and, though they could be drivers, they have chosen instead to live a car-free, urban lifestyle. My only regret is that I didn't move to the city earlier. What a joy to know I am no longer a freak!
  38. Denise Mom to 4 from Saskatoon, Canada writes: We bike, bus and walk. In case of emergency we occasionally resort to taxi. I took have my license and do not drive. My kids have gotten used to it and some of their friends have even commented on how much fun taking a bus is. I simply cannot bring myself to drive, or trust others on the road. Yes, I do have a phobia and maybe with therapy it might be 'cured', but my lifestyle is really not suffering that much. I have enough anxiety in my life with 3 kids at home and a full time job, do I need to add the anxiety caused by driving to this mix. My mind and body say NO!
  39. KP Canadian from Canada writes: I wonder how healthy all this validation is for someone with a phobia?
    If one is trying to change themselves, doesn't it just perpetuate the fear. It seems that she's entitling herself to be fearful and expects all around her to support her on this issue. Best of luck.
  40. Peter Stern from Toronto, Canada writes: Her daughter can't go to a friend's house or do gymnastics if it's not within walking distance?

    That's ridiculous.

    Why can't they use the TTC?

    When I was growing up, my mom couldn't drive because she didn't have a drivers licence.

    I remember taking the bus and subway with her down to Honest Ed's and carrying the shopping back home.

    And failing that, they can always use bicycles... and get a Trail-a-bike for her daughter.
  41. GlynnMhor of Skywall from Canada writes: KP Canadian... writes: 'I wonder how healthy all this validation is for someone with a phobia?'

    I agree. It's a curable disability, but nothing to be commended or celebrated.
  42. Eat Your Weedies from Canada writes: What this person needs is not psychistric treatment or specialized care in phobias. Her problem is far more serious. She has a 'parlour' disease. The kind of mental anguish suffered by people that are disconnected with true pain and suffering.

    Remedy? Go somewhere where people must toil and strive to survive. You'll figure out what's a real boogie-man and what isn't in short order. Do this for your daughter's sake. There are enough true monsters not to have to go inventing unreal ones.
  43. Candice Bond from Toronto, Canada writes: I have never even had a driver's license, but living in the middle of the city, it's never bothered me, and I've never thought of it as a phobia. Besides, does anyone really want any more stressed-out, over caffenated soccer moms on the road? My husband, likewise, has never driven. Our son rarely ever complains of being tired, even on a long walk.

    Sure, plenty of people think we're nuts (we prefer the term "eccentric"), but if we mention environmental reasons, they usually change the topic for fear of being force-fed wheatgrass and tofu.

    If anything, we scratch our heads at our car-crazed neighbours. So many headaches. I can walk to the school faster than most people can drive, let alone find parking. Some people will literally drive three blocks, what's up with that? No, it's not always fun lugging the groceries home, but it's hardly the end of the world.
  44. Zoe Morrow from Canada writes: I wish more people would WALK instead of drive. So many people drive too fast, pollute our air and waste $$$. Walking is often a feasible alternative and so much healthier than driving.
  45. Alice B from Langley, Canada writes: I have never really liked driving, but I had to start when there was a bus strike in Vancouver and I couldn't face walking up Burnaby mountain every day to school. Thanks to those bus drivers I was able to conquer my fear (mostly). I would suggest that the author try to overcome her fear. Then she can be honest with her kids and say "I was very afraid to drive, but I learned to overcome it"

    Cheers

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