That was then. Back when a fill-up cost less than $20 we were the otherwise normal people with quirky transportation habits. Now we’re hip. Visionary. Responsible global citizens.
Actually, we’re two people who really hate to be in the car. We make job and real-estate decisions based on our desire to minimize driving. Yes, we’ve saved a pile of money over the years by not having a second car, and yes, we are both deeply concerned about global warming. We also get really cranky if we have to be in the car for more than 20 minutes at one time. Most people feel liberated when they get behind the wheel. We feel trapped.
I’ve tried to explain to people that being a one-car family isn’t all that difficult, and I point out that we’ve done it most of our married life. They respond, “But that’s you.” That’s true, but they’re looking at the wrong side of who we are. They’re giving us too much credit for being tough, and they’re failing to see that we’re simply avoiding an unpleasant activity.
Perhaps that’s my calling in the fight against global warming—to point out that driving a car isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Drivers assume that leaving the car at home is a sacrifice. I see it as a gift. No traffic, no parking fees, the freedom to read a book while someone else drives. It’s a beautiful way to live. Someone needs to tell these people that the car is not their friend.
And yet, we own one. We’ve had many conversations about going entirely car-free, but something always stops us. We recall the last time we had to transport a feverish child to the doctor, or the trips to and from Boy Scout camp. Sometimes we need things from Target or Costco, and they—like most big-box stores—are in the suburbs. So we hop in the car and go.
We try to make the car our last resort, preserving its definition as a necessary evil of modern life in the United States. I admit that sometimes it’s a highly convenient evil. Our son walks to and from school—but when it’s pouring rain and he has to turn in his science project that day, I drive him. On that day we are thankful for the car. More often, the car is the annoying thing we have to park once we get where we’re going.
As I write this, two 20” tires were just delivered to our front door. They’re for a decades-old folding Raleigh 20 that my husband bought somewhere or another online. Bike purchases have begun to blur. He’s fixing it up to be my city-girl errand bike. I’m wondering how many groceries I can fit in the front basket and whether I can ride it while wearing a skirt.
Big grocery trips will continue to happen in our car, a ‘05 Pontiac in a shade of orange inexplicably called “Fusion.” We’ve gotten older and acquired some real estate, so these days we park our car in our garage and impound stickers are a thing of the past. Now we’re the ones leaving notes on neighbors’ windshields, trying not to sound too irritated when they park in the alley and block access to our garage. We can always get the bikes out, though—all 10 of them, with their fenders and baskets and headlights, just waiting to set us free.