Monday, February 26, 2007

car-free at last

Not wanting to wait too long between posts, I'm attempting this one without having a clear idea what to write about. It's not that everything's great- it's that everything's in limbo. My house is not sold. My child's father still hasn't filed for custody or visitation rights, so the possible impending court case remains to be seen. Big question marks loom large.

That must be disturbing, because when one of my best friends called last night, I snapped and snarled, then explained that I have way too much going on- too much work, too many extra demands, and on top of that my 16-year-old Honda is making noises that sound like a wheel is ready to pop off. Just thinking about how on earth I'm going to manage to take in my car to the shop and still manage to get the child to school and myself to work is completely overwhelming. This is the perfect example of how our isolated society doesn't work. In a more ideal society, I'd be living amongst family, and "my people" would be there to help me out with the car problem.

That concept makes me think of my mother. She always used to fret that I lived so far away from home, with "no support system," as she lamented. I used to just blow her off, which is easy to do when you're 21 and have a brand new Toyota which you haven't yet totalled with your youthful driving habits.

For a long time now I've been stating that I want to move close to downtown, where reliance on the automobile is minimized. It's amazing how last night I came to realize that although I certainly do have a full plate, ripe with things I could worry about, it was the issue with my car that finally sent me over the edge. That's how significant THE CAR is, even in the life of a person who detests IT!

I show my opinion of THE CAR by refusing to give in to society's dictates regarding what type (and age) of car I should be associated with. I refuse to funnel my money into THE CAR (although, make no mistake: old cars are not cheap to maintain).

Yet THE CAR is now ruining my life. How did that happen? Well, let's take a look at where I live. Although located within this city's freeway outerbelt, my house is maybe 10 miles from downtown, and 4 miles from the child's school. The absence of sidewalks in my neighborhood shows the mentality of its developers: THE CAR rules. If, heaven forbid, something happens to your car, you'd better have another one standing by in your 3-car garage. THE CAR is mandatory, a veritable sine qua non.

The fact that the child's school is 4 miles away is another indicator of the times. I grew up in a bygone age when most kids actually walked to school. Children automatically exercised daily, just by doing what they had to do, and obesity was rare. But THE CAR changed all that.

Tomorrow I will rise at the crack of dawn, drive the old Honda to the shop (unless a wheel falls off en route), walk 2 miles back home on still-ice-covered streets, then use my superhuman powers to somehow maneuver the child onto a city bus on which I will transport him to the vicinity of his school. Then we'll traverse the tundra until, God willing, we reach his classroom.

Tomorrow we'll discover what it's like to be car-free.


Desiree said...

Awww Betty that really is such a drag! I can so relate cause I've been there and I'm always just a break down away. I don't have much of a support system either. I hope the weather is nice where ever you are! So you wont be walking in the cold!

Betty said...

Dear Desiree,

Well, the weather isn't too great. It was darned cold this morning, but the worst part was slipping on the ice. I can't shake the chill that has taken me over.

But there is good news. I didn't break any bones on the ice, and the shop just called me to say that my car's front axle has gone bad. It's their fault, because they just replaced that axle last September! It won't cost me anything! Except a lot of hassle, that is. I haven't figured out how to pick up my child from school today or how to deal with tomorrow. One minute at a time....


Dana said...

I hope your experience wasn't too bad. I know what it's like to be without a car. There are a few new neighborhoods around here that were built to be more like the old-time towns with a town square and nearby shopping. Too bad we can't all live like that anymore. Good luck!

Betty said...

Dear Dana,

I have been really curious about those new neighborhoods you're describing. I don't think there are any where I live. Where do you live? And I agree that it would be great if we could all live like that! I am stranded again today and wondering how much longer I can do this!


simply me said...

Dear Betty - I am with you honey, having driven an old Volvo that broke down about every month costing more than I ever dreamed including emotional damage. I grew up in the city and no one I knew even had a car, my boyfriend in H.S had to borrow a car from an uncle just to look presentable. Eventually I had to break down(living in the suburbs where buses are hard to come by) and buy my Honda Civic. I refuse to be identified by the car I drive (even though my son is horribly embarrassed by this).

Blessings to you and may your journey with your car be safe and cheap....

Betty said...

Dear Simply Me,

I just got my car back, and it didn't cost anything for the new axle (except 2 days of walking, bussing and begging for rides) because it was the repair shop's fault. (They had just replaced the same axle in September.)

My son, who is in 3rd grade, already has gone through a phase where he was embarrassed by my car! I'm working on that one....


garnet david said...

Hey Betty,

I tried to comment a few days ago, and wasn't able to. The system was down.

This is a productive vent. It helps keep momentum toward your goal of living downtown.

We are all unwitting memeber of THE CAR club, some more willing than others. It takes energy to fight that, but your choice to live downtown, car free, helps point us all in the right direction.

Ada said...

Sorry about your car troubles, but I understand your point about our societies dependency on the CAR.

Hope things start to get better soon.

Betty said...

Dear Garnet,

Yes, you're right. The one thing that bothers me about where I live now is the outrageous volume of traffic I deal with on a daily basis right near my house. And everybody just seems to blindly accept that the motor vehicle has taken over our world.


Betty said...

Dear Ada,

Thanks for stopping by. And things are better already- my car is back in business, running like new (yet again). I'm glad about that, I think.....


Lisa said...


I think you're on your way to the city! You're getting the red you just have to see them waving in front of you. Your "signs" are there. No one's gonna come up to you and say, "Betty, you will move downtown, you will be okay, everything will work out." You just have to hold your nose and jump! And you, my friend, will be car-free and fine. Well, maybe not COMPLETELY car-free...but completely fine, nevertheless!

Betty said...

Dear Lisa,

I think I'm going to print a copy of your comment, enlarge it, and hang it on my wall! It's exactly what I want to hear!


P.S. The chipmunks are out of hibernation. Winter must be over! (Just in case you thought I finally had clarity!)

Kacey said...

Hi Betty--- I wish you lived near me --- I'd run you around. I feel so badly that your life is so tough right now. If you were my daughter, I'd be having conniptions. Maybe you could start a buddy club---like, get three or four other women to join you in literal car pooling. If one car breaks down, the others would pick up the slack while it is being repaired. Everyone needs to have a support system in place. I don't see how anyone can be totally without a car --- I would feel like my hands were tied behind my back. Things have to get better for you, they can't get much worse.

Betty said...

Dear Kacey,

I do believe that you would help me out if you were here! Things are better already- my car is fixed. You know, the funny thing is that I don't know any other single women who would join my buddy club. Every woman I know seems to be hooked up with some kind of partner, boyfriend, husband, etc.

Thank you for caring.


Sideways Chica said...

Dear Betty...

I've been gone and I do hope everything worked out okay for you and the child. Like Kacey, I would run you around also. We would have to stop and have coffee and a nice long chat though. Wow. You, me, and Kacey. What a great time we would have. Lisa too...and Shankari and Priya!

Ciao bella...I'm having a mocha with you right now in my mind. Enjoy!

Betty said...

Dear Teri,

I'm not the least bit surprised to hear that you too would run me around! It's amazing how important my blogging buddies have become. When people who are physically present seem to be in short supply, the knowledge that I have an ever-present virtual support network is remarkably comforting.

That mocha is definitely working for me!


Angel said...

Good luck with no car! I didn't get my driver's license until I was 22, and I lived on my own since I was 17, so I spent all those years with my bike or my legs as my only tansportation! Ever since getting a car, I've gained so much weight and gotten so much less healthy... but it would be nearly impossible to have kids and no car, unless you lived near the bus! I wish society didn't make it that difficult!

- Angel

Betty said...

Dear Angel,

I got by without a car until I moved to this city. In this city, it's impossible to get by, especially with a child, without a car. When I moved here, someone had just been fired from my workplace because he had tried to rely on the bus system instead of buying a car. I bought a car, but would love to find a way to once again get by without it!


Natasha said...

Well written article.

Anonymous said...