Friday, January 23, 2015

Baby, you can drive my car… but maybe you shouldn't

When I started my current job about 5 1/2 years ago, one of the things I was most excited about was that I could use the city bus system to get to work. I tried it a couple times my first winter when the snow was really bad. The next year, I decided to completely give my car up during the winter and if it went well, I'd sell my car in the spring. I haven't had a car of my own in about 4 years and it's been awesome.

Up until recently, the bus picked me up just past my driveway at about
8:52am and delivered me to the front door at work about 3 or 4 minutes later. And did the same in reverse bringing me home. The total cost of my daily commute was about $2.66. (The bus route has changed starting this month, but just adds a block or two walk to get to my new stop, nothing major.) I bought a carshare membership last year too, so now when my husband's car isn't available to borrow, I can use the carshare car that's kept in my neighborhood as well.

It's really worked out great for me. Prior to being a bus-rider and carshare-er, I had a 14 year old beast of a car that was eating a couple hundred dollars every quarter in repairs, not to mention the cost of gas & insurance and all that crap. I had to spend at least 15 minutes letting it warm up (and usually digging it out from all the snow) before it could handle the 2
minute drive to work. Which was a total waste of both gas and energy.

Sure, relying on public transportation takes a little bit of forethought. You need to have your moves planned in advance. But that's a good thing. It requires you to think about where and when you're going and do so in the most efficient way possible. I've learned to lump all my errands together when I have the opportunity, as opposed to making multiple trips for one or two things.

Of course, there's the environmental impact. I'm really proud that I've taken one car and all its emissions off the road.

And I enjoy riding the bus. I like to leave the responsibility to someone else, especially if the roads are bad. For a people-watcher and writer who is fascinated by characters, the public bus system is a veritable GOLD MINE. It is also just about the only way I will make it to work on time. Left to my own devices and not the bus schedule, I'm almost always a couple minutes late. But if it's the bus taking me, I have no choice but to be on time. Which I do greatly appreciate. It also forces your attention to stay focused on work. Once delivered to work, I have to stay there until my bus arrives to get me. There's no popping out to pick up treats at Dunkin Donuts or grab a latte at the coffee shop up the road. To do so using the bus would mean a major chunk taken out of my day that I really can't justify. But when I have a car at my disposal (and not the carshare car which I am charged for the mileage) I'm free to be as gadabout and spontaneous
with these excursions as I like. Which is not good.

My husband went to Utah for a conference/film festival this week, leaving me with the car. I was late just about every day to work; I ducked out whenever I felt like it to swing by the aforementioned Dunkin Donuts or Dolce Delight. And I nearly crumbled under the responsibility. Did I remember to lock the doors? What if I parked too close and the people in the next car scrape the door? Did I remember to close the garage door? What if the roads are slick from the snow coming down right now? I realized how many worries are taken care of for me or are not applicable when I ride the bus.

And my winter coat does not help matters. I have a heavy, calf-length fleece-lined winter coat that is a
godsend in the bitter cold weather we've been experiencing. When you're walking to the bus stop, then standing outside waiting for it to come by, you need to be bundled up well. However, the big bulky coat does not make getting into Brett's little Honda Civic very easy. I have to sort of fold myself into the seat in the tortilla of my winter coat and inevitably it elicits an audible grunt out of me that is really none too attractive. (Getting out is a sort of combination of frail elderly person who needs help coming to a standing position and morbidly obese person who can't bend over very well. Again, not the best way to make an entrance.)

So now that Brett's back from his trip, I'll gratefully go back to riding the bus this week. When you're not behind the wheel of a car very often, it can be nerve-racking when you are. You get out of practice; things that would've been instant and instinctual need to be consciously thought out. Not that I'm a danger when I'm on the road, but unlike most people who regardless of ability insist they are excellent drivers, I'm fully aware of my limitations.

To be truthful, I've never liked driving. I put off getting my license until two months before I turned 21 and I really only wanted it so I could get into bars. I took Driver Ed in high school (is it Driver's Ed? never was sure). We had a larger group for classroom instruction and then broke into two groups for driving time, boys and girls. The four girls in my group were by no means experts. One girl never could figure out where the indicator was for what gear you were in and played that damn thing like a slot machine. It was an utter surprise to her every time- you'd see her grip the handle and know she was thinking, "Come on… drive!"

"No, that's reverse. Try again."

"No, that's park. Try again."

My best friend, Mrs. Schmenkman*, was in my class and one day she slammed on the brakes so hard to avoid hitting a toad in the road, that it threw us all over the car and left our heads bobbling on our necks.

A couple years before this, I had been out riding my mom's bike and I rode right into the back tire of a moving motorcycle. I wasn't hurt- just flung into the air and landed in the grass on the other side of the road. It was apparently comparable to Pee Wee Herman's bike accident in Pee Wee's Big Adventure (according to my parents and grandmothers who were watching from the big picture window at our house, oy).

Mrs. Schmenkman knew this story as we climbed into the giant gunboat of a Driver Ed car our school had. During my turn behind the wheel (sitting on a piled up blanket so I could see over the dashboard) the teacher told me to go ahead and pull out onto the road. As we were going along, the teacher told me to relax and just "drive like you'd ride a bike." Mrs. Schmenkman started screaming and looking out for motorcycles.

* not her real name.
** Disclaimer: I did not take any of these pictures. You would be amazed at what you find when you google "weirdos on the bus."

1 comment:

  1. WAIT WAIT, sorry, but did Brett go to SUNDANCE??????? What a BADASS!