Saturday, June 28, 2008

Divorcing the car

Over a lifetime I've had a changing relationship to car ownership. When I was a teen I desperately wanted to learn how to drive, as I'm sure all teens still do. But it was the early 60's, the Canadian prairies, and I was a girl in a farm family which had yet to become egalitarian in how it treated its son (my brother) and me (the oldest but a mere female). My mother did not acquire a driver's license until well into her thirties.

A memory snippet from around the age of ten: I remember her practicing with the family car (a powder-blue 2-door '53 Ford Meteor), steering it carefully around the yard with her glasses (cat's eye shape, framed in reddish brown across the top, little sparkles in the corners) perched on her nose, looking very focused, very aware of her responsibility for the control of hundreds of horse power. She thought there was no need for me to learn to drive or get a license. My brother however was encouraged to get a license and a car as soon as possible. Not fair.

At the age of twenty five, long after graduating from physiotherapy school and feeling very definitely like an adult, I took driving lessons. At age 28 I bought my first beater, a green '74 Chevy Nova. My anger at my mother's mean sexism finally could abate. I felt like I had the world by its tail. Wheels at last. Driving victory was mine.

I loved driving. Took long trips. Explored. A couple Toyotas after that, a Ford hatchback, and this last car (which I will say goodbye to tomorrow), an Olds, the one and only car I've ever had that had air conditioning. All have been second hand.

It is thirty years later and the honeymoon is long over. I'm fed up with owning a car. My car sat idle, mostly, for the past year, as I learned and practiced how to be carless again. This decision to finally let go was not taken in haste - I remember vividly how much I used to love being a car owner/operator, how much I once associated it with independence - but... the thrill is definitely gone.

I'm tired of getting the car fixed, putting in gas, washing it, checking the tires.. all the stuff one does with a car. Actively loving and caring for it. I'm tired of paying for insurance on a big hunk of metal that just mostly sits there. And I'm really annoyed that the battery died because of letting it sit and not burning up gas. Thanks a bunch. Here I was being good to the planet and the battery dies from not being used. Time to kiss car ownership goodbye.

I'm looking forward to joining a car co-op - I'll be able to drive when and if I need to, but I won't have any responsibility for upkeep. I'll save a small fortune in insurance. Nothing will be in my parking spot but empty space. Decluttered.

With the money I get for the car I will be able to afford a new laptop, something I'll really get a lot more use from. The deal happens tomorrow, for cash. By Sunday evening I'll be carless and will feel much less encumbered by life.

Monday Jun 30:
Well, I'm still a car owner today... "the best laid schemes 'o mice and (wo)men gang aft agley" and all that. The car was inspected by the prospective new owner this morning (instead of yesterday) and he likes it. But he wants to bring cash (fine by me), and can't until Saturday July 5. Our new time is 8AM Saturday morning. I'm still very much looking forward to being a carless person.

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