Look ma, no wheels!

30 Jul

Yesterday I had planned to attend the anti-fracking rally Bill McKibben hosted on Capitol Hill, but at the last minute I decided to do something a bit more committed to reducing fuel consumption than simply carrying a sign: I sold my car.

In the four years I owned it, I put 15,000 miles on it. To reduce carbon emissions, I go out of my way to walk or take public transit, so I’d wager most of those miles were racked up driving to/from Michigan for holidays. It becomes more hassle than convenience to own a vehicle when you drive it that infrequently.

Since May, I’ve been preparing for a car-free life. I bought a bike and tested the ten mile commute between my place and Alan’s on 100 degree days. I started paying my car insurance on a month-to-month basis. And, demonstrating true commitment to the endeavor, I emptied the trunk.

This is what it contained:

  • A suitcase full of shoes I had forgotten about. I thought I’d lost multiple pairs when I moved two years ago. Turns out, I was driving them around to shoe stores to replace themselves. Doh!
  • A tent and camping gear. I’ve always liked the sense of freedom that comes with knowing I could just spontaneously decide to blow off whatever commitment I’m driving toward and end up at a campsite instead.
  • Brand new jumper cables. Alan gave me these after my battery crapped the bed two years ago. Murphy’s Law held true: The only times my battery died were when I didn’t own a set. They’re as good as insurance.
  • Three toothbrush/paste/picks and floss kits stashed after dentist appointments over the last year and a half.
  • Gobstoppers. It seems a box of them exploded back there. When I took a corner too fast, they would click around, kind of like a Driver’s Ed teacher tsking me. When it came to rounding them all up, I deduced that they must’ve come in a clown-car sized box, because they were endless.

So yesterday with an empty car, Alan and I headed to CarMax.

If you’ve never been to CarMax: It is a zoo. Especially on the weekend. It’s what I expect my ancestors encountered at Ellis Island: tons of hot, exhausted people with screaming kids clinging to them while playing an unacknowledged game of musical chairs for the few plastic seats that are available. Except I don’t think plastic existed when my family immigrated. And I don’t think they actually passed through Ellis Island. So in fact, the experience was probably nothing like anything my ancestors ever experienced. Sue me.

Alan and I attempted to pass the time by window shopping for a pretend new car, which prompted a debate about Cadillacs being “old people” cars (I said yes, he said no), a discussion of the merits of pick-up trucks, and the conclusion that if ever I buy a SmartCar, Alan will opt to meet me places.

Because it was approximately 200 degrees out, all of that transpired in about five minutes before I decided to duke it out for a seat in the air conditioned lobby. Alan continued to poke around, and after about 40 minutes the salesperson (buyperson?) found me to say they had an offer.

My palms were sweaty. What dollar amount would cause me to leave the lot carrying my vehicle tags in a backpack? I’d given it a lot of thought: Pretty much anything over one dollar, because I sure as hell didn’t want the time I’d spent sweating to be for naught.

Carmax may claim they don’t negotiate, but I’m going to say their strategy is pretty brilliant: I will accept whatever offer you make, as long as it guarantees I won’t have to come back here.

And so I took it.

My key ring seems empty without that huge Volvo key on it. I keep thinking I’ve grabbed Alan’s keys by accident. But you know what? It lightens my load, so it’s all good.

Otherwise, I might just buckle under the weight of my own self-righteousness. And nobody wants to see that.

Or maybe they do, if self-righteousness looks like this:

5 Responses to “Look ma, no wheels!”

  1. ldsrr91 July 30, 2012 at 5:33 pm #

    You don’t own a car … the car owns you. How in the world did that guy get all of those boxes on that bicycle (tri-cycle) that in itself is simply amazing.

    Good luck on the no car thing.


    • pithypants July 30, 2012 at 6:30 pm #

      Well said! And I think that guy is under-employed if he’s capable of balancing a ride like that!

  2. thesinglecell July 30, 2012 at 9:58 pm #

    I give you credit. There are now three ways we are not the same person: 1. I don’t camp; 2. I haven’t gone to the dentist three times in the last year and a half; 3. I could NEVER give up my car. I almost got a job in NYC once and my whole hang-up about it (not really) was that I would probably have to give up my car. That’s an impressive (lack of?) commitment.

  3. lexy3587 August 1, 2012 at 10:01 am #

    congrats on your new car-less lifestyle… and your high level of dental care 🙂

  4. hollybernabe August 7, 2012 at 11:49 am #

    Good for you! I sold my car this week, too. I find I’m walking even more than I already was (and I walk a lot). The one drawback to no car is public transportation for those longer distances, though. I always manage to get stuck by the weird/stinky/talking-to-self person. I like to bicycle, too, but I need to get my bike fixed up before I can ride it. It has a winter’s worth of rust on the chain and it needs a major tune-up. Once I get it fixed, I’m looking forward to not needing the bus much.

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