A Year of Carlessness

It's been a year and a day since I wrecked "my" car—spinning out from some black ice in the fast lane on I-94, ending up three lanes over and down the hill and smashed into a harmful, helpful tree (at least I didn't end up in the creek!).

I survived, obviously. I survived the crash, which is the important thing. Then I survived the carlessness. The car connected me to my boyfriend, living then in Detroit, endless miles away (okay, like 42). Then the car was gone. But he got a car. I took the train. Sometimes the train even showed up when it was supposed to! (I was unlucky in that my most frequent train-riding coincided with the Norfolk Southern debacle resulting in "up to 90 minute" delays. On top of the already frequent 1-3 hour delays, come on, guys, get with the future. By the time MDOT decided to buy those tracks—at which point I assume they stopped fighting and making people late on purpose constantly—we were together in one city.) Sometimes the train showed up at four a.m. and I was in bed and I don't remember how that affected the weekend anymore—so obviously, we survived.

And my fridge survived, too. I walked to buy all the frequent groceries at the co-op, even though it's more expensive. I even ate peanut-butter pitas for lunch for a few months, and was sort of forced to buy organic. Kroger and Trader Joe's and all the rest became always-communal adventures, which is mostly fine.

My bike, already a frequent companion while in Ann Arbor, rose to new heights. My boyfriend's apartment on the other side of (central) Ann Arbor didn't feel far away. There was no faster way to get from job A to job B, except maybe a moped. Then the rain and snow and ice came, and everything is now half an hour apart on my ever-plodding feet, but it'll be okay. I got a puffy coat with a fur-lined collar as well as fur-trimmed hood (all fake of course), and me and my leggings under my jeans with my wool socks and snow boots and everything else? We regularly walk 60-90 minutes in one day and love hate survive are okay with it partway through most walks. (Remember that time I said I was sick of first person plural? Probably not, that was three-plus years ago. Anyway, this appears false because I was 'we' with my car, and my cats, and friends (girl- and boy-), and now even with my clothes.)
Look at that fur collar and that Fishbowl-glare. It's the best I can do on such short notice.
Like anything else that breaks or you break up with (mainly the latter), you forget what it was like to be together. I don't think about it that much. I'm a girl without a car. I manage, and I also sort of hang onto people and jump at every chance to be a real suburban consumer (not that I really want to be that). I was never the person with an entire backseat of dirty clothes or old books or even just CDs. I had my ice skates and sometimes a sled or winter boots in the trunk, yes, yet I didn't live from my car. I mainly only used it to buy groceries, pick up roommates, and drive to my parents or my boyfriend. It really belonged to my parents, or technically to them but really to me, and so I acted like my parents and I kept it cleanish and called it "the Accord" to all interested parties (i.e. parents, brother).

But the car was part of me. (And ten minutes ago, I knew exactly how; then I forgot.) It wasn't just the hours I spent sweating in it in the hot heat of air-conditionless summers, or the nights I spent singing in it, driving when I should have been sleeping. It wasn't just the relationships it maintained, the road trips, the reluctant goodbyes. Oh, right, of course, the reason Americans Drive Cars and stand in the way of beautiful public transit like that of Germany, which I miss every day—it was the freedom. The freedom and the feeling of power that the freedom granted me. I could work until 11:30 on Friday nights and still wake up with my boyfriend on Saturday morning, even though he was in a different city. You could propose the idea, I could offer the car and probably drive most of the way. I guess I liked performing feats as well as making plans all on my own. Though the distances haven't changed, without my own car, people and places are farther away from me. And that stinks.

But—we all already knew cars were more dangerous than planes or trains or most things we encounter on a day-to-day basis, right? Drew totaled the car he used to (literally) live in, Ali flipped over in her SUV last winter, I crashed my car, Ali hit a deer, Emma only has one actual headlight and one functioning side mirror, and on and on. But I was reading about sunscreen, and then I was reading about the safety of the HPV vaccine (which is safe, duh), and then the bubble for likelihood of dying in a car crash was WAY BIGGER THAN EVERY OTHER DANGER-BUBBLE. (Except cervical cancer, that bubble was also very big and that is why you get vaccinated.)

Trains, people. We need a ton more trains.

1 comment:

dandelionia said...

yes! yes! yes!

also you are awesome.

I'm even going to sign this with my real username.