I have not owned a car since the summer of 1998, when I sold for a pittance a rattly Dodge Omni I had been driving for a decade. In New York City, I have only driven twice: once on the day I moved in, and once coming back from my summer class at Cornell. I hated it both times.
Yesterday, business brought me to San Diego, actually north of it, to Carlsbad. I drove from the airport the thirty miles north early in the morning. Keen observation showed that a holy mass of cars were traveling south, crawling along in a jerky fashion, like lazy bees.
Of course, the drivers of these cars would say that the benefit of living outside the city—a yard, barbecue, endless trips to Home Depot—outweigh the cost of the daily NASCAR event in which they are forced to participate.
I did my business yesterday and returned to my nondescript m/hotel room and realized that I needed toothpaste and razor blades. So I mapped out the location to the nearest stores and popped back into the car.
The store was only four or five miles from the hotel—four or five miles—but it took me almost fifteen minutes to get there. Chunks of cars would ooze from one traffic light to another. California, at least in this region of it, runs traffic lights on the theory that only one side of the four should be green at a time. Florida (near Lakeland) does this, too, far as I can recall. Hence the pileups at the lights.
But it was this I could not understand. A trip to buy toothpaste took me well over half hour. It didn’t help that the CVS was, to my city eyes, the size of Delaware.
When I was learning to drive, I lived in Northern Michigan where people were sparser than Republicans on the staff of the New York Times. And places where I had to be were separated by vast distances. The blond I was courting lay 56 miles distant. Driving Up North was, if not enjoyable, was at least not unpleasant.
In San Antonio, where the Air Force in its wisdom first placed me, there was this red 1965 Barracuda with bubble window and chrome gas pipe with which I was in love. But I had to sell it in 1986 when I was PCSed to Okinawa.
When I returned to the States, I bought the Omni. I never could do more than tolerate it, though. No radio, no AC, crank windows, bad brakes: cheap transportation.
Since repatriation, I cannot stand driving. It’s becoming worse as cars grow smaller. The rental car I have this time is an Aveo which resembles a circus clown car. I cannot see out more than a tiny portion of the windshield without bending forward and peering up. I have the idea that automotive engineers are unaware the humans taller than six feet exist.
Cars now run the price of small islands. And on top of that there are car washes, gas, oil, gas, insurance, parking permits, gas, tickets, maintenance, gas, and on and on.
So I ask you, dear reader, how do you cope?