Friday, September 3, 2010

Transportation Meditations: Part 1, Cars.

How we get from Here to There is important.

Transportation is a big deal.
An entire perspective can be altered by how you choose to get around.
I'm fortunate enough to have a plethora o' choices about how to move myself through the world,
and I'll be exploring some of those choices right here.

My personal car history:

I learned how to drive in my grandma's Lincoln Towncar.
It was an opportunity for her and Mr. Ray (her 6th, 7th? husband) to have cocktails in the backseat while I chauffered them through the scenic country backroads of Lulu and Sanford and Raiford.
"Look. A cow."
Once, I drove right up to a gas station and managed to wedge the whale of a car between the gas pumps and the gas station door, effectively trapping 4 or 5 people (about half of our small town!) inside.
Oh how they tapped and banged on the Quick Stop door, oh how they rolled their terrible eyes.

During my junior or senior year in high school, I acquired a white Ford LTD, which was a former police car. I used The Man's car to skip school a few times, making my transgressions doubly delightful.
Teenaged Me and the Freedom of the open road were a heady mix. I could not be chained.
I could not hold still for two seconds. That first car didn't last long.
It blew a gasket on a lovely green, horse-filled hill between Gainesville and Lake Butler.
Sarah and George were my passengers. We were returning home from Christmas shopping.
Fa La La La La La La La.

Next car in line, a little used Mazda.
From my father, as a freshman, to commute to the University of Florida.
Alas, I wasn't serious-minded enough (yet) for college.
And unfortunately, the Mazda leaked streaks and quart after quart of oil back and forth.      

Next up, a series of used little beaters.
Threadbare tires. Squeaky brakes.
Spilled milkshakes that glue hair and grime to the seats and windows.
Cars that appealed to me because they were cheap
and tied in to some crazy death-wish that ruled my 20's.  
One dented blue vessel that went sailing across icy Minneapolis streets, no snowtires.
One egg-shaped car that haunted late-night dives throughout grad-school in Tallahassee.
Can't remember which car I was in, listening to R.E.M.,
when I had a sudden urge to drive right off a bridge. 
Not that R.E.M. was feeding a suicidal tendancy, I was mostly just bored and melancholic,
had no direction, and desperately wanted something, something, anything to happen in my life.
And I imagined that the car would just float down the river,
bobbing up and down like a shiny piece of tackle.

But when I became pregnant with Noah, I insisted that everything be safe and clean, including my car.
(I shuttered to think that I could be stranded on the interstate
 in the middle of nowhere with a wailing infant in a broken-down old beater,
raditor a sprayin', hazard lights a flashin,' smoke a trailin' up towards heaven).
I assumed that the only responsible thing to do
would be to shell out a ton of cash (every month) on a new, reliable vehicle.
Here enters my current Mom-mobile. Devoid of personality.
Invulnerable to the world. A protective bubble sealing me and my family in snug and tight.
Of course, the feeling of invulnerablity is an illusion. Even though I feel in control behind the wheel, I'm still relying on everyone else on the road to uphold their end of the social contract. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don't. Sometimes people are idiotic, and sometimes people have accidents.
We all know the car-crash statistics.
My husband's father was killed in a car crash a few years ago.
No one really knows if the sun was in his eyes, or if he glanced down to turn up the radio.
But we know he ran a stop sign.
And kept running it until he collided with a car carrying a woman, 8 months pregnant.

I have been entertaining the idea of getting rid of my car altogether now that we have so many other options here in Takoma Park/DC. A bus, a train, a bike, my own two feet...can get me from Here to There as well.
However, I have been steadily bumping into my own limitations. For example, I've realized I'm not Superwoman, and as much as I like riding bikes, it's not possible (well, it's possible, just not probable)
to lug Noah and his little bike trailer up and down hills and through traffic.
To be completely honest, I do feel more vulnerable, less in control, when I'm not driving a car.
And that feeling is magnified, oh about one hundred quatrillion times when Noah is in tow.
But I also feel seperate from a certain reality, a certain truth, a new mindfulness that can be found by getting from Here to There another way. I'll share my thoughts and experiences with other transportations soon.

To be continued...  


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Gray Sea

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