Herein, my car
Driving — it’s the only way to live.
As a car driver, apparently I’m among the hateful minority in my East Coast elite liberal urban community who doesn’t give a good goddamn about Our Planet.
Nor do I seem to care about Our Children who will inherit Our Planet and we need to Protect from Dangers such as Traffic.
Which here includes wealthy progressive parents picking up their kids at costly progressive private schools in giant 18 mpg Range Rovers, fueling deadly violent climate change storms with their idling exhaust as they wait forever for their kids to get in the car already while shushing that parent is on a work call.
Unless the kids are picked up by their wonderful nanny in her 28 mpg 1992 Toyota Corolla while the parents go to neighborhood meetings to fight expansion of other private schools that would bring child- and planet-endangering traffic. But they’re not NIMBYs.
In any case, I’m a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad person.
For instance, I fail to take public transit because while I love people, I don’t love the publics transiting there.
The dust on my city bike is collecting its own dust.
I don’t scooter and discard scooters on sidewalks for pedestrians to trip and break an ankle over and die. Nor do I roll on Heely sneakers, skateboard, or Onewheel self-balancing board.
Nor do I unicycle. My circus days are over. Long story short, my boss gave me constructive feedback that I wobbled, fell, and sued for workplace injuries too much.
I also don’t care to walk anywhere. Even in my $170 Altra Olympus 4 walking shoes that look as great as they feel. I don’t want to scuff them.
But I do get around.
Yes, in my car. Yes I say yes I will yes, I drive.
Even though my neighborhood walk score rivals China’s densest cities of Shantou, Xi’an, Chengdu, Chongqing and Hangzhou, where everyone has to walk or else be imprisoned and farmed for organs.
No doubt I need to attend Cars Anonymous (not by driving there). I love my car too much. I can’t live without my car. I use my car almost every day, especially when the drugstore says my prescription for Carmax is ready to be picked up.
I tried to quit my car cold turkey but then Whole Foods slashed prices on sliced cold turkey to $3.99/lb and I had to speed the five blocks to get there before rapacious astronaut Jeff Bezos jacked the price back to $9.99/lb.
The proud and virtuous carless haven’t made my car recovery easier with their barely concealed preening and implicit shaming.
That’s ok. I don’t need toxic positivity.
It’s toxic negativity that gets me out of bed in the morning. I rely on Venomous Vigor®, a single-origin, ethically sourced coffee with meth undertones. Or it might be a local microbrew IPA.
I also admire the example the carless exemplify as The One True Way.
Even more dedicated than U.S. postal workers struggling with Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s devastatingly inhumane cutbacks, neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays the carless from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.
(By the way, yes, “Louis DeJoy” is his both his real name and his exotic dancer stage name.)
Even the loving mates and children of the morally superior carless must appreciate, even adore, having to be carless. If any morally superior carless are fortunate beyond all odds to have mates and children.
Many singles won’t date the morally superior. Sanctimony is not attractive. Especially from oddballs who think everyone should be like them.
Few dateable people are excited to suffer the carless by always having to walk, bike, or take transit to be with them. Or always having to drive to the carless date’s neighborhood to meet, or pick them up, and drive them for anything not in their neighborhood. Or meet up downtown for, say, Shakespeare theater with a date who is sodden from Lear-ish storms or midsummer night’s sweat and railing at the heavens about climate change.
Although, in my experience, few morally superior carless refuse a ride.
In a recent neighborhood listserv discussion, a shameless car addict posted what can only be heard as a cry for help:
“Cars are needed for work, shopping, medical appointments, taking kids to nursery school, pre-K, school, college students to classes, etc. Buses and Metro are not reliable enough and do not go to all locations people need to reach.”
In another forum, a mom shared, “Why does no one tell you that when your kids hit the halls of high school, you are signing on to spend every available minute of your waking day in the car? Turns out teens have social lives. And sports. And after-school activities. And jobs. And volunteer requirements….”
In answer to such hollow excuses for driving, an enlightened carless neighbor offered teachings from personal example, like Gandhi being the world he wants to see.
“We use the Metro to do everything on your list. Sometimes we walk if the destination is close enough, for example taking our daughter to school. If we need to go somewhere the Metro (or a bus) can’t take us, we call a Lyft.”
If this chap and family can live in an urban apartment building with plenty of non-car transportation options, why can’t everyone?
The carless movement has its complications, however.
No worthy fight is easy.
For instance, my elite liberal urban community frets that the charming commercial strip of cherished independent small merchants is dying. (The businesses are small and dying, not the merchants.)
Many who can afford to live here thanks ultimately to capitalism blame greedy, capitalist Mr. Potter landlords for jacking rents. But the merchants (also capitalists) blame the lack of parking for customers who need to drive. The carless counter that the customers are mostly foot traffic. Which proves the merchants’ point as they beg to differ: The carless traffic is not enough to survive on.
Meanwhile, in a nearby neighborhood where there’s plenty of convenient parking, merchants are thriving and multiplying due to customers who drive, damn the Danger to Our Planet and Children.
Certainly PWCs — People With Cars — are selfish and insensitive.
Even if hale and hearty, many PWCs prefer to drive instead of trudging several blocks to Metro and then more blocks to destination. Or take 2–3 buses, waiting in bus “shelters” to transfer. Or arrive at their destinations dripping like a MacArthur Park cake left out in the rain. Or trundle their groceries, Target goods and infants through snow, rain, heat, gloom of night, and what they worry seems to be more street crime lately.
And shame on the wage workers who need to drive because they can’t afford to live in our community but who we depend on to build, fix or maintain our appliances, internet, homes, buildings and grounds, public transit, urban infrastructure, bike lanes, parklands, walking trails, etc., and suffer our carping if they fail to meet our needs. Many of our cherished merchants and their workers may also need to drive so they can serve us.
No doubt we should wean from car dependence with better public transit, more walkable communities and bike lanes, and hybrid or remote working if possible in the post-pandemic next normal.
For now, I say: Live and let drive.
Jeffrey Denny is a Washington writer.