Monday, December 30, 2013

A Carless Life

Over Christmas, I sold my car to my parents.

It's a good car - it was cute, fuel-efficient, spacious despite its small size, and had never had any mechanical trouble. I really loved that car. But in a city like Chicago, the car had become a liability. In my first six months of living here, I was slapped with ticket after ticket, unfamiliar as I was with the Byzantine parking rules that seem designed specifically to generate revenue from outsiders and newcomers. Then there were the sky-high gas prices, the tolls, the battle to find parking, the increased insurance, the monthly loan payments. To top it all off, I don't even use my car every day - I take the train to work. So as much as I loved the car, it had become a liability - an albatross hanging from my neck, weighing me down.

Needless to say, I'm glad that I sold it to my folks. However, I'm already noticing that the adjustments I need to make are more significant than I initially thought.

For one, my friends and significant others keep asking me to drive them places! I hadn't realized how often other people relied on my car; in that sense, I do feel a bit guilty about selling it. Perhaps if I had worked things out a bit differently, we could have shifted to a "communal car" system, which would have alleviated the financial burden of keeping my car. Although I suppose that is, in a sense, exactly what the ZipCar system is, so there you go.

For another, hearkening back to my previous musings about the cold, running errands is much more... complicated in this weather. Today didn't get warmer than the mid-teens; I wore long underwear beneath my jeans, and three layers beneath my down jacket. I planned out my errands so that I could make regular stops along my route to warm up - but I had to balance that with my other physical limitations, namely how much I can carry. Because I am a genius, I decided to actively improve my cooking at the same time that I forfeited my car, so my grocery trips have become much more frequent; no longer can I do the once-a-month stock-up of supplies.

When the warmer weather returns, I will probably switch to biking for much of my commuting about. However, I have an intense fear of biking in Chicago; I know too many people who were nearly killed by Chicago drivers, and the legal system doesn't really seem to care how many cyclists are maimed or killed each year. But I may have to overcome my fear of biking if I'm to adapt to a carless life in the city.

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