Posts Tagged ‘commuting’

On The Brink Of Change

September 24, 2010

I feel really good about today. My pathway 3 application to the IBLCE was approved, and today I start my lactation course. I’ve been reading books about breastfeeding, mostly from a cultural and sociological perspective, and while it is fascinating to study and certainly critical to a comprehensive understanding of breastfeeding, I’m also very anxious to finally delve into the biology and clinical practice behind it.

Today is also the last day that I will be driving my car to drop Eve off at daycare and to go to work. I’m picking up a folding bike, a beautiful vintage Raleigh Twenty, which I will be using for mixed mode commuting. Starting on Monday I’ll be dropping the baby and the car off at daycare, then riding my bike to the rail to go to work. It’s the first step towards becoming a full-time bike commuter and I am excited.

While both of these things seem minor, they are actually pretty big deals for me. I spent most of my life being absolutely befuddled about what I wanted to do career-wise; I’ve been miserable at the same crappy corporate job for the past six years and to finally have a path – and to take a step onto that path! – is at once exhilarating and terrifying. In order to put my all into this, I’m eventually going to have to quit my job; and despite the fact that my job has always made me unhappy (and at a few times has been literally detrimental to my mental health and wellbeing and my physical health and wellbeing), I am really afraid to leave it because for almost seven years it’s been everything that I know. The idea of changing jobs scares the shit out of me.

Unfortunately, due to the bike-unfriendliness of my city, so does commuting. I didn’t grow up using buses or rails because my brother and I were never allowed to use them without my parents – and my parents refused to use them. We did everything by car, even little stupid trips a few blocks away. Cycling in the road scares me (although not as much as it did before I started doing it), taking the bus scares me, and riding on the rail scares me. Even walking scares me. I feel so vulnerable when I’m not in my car and I worry about people trying to hurt me whether it’s particularly warranted or not.

I’ve come to realize that my decision to go car-lite (with the eventual long-term goal of being car-free) requires much more mental rewiring than I anticipated. Just the other day, I rode my bike two miles to Home Depot to pick up some brackets. I felt so proud of myself for doing a chore by bicycle, and then soon after getting home I drove about 500 feet to a 7-eleven in my neighborhood. It wasn’t until I was actually parked in front of the 7-eleven that I realized what a massively stupid and thoughtless thing I had done. I tried to rationalize it by telling myself that they wouldn’t have let me bring my bike in anyway (and I don’t have a bike lock), but then another part of me said, “Well then you should have walked, asshole.”

I’m trying to undo the training that compels me to use my car for every simple thing. I have to remember to ask myself, “Can I do this another way?” before reaching for the keys. It’s a work in progress.

So yes, today is a day of changes, and despite my fears and reservations, I feel good about them. I have butterflies, but I’m trying to tell myself that butterflies are okay.

How about you, dear readers? Any changes brewing in the distance?

Kill Your Car: Thoughts on Autocide

September 6, 2010

To say that I’m not a fan of driving would be an understatement.

I fucking hate owning a car. I got my license on my 16th birthday, and like most privileged teenagers I was ecstatic over the sudden “freedom” I had. That feeling dissolved pretty quickly, as my parents  quickly made me my brother’s chauffeur. For some reason they didn’t want him to stay after school any later than humanly possible, so I was forced to quit every one of my beloved extra-curricular activities for my last two years of high school so that I could pick him up at the earliest possible moment. He, on the other hand, was free to join after-school clubs and sports, and then promptly sucked at telling me when he had practice or not, so that I spent entirely too much time waiting in the parking lot for him to finish (time that could have been spent on my own after-school passions). I rarely went into the school to find him because I was almost always sexually harassed by the students (it was an all-boy Catholic school).

Not that I’m still bitter or anything (okay, maybe I am, a little), but that experience ruined the fun of driving for me pretty quickly. It never came back. Since then I’ve always seen driving as a chore, something that has to be done or else nothing else in my life would go right: I wouldn’t get to work, I wouldn’t get food, I wouldn’t have fun, blah blah blah.

My brother and I were not allowed to take public transportation when we were younger, so I am embarrassingly ignorant and afraid of it. Even as recently as two years ago, when I took the train to work for a week or two while my car was in the shop, my mother practically begged me not to do it, bringing up tales of commuters being assaulted or murdered while on the trains. (She does the same thing every time we make the six-hour drive to visit Marcus’ family, even though we drive; in the months leading up to a trip, she tries to talk us out of it, talks to us as if we are doomed to die on the road, and frets aloud that she’ll never see any of us again.)

I put down a deposit on a road bike, which I will be picking up this Friday (Squeee! Can’t wait!). I started doing some reading about riding safely in the road (which I’ve also never done; you can imagine my mom’s reaction to the very thought of it), and started thinking about commuting to work. It’s something I’d have to work myself up to, of course; I’m not exactly in the best shape of my life (I blame that on the baby), but I’m no stranger to physical challenge either. If I can ride a unicycle 15 miles (which I have done and would like to do again someday), then I can ride a bike just 10 miles. It would take about an hour one way (according to Google; that seems too long to me), but I could always take public transportation back at the end of the day, if I felt like it. I could even alternate riding and driving (drive one day with the bike on the car, bike back home, bike to work the next day, drive back home, repeat) until I build myself up to making a round trip commute.

I just…really hate my car. I really hate the obligation I have to my car. A quick list of the pros:

  • Having a method of transportation in bad weather
  • Being able to go somewhere on the spur of the moment
  • Transporting the baby
  • Transporting stuff

And the cons:

  • Gas ($)
  • Insurance ($)
  • Car note ($)
  • Repairs ($)
  • Maintenance ($)
  • Traffic jams
  • Registration ($)
  • Inspection ($)
  • Time spent in the car is sedentary (unlike walking or biking)
  • Can’t study/read/write while driving (unlike on public transport)
  • Parking meters and garages ($)
  • Parking tickets ($)
  • Tolls ($)
  • Destroys the environment
  • Makes it easier to make large impulse purchases
  • Makes it easier to get fast food
  • I hate the actual act of driving

As you can see, my list of cons is much longer than my list of pros. And we could save a truly significant amount of money. But the times that we need a car, we really need a car. Fortunately, there are other ways of obtaining a car other than owning one: renting one, sharing one through service such as Zipcar, borrowing one. And the public transportation around here is not the most reliable; if I really want to get somewhere that’s not in biking distance, I’d have to be very prepared for possible delays. But I’m just not convinced that a life without car ownership is doomed to be miserable, tedious, or worrisome. So many people manage it out of necessity; I don’t think that it would be impossible for us to figure it out.

If we didn’t have to worry about getting Eve to daycare, I would have a serious talk with Marcus about just getting rid of the car altogether. But since we do have her, the best we can do is to try to go car-lite instead of car-free. I’m going to track my mileage this week (a normal non-daycare week) and then see how low we can bring that number. At least we only have one car to worry about instead of two.

And in the meantime I’ll dream about the day that I can kill my car and (most importantly) my dependence on it.

Shitty little Chevy, I wish I could quit you.