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Busline Blog: Bye bye car

on April 11, 2009

Let me start out by saying that there is a reason that this is the Busline Blog, as opposed to the Car Blog or the Traffic Blog. I like riding public transportation; I take it daily, and I’ll walk pretty damn far to get to it. That said, I grew up in a rural place where getting a car was every bit the necessity and rite of passage of American myth. I was younger than my high school classmates and had to wait until halfway through senior year to get my license, and I never quite got over the exhilaration of that first solo trip.

Which brings me to the car I just gave up.It is a green, 1998 Honda Civic. Originally it belonged to my grandmother, and until 2003 it only went for local spins around her neighborhood in DC. Since then, it has made four cross-country trips (including one from Oregon to Connecticut via Mississippi) and traveled up and down both coasts with detours to Tennessee, Chicago, Canada, and Nevada. It’s been stolen twice, crashed once, and broken into so many times that I finally stopped replacing the radio and just duct-taped battery-powered speakers to my dashboard. The rear passenger-side door does not open, and the hinge of the front passenger side door has a dent so big, it lets in a torrent of air on the highway. I spilled a gallon of yellow paint on the front passenger-side floor that will never wipe clean. And the car is full of souvenirs, contributions from everyone who’s ridden in, driven, or stolen it: a sea-glass mobile dangling from the rear-view mirror; a pile of rubber bracelets, a purple Afro pick.

Last week, I gave my car to a dear friend in an arrangement that we are classifying as “semi-permanent loan.” She needs it more than I do right now, and I can borrow my boyfriend’s car in a pinch. So in spite of the feelings that inspired the preceding rhapsody, I thought I’d be fine with giving it up. And I am, mostly. But I was surprised at the resistance I felt in the final few days before she drove it away. I felt like I was ceding a part of myself, giving up not just the vehicle but the parts of my identity that are housed inside those broken doors.

I used to swear up and down that I’d never give up my car. I’d do all the other environmentally-friendly stuff you want, but you’d pry that gas pedal from my cold, dead toes. I don’t feel like that anymore. I think people should drive less, or not at all, especially in the city. But out on the highway, or in rural Massachusetts where I’m from, driving for hours with the windows down and the radio on is a feeling I wouldn’t trade.
So maybe I’ll get my car back someday.

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