It’s been almost a month since I’ve driven a car and it’s been quite nice. I don’t miss it, not even a little.
I grew up in a place where you have to own a car to have any quality of life — or to avoid the inconvenience of making the decision not to own one, or worse not being able to afford one. The nearest grocery store to my house was a forty-five minute walk, each way. Or a ten minute bus ride, on a bus that came about once every twenty minutes. Everybody in my neighourhood had to drive to the grocery store if they wanted to pick up some milk.
Now I live a two minute walk from two different grocery stores, a metro station, and a shopping centre that meets almost all consumer needs I may have. The metro is excellent, coming once every four minutes during peak hours and every six minutes during non-peak hours, and then every twenty minutes after mid-night — yes this town has night transit and it is amazing. In Calgary the bars would thin out as last train approached — the time when you could leave and catch the last train of the night. It didn’t make any sense that there was no transit after midnight, especially on weekends. Even just the c-train would have been something.
Then there are every forty-five minute buses, that sometimes don’t come. Or the once every hour bus that you miss when it’s minus thirty and snowing. Or the bus that comes halfway between when the previous bus was supposed to leave and the next bus was supposed to arrive. You are never quite sure whether it is late, or early, or just off. There is a reason everyone owns a car. The problem is that when transit sucks no one takes it, so no one will invest in it and it continues to suck. Thus everyone continues to drive everywhere.
Driving never came very naturally to me. It is stressful and a lot of responsibility. I was always far more inclined to be the passenger if the opportunity presented itself.
Traffic jams were the worst. There is nothing like the feeling of sitting in stop and go traffic knowing that it is going to take an hour and a half to do a drive that normally takes ten minutes. You could be doing almost anything with that time, instead you have your foot pressed on the break, and your eyes locked on the car in front of you scanning for any movement whatsoever. This time feels like it is a total waste. You are not moving forward, and you are not doing anything productive. Instead, the stress builds, and builds. Every time I am in one of these jams I can feel my life getting shorter and shorter.
Then there is parking. A nemesis that bests me most of the time. I am bad at parking. I cannot pull nicely into a tight spot between two cars and then have it so that passengers on both sides of the vehicle can open their doors. I am bad at pulling out as well. I usually feel totally blind just waiting to hit something. Then there are those moments when you are unable to find a parking spot all together and drive around endlessly searching for one. Then it is so so expensive. It always feels like you are throwing money away.
Parking tickets are the cherry on top of this nightmare. In my experience they are mostly arbitrary, and for infractions you didn’t even know it was possible to commit until you read the ticket. You are punished for being a mm too far or too near, or for the shear inability to read signs — an enigma machine is the only sure fire way to decipher Calgary’s parking signs. They are often numerous and confusing. They say contradictory things. Snow lane signs and handicapped signs look very similar. There are a lot of times listed, and a lot of does and don’ts.
I have not parked for a month. I have not walked back to my car fingers crossed I didn’t commit a surprise parking infraction, and I feel so much more content because of it.
Walking, taking transit, and biking are far better solutions. You get a lot more exercise, or time to read. You don’t have to worry about getting back to your car, or about having one beer — although this may not apply cycling.
There is one thing I do miss about driving: blasting music with the windows rolled down. I think it is something I can live without.