Slices of Life: Life without wheels
The bike saved me. It got me from here to there, and I even figured out how to fit a frozen pizza into a backpack. That is no small effort.
There are two types of people in this country: those who have a car and those who don’t.
There are good reasons for living on each side of the roadway. People without a vehicle often live in areas where public transportation is the norm and street-space is not. If you don’t have a garage or a driveway, you might have to pay for parking on a daily basis. That adds to the cost of car ownership, which is no fun. Multiply that if you have to drive around the block multiple times in search of an open space.
Parking aside, the act of driving on populated roadways requires a special skill set.
I traveled to New York City a few years back and saw this firsthand. The space between cars on all sides of the vehicle while traveling at 30-plus miles per hour is mere inches, and that is no exaggeration. It takes an especially talented, level-headed and barbaric person to dare to navigate such treacherous conditions. I may be barbaric, but not that talented or level-headed.
Give me black ice and the most white-out snowstorm in memory. I’ll drive through it with a confidence instilled by four-wheel drive, a good set of snow tires and decades of experience navigating blizzard conditions.
But bumper to bumper traffic with the possibility of road rage in the mix? I’m opting out, thank you very much.
Still, I’ve lived all my adult life with a vehicle to call my own. I didn’t live in New York City, or any other highly populated area where taxis trump personal transportation. I was rural, and rural demands a car of your own.
I always had one. At least one.
Until recently, when I found myself 1,500 miles from home, in a new home. My son and I moved across country with his car. Thankfully it got us here in one piece.
Then the problems started.
The car wiggled when accelerating. It coughed up disturbing noises when making a sharp turn. One tire habitually went flat. The vehicle got us from point A to point B, but it didn’t feel right. It felt very, very left. We brought it in for diagnostics and, while opinions differed between mechanics, one thought rang consistent: It was time to get rid of the car.
In a word: Ugh.
Then life happened. I won’t bore you with the details, but in the midst of life happening, I went about six weeks without a car. Luckily I had a bike and a backpack. It’s amazing how many groceries you can fit into a small space when you are hungry.
I also blessed the gods for delivery of bulky items like toilet paper and cat litter.
So, as dire as I make it seem, it wasn’t. It was only irritating. But irritating gets old quickly. Especially when irritating denies you access to the super store, or, worse yet, the dollar-point-two-five store, which it now is, if you’ve done your research.
Never mind eating, it felt as though my crafting days were over.
But back to the bike. The bike saved me. It got me from here to there, and I even figured out how to fit a frozen pizza into a backpack. That is no small effort.
I decided to embrace the adventure. I was able to bike to the grocery store in the middle of a January winter. I haven’t been able to make that claim to fame for most of my life, so why not look on the bright side. Yes, leaking chicken juice into the back pack was not a desired outcome so rotisserie chicken was probably out of the question.
But I had other options. I figured out the frozen pizza backpack challenge. I also figured out how to find a new (used) car.
It was another adventure that I conquered — successfully.
I now have reliable wheels — two on a bike and four on a little SUV. I can head to the superstore and fill my cart with a mega pack of toilet paper, a couple of rotisserie chickens and as many frozen pizzas as my heart desires.
Life is good.
Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright and author. Don’t miss a slice; follow the Slices of Life page on Facebook.