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DIVORCED MY CAR
copyright 2007 La Tigresa
performed by La Tigresa on KQED-FM, San Francisco;
published in the San Francisco Chronicle)
I divorced my car. First we had a trial separation. I went off to Mexico by myself – without my trusty Dodge van. Because I didn’t trust it anymore. Certainly not for something as risky as a trip to Mexico. Frankly, I didn’t trust myself anymore: road rage, night blindness, too lazy to stop and get gas…the list goes on.
Plus, there was the constant embarrassment of not walking my talk. How could a card-carrying environmentalist like me justify charging around in a gas-guzzling V8?
It was an amicable divorce. We parted friends. I went off with a pink girl’s Schwinn, just right for my short legs and vintage style, and my van immediately got into a new relationship with a mechanic who collects Dodges.
I’m the first to admit, there’ve been rough times. Especially nights. Buses come late; transit workers go on strike; rain reduces pedestrians to soggy mush.
And every woman knows a car is a closet: a portable selection of shoes, sweaters, jackets…not to mention a mobile kitchen. Without a car I must schlep everything I anticipate wearing, eating, or drinking. I’m not a bag lady, but I probably look like one as I run to catch the 80 Southbound, struggling with my tote bags full of layers, lunch, and liquids.
Grocery shopping is not about what I want to eat, but what I want to carry. The 7-11 on the corner looks a lot more appealing when the health food store is a 30 minute hike away.
Not having a car in this culture is about as normal as having green skin and scales. But I don’t mind the weird looks I get. I’m 57 can still do a cartwheel and dance most 20 year-olds under the table. And I don’t pay one red cent to a gym or personal trainer. I just walk. Everywhere.
Plus, I know my neighbors. On the sidewalk I meet old ladies, babies, skateboarders, gardeners and wheelchair-bound artists. And those are just the humans.
I know the beagles and bassets, the newborn fawns, and the calico cat. And I can stop and smell the roses any time I damn well please without causing an accident.
My current paramour is also a recent divorcee. He split up with his Toyota two years ago and hasn’t looked back. Together, we’re exploring the joys of non-automotive courtship. On Valentine’s Day, he left a meeting in Sunnyvale in time to catch the commuter train into San Francisco. (If you don’t think train stations are romantic, you have never watched any movies made before 1960.)
I met him at the Cal-Trans station and we strolled along the bay to the Ferry Building in time to catch the last ferry to Larkspur. Sipping margaritas, we watched the bay turn pink and golden as we smooched on deck. When the breeze got brisk, it was all the more reason to snuggle. Another margarita? Why not? We’re not driving anywhere!
A quick bus ride from Larkspur to San Rafael, a transfer to the 23 Fairfax, and a moonlight promenade brought us home. For six dollars and fifty cents apiece (minus the margaritas) we had a lovely evening on the town. And on the bay.
Not having a car means I have nothing to park. This factor alone probably adds years to my life. The scenic vistas that pass by pleasantly on the bus can turn into vicious concrete jungles for the motorist seeking a spot.
Back in my driving days, when I lived in San Francisco, I would actually choose what I wanted to do on Saturday nights based on where I dared to attempt parking. Many a night I would forego the avant-garde theatre piece I wanted to see at the Eureka for a Tom Hanks movie at Stonestown, because the choice between trying to park at Market and Noe versus pulling into a huge parking lot in a shopping center was a no-brainer.
Recently, I had out-of-town guests who wanted to dine at Chinatown’s famed cheapo noodle house, Sam Wo’s. My obliging friend Bruce (a cabbie on his day off) drove us around (and around, and around) for 45 minutes until we gave up on finding a parking place and went to San Rafael for Thai food.
San Francisco’s Sunset District, where I raised my son, is normally so peaceful as to border on the boring. Crime is so infrequent in the Sunset that I never locked my front door in the nine years I lived there. During that time, only one violent incident ever shattered the neighborhood tranquility. A man was shot and killed in the vicinity of Ninth and Judah. And no one who lived in the area was surprised at the motive: the victim took the other guy’s parking place.
No one condoned the crime. But everyone understood it.
Sure, cabs are expensive. But car payments? Insurance? Gas? Who’s laughing now?
I didn’t vote for Sheriff Bush, and neither did any of my friends. But they all vote for him at the pump. Not me. Being car-less may be a pain in the butt, and the feet. But at least I’m walking my talk. Literally.