Hi, my name is Megan and I own a car. Now, you say: Hi, Megan! and accept me for who I am.
Or not. Whatevs.
I don’t hide the fact that I’m a bike rider who knows how to drive and occasionally puts that skill to use. I’ve never seen much reason to lie about it. I don’t try to justify it either, although, if I had to, I suppose I might pander by stringing together the following appropriately sustainable bon mots: “I carpool in a well-maintained, used, fuel-efficient car.” Or I might just say something flippant, like, “Sue me, I’m from California. Freeways were the conduit to the playgrounds of my adolescence.” Okay, not really flippant, but true. Don’t sue me.
When my friends and I turned 16 in San Diego, and received our license to drive, we all, pretty much en masse, ditched our bikes to explore the worlds beyond the bike paths. It may not have been the only way to see those worlds, but it felt like it at the time. What we believed, back then, was that the freeways– formerly considered impassable borders, well-guarded by chaotic speed, to undiscovered lands– would liberate us. I remember the first time I turned my motorized dungheap onto the interstate for a solo drive. It was my 16th birthday. I’d passed the driving test. I’d stuck a Smiths sticker to my bumper. Thus, my next step had to be the freeway. I entered, punched it to about 70 miles an hour (that’s 112kph, if you’re wondering) and drove until I’d hit the county line, maybe an hour or so later. Then I had to figure out how to needle my way off the freeway to turn around and head home. It was, sincerely, true bliss. At the time.
Gas, parking fees, insurance, a speeding ticket or two, registration and maintenance conspired to ruin my car-mance by the time I set out for university.
I share all of this to preface a funny experience I had on Saturday. As I said, I own a car. I rarely drive it in Wellington, but still, she sits in my drive, my possession. Since January, I’ve filled the tank twice– once when friends came to town and again after we’d toured the area and they’d left. For no apparent reason, on Saturday morning, as I got ready to head to the Hand’s Up expo for the Christchurch merchants, I mindlessly decided to drive into town. Honestly, I don’t know what I was thinking. I rarely drive to town. But, still, I got in the car, let her warm up and hit the road. In the space of three blocks, I had to wait for a parking car, a road crew repairing overhead trolley lines, and a couple of jaywalking pedestrians. (I do that; I wait for jaywalkers because it’s eminently better than hitting them.) And then I saw a couple bike riders, cruising quickly with the wind at their back. And I thought, “What the hell am I doing?” I flipped a U-ey and headed for home. And because I’m very good at self- deprecation, I muttered to myself, “that was dumb, you dumb dingus.”
Back on my bike and heading into town, I wondered what weird little synapse had fired to get me into the seat of my car. It wasn’t raining, nor was it a particularly blustery day. I wasn’t taking anyone anywhere, much less meeting anyone. It was like an auto-pilot kicked me off my bike because the auto-pilot really wanted to pilot an auto. If I’d made it to town via car, I would have had to find parking, monitor my time, probably cut short my meandering to rush back to make sure I didn’t have a ticket and then start the whole process over. Sheesh. What a pain.
I also would have missed out on a heckuva tailwind pushing me into town, a few sightings of– and quick opportunities to chat with– promenading (I select that verb from the report Lisa posted and commit my loyalty to its continued use) friends, and the mellow ease to spend a little money on the stuff brought up from Christchurch. And, thanks to my killer basket, my purchases didn’t weigh me down as I wandered– walking and riding– through town for a little cafe-hopping.
All in all, it was a fantastic day made even better by my happy freedom, which I only had because I took the bike and left the car for another adventure. Thank you, dear brain, for a lesson in contrasts. Liberation: check.