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Sunday, February 12, 2006

Carless in Seattle?

I am roasting on a spit of indecision. No car is immortal, and mine (as a Ford) is more mortal than most. As I speed past the 125,000 marker on my odometer, I realize that my big green Taurus is not long for this world. Whatever shall I do when the day comes... when my head gasket blows right there on the middle of the I-90 bridge? When the clutch burns out whilst trying to climb the steep Seattle hills from downtown to Capitol Hill? That day approaches and I think it's wise that I have a plan.

My mechanic says I should look for a Honda Accord from the early 90's with 150K or less... Good city car, fairly economical on gas, easy to park, etc. Internet gurus say that I should unload my car as a private seller on Craig's List--that dealer lots are infested with piranha and sharks. My civic conscience wants me to buy a new hybrid. But my bank account has a different opinion still. And inertia is telling me that I might get another year or two out of the Taurus, so why worry now.

But a little spark inside says, "Why not become carless?"

I've owned a car pretty steadily since I was 19, and some remarkable feelings have come up for me the last few days as I've considered going without one: Unconscious fears of dependence; absurd loathing of the inconvenience of buses; even *gulp* strange dreams of impotence. But when I dispel that haze of fear, there are lots of interesting reasons to become carless, and a potential pot of gold at the end of the path.

1. Exercise-Think how much additional exercise will I gain by walking everywhere.
2. Interdependence-I will cultivate healthy appreciation for both public transportation, and for carpooling options, not to mention an even greater appreciation for what my local neighborhood has to offer.
3. Money-OMG Could there be a bigger extravagance in my life?! When I think about oil changes, gasoline, parking costs, insurance and all the other little costs of car ownership, becoming carless seems like the only sane option.
4. Moving toward a less-oily footprint-There's no way to justify my current level of oil consumption, especially as brutality and greed play out on the global stage.

So... do I dare it?

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At 2/12/2006 01:28:00 PM, Blogger walaka said...

In a word, yes.

I have been carless a time or two, for up to a year at at a time, since I moved out to this part of the world. It's not as big a deal as you might first think. And you have more resources/conditions to deal with the situation than many would have.

At 2/12/2006 09:44:00 PM, Anonymous mel said...

Hi John,

I've also been carless, in Seattle, Redmond, Olympia, Wales and Ireland. There were times it was a hassle, yet mainly it is just another habit you can break.

It is an adjustment, sometimes an inconvenient and/or painful one, yet as you point out it does have a lot of benefits.

The transition is kind of like when you are suddenly single again, besides the emotional fallout there is the whole lack of sex thing that can drive you up a wall for while.....then you gradually find you can cope without sex...mostly.....except when the moon is full......or you see.......yet I digress.

So, yeah, do the carless thing...dang I am trying to come up with car-sturbation joke....am not clever enough to find it fast.

At 2/12/2006 11:13:00 PM, Blogger ScottyTuxedo said...

I've been carless a lot, too. And currently am. I did two years at the UW without a car and hardly even noticed. But after my last car died, I was trying to street perform with my gear, train at the acrobatics school in South Seattle, working for a month straight in Bellevue, and not living near any grocery facilities... It was deeply frustrating. And at times, what would normally be an easy thing, like swinging by a Walaka movie marathon--became simply impossible.

So why not drive your car until it dies and see how long you can go without a car. Maybe it'll be easy. And if it turns frustrating you can always buy a car then, or do what I did and move to Egypt.

At 2/12/2006 11:14:00 PM, Blogger Diane said...

Your comparison of being carless to being single again brings metaphors to mind: one goes the road alone, no hot rods, no regular fill-ups, no dipsticks to gauge, and you gotta get there all on your own (does that last one count as a car-sturbation joke?).

At 2/13/2006 03:40:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

1) You have said repeatedly that gasoline should be five dollars a gallon. If people start abandoning their cars, those of us who still drive will have to pay more and more per gallon until it goes up to $5! And beyond! Bringing you one step closer to world domination!!

2) "As I speed past the 125,000 marker on my odometer, I realize that my big green Taurus is not long for this world." *sigh* Yeah. It's the odometer that kills a car. Let me know when I'm too old to lift weights.

3) "I will cultivate healthy appreciation for both public transportation, and for carpooling options" That's a good idea. Because right now I know how much you hate carpooling. I'm *always* the one who has to suggest it. :)


At 2/13/2006 09:23:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

125,000. Is that all? When you get to 225,000, then you're talking

At 2/14/2006 10:58:00 PM, Anonymous mel said...


Wonderful metaphors! It is important to make sure your batteries are well charged.

Is the milage thing now officially one-ups-manship or one-downsmanship?


How much do you really drive per week on average anyways? Or is average not in your vocabulary?

At 2/15/2006 12:38:00 AM, Blogger Johnbai3030 said...

Well, I'm not willing to do the math to compute weekly averages, but I've put 15K on the car since I bought it 2.5 years ago... I think that's fairly minimal driving... at least compared to someone like Soapy.

As for the car's liklihood of croaking, it's hard to find a Ford Taurus for sale with many more miles than mine (unless it has a rebuilt engine.) This is because they historically die at about this point.

Right now, the biggest impediment to embracing carlessness is my job. I have to make frequent appearances in Bellevue for work. I'm getting a new boss this week and we'll see how she feels about me ditching the wheels.

At 2/16/2006 03:50:00 PM, Blogger Ned said...

I think you should keep having a car, because in my opinion, having to bus it in Seattle sucks. You should however, immediately cease and desist from driving from your house to Septieme, and choices of that ilk.

Being car-less in Madrid is easy, but I miss having one to skeedadle out of a town for a nice break, and have the freedom to do what I would.

At 2/19/2006 05:42:00 AM, Blogger wheylona said...

When the car dies, try the carless life for a while. Yeah, it can be a pain in the ass, but you can get used to it and find alternatives. I'm sure you've discussed this with Eric and Silvio--they are pros at being carless in Seattle and have lots of good arguments against having a car. And as has been pointed out, you can always give in and get a car if in the end you just can't adjust to being carless. But it's worth trying, is it not? After all, being carless will allow you to actually live certain ideas you hold dear, n'est pas?


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