Amsterdam, 2005Last December, Nick was driving some of his debaters (he coaches) to a tournament and his ‘94 Camry threw in the towel in middle-of-nowhere Indiana. He got towed to a mechanic who did the equivalent of last rites and closing its eyelids. The next day, his car was presumably a milk-crate-sized cube of steel and he was returning to Columbus in a rental.
I think we both knew it before it was formally discussed: we were now indefinitely a one car family. My ‘05 Vibe is reliable enough to drive longer distances, we live in the city and both work within a few miles of our home. Neither of us live with a disability that complicates mobility and we don’t have to worry about transporting kids to childcare or school.
It’s not uncommon for midwesterners to have multiple cars per household. In this medium-sized city, parking is a breeze in most places (although good luck convincing my mom of that) and public transportation is just not an everyday way of life for most.
When people ask how our unplanned downsizing is going, and I always say “Great!” but Nick has had to bear most of the burden of our new arrangement. (He would disagree because he is absurdly chipper.) Up until a few weeks ago, I was driving to work every day. Nick was biking to campus to teach and take classes (a quick ride on a lovely wooded trail) and also biking to our common workplace (a grueling ride through rough neighborhoods, on congested and poorly maintained roads, in the bitter cold.)
Of course, once at work he was able to use our car for site visits and outreach appointments, because I was already there and I rarely had appointments outside of the office. On days where we were both in the office, we’d throw his bike in the back of the station wagon at 5 pm and go home together (or I’d drop him and his bike off at his night class. Grad school, man. Not for the faint of heart.)
Now that I am bike commuting to my new job (!!!!!), Nick can drive to the office if the weather’s lousy or he doesn’t feel like dodging one billion potholes and murderous drivers. While I do miss listening to NPR during my old commute, my new commute is worlds better. People tend to think that bike-commuting is self-sacrificing or virtuous somehow, but it rarely gets touted as fun and peaceful. Which it really really is. I get to work in the morning and feel like a human, which is more than I can say for any other job I’ve ever had.
We are still getting used to sharing, six months out. Nick will still slip and ask if he is “allowed” to use “my” car. (And I still slip up and grant “permission” to use “my” car, ha) This weekend he was out of town with the car and I kept setting out to run quick cross-town errands and then forgetting that I couldn’t make that happen in a pinch.
Without tipping my hand too much (but hey what’s a blog for anyhow), we’d like to have a kid in the next few years. I am curious to know how any working mothers without a stay-at-home co-parent manage to bike commute. Right now I sort of enjoy packing my jar o’ coffee, lunch, snacks, and gym clothes in my messenger bag for the day but packing up a kid for daycare and getting the little squirt there all on two wheels sounds like it could be a hairy undertaking.