I no longer have a vehicle.
It’s a long story (and one that I am in no mood to rehash), but much of it has to do with the fact that the repairs that I would have had to make would have cost more than the car was worth. This isn’t as much of a tragedy as it may sound. I had owned the car for a good number of years and it was… well, let’s just say that it was somewhat past its prime.
Where I am fortunate is that I don’t live terribly far from my workplace. Prior to my car’s untimely death, my usual commute time was around five minutes, if that. Once I began walking to and from the office, my daily commute became about thirty minutes each way.
It’s not a bad commute, really. When walking, it takes a bit under ten minutes to make my way through my neighborhood, after which I cross a busy street. I walk past the local botanical center until I cross a pedestrian bridge over the Mississippi River. Eventually, I cross what is known as the Arsenal Bridge (aka the Government Bridge). The Arsenal Bridge is quite interesting, in that it is one of the few swing span bridges in the United States. A portion of the bridge actually swings open to allow barge traffic through. All vehicular, pedestrian, and train traffic must stop to allow a barge through. It’s quite a sight to stand close as the bridge turns on its axis to be open to water traffic, then swing back into position.
The only downside to my walks were some exceptionally cold winter mornings. There is a great deal to be said for properly bundling up. Between good gloves, a headwrap, a stocking cap, and a good scarf I managed to brave those cold, dark mornings. Just as important as the aforementioned: footwear. I had managed to acquire a very good pair of boots. A well-made and well-insulated pair of boots is a walker’s best friend, especially in winter months.
Walking every day has a few benefits, the most obvious being physical fitness. A solid hour of vigorous walking burns a lot of calories and has some cardiovascular benefits as well. Just as important has been the uninterrupted time with myself. I have had a lot of time to just think. Sometimes that thinking was about myself and the trajectory of my life. Other times, I would work out the details of creative projects. I might set some goals, work through how to best deal with a challenge, or simply dispense with whatever might be bothering me on that particular day. Just as my physical fitness benefitted, my mental fitness did as well.
One thing that did not lend itself to a pedestrian commute was going to the grocery store. Imagine lugging a week’s worth of groceries home over a twenty or so minute walk. No bueno. Fortunately, one of my three sons now has his driver’s license and has been taking me to the store once a week. We have somehow managed to turn the weekly grocery-getting ritual into something of an enjoyable experience. Better yet, he will be an experienced and savvy shopper when it comes time for him to do so for himself.
Once the snow fully melted away, I noticed the large amount of trash underfoot.
- Beer cans.
- Soda cups.
- Water bottles.
- Fast food containers. (somebody in my neighborhood goes to Checkers quite often)
- Liquor bottles (somebody in my neighborhood REALLY likes Cinnamon Fireball Whiskey).
I began to bring plastic bags with me each morning. I would pick up trash along the way. It was a great way to give my commute a sense of mission and meaning. I was helping the environment and making my neighborhood a nicer place. I actually posted on Facebook a couple of times about my new “hobby” and was really pleased with the positive response. A few people even stated that they would start picking up trash in their own neighborhoods. The only downside of this has been my new hyper-awareness of trash everywhere.
(and really, people… I think we can all do better in this regard)
It’s especially gratifying that so much good (pretty much all of the above) issued from a crappy event (that being, of course, the death of my vehicle).
I have acquired a bicycle a couple of months ago, which has cut my commute down to somewhere in the ten to fifteen-minute realm. I will probably get another car before too long (I imagine before winter sets in). I will still walk or bike at least some of the time, though. I really think that I would miss it if I didn’t.