car talk

so the big news is that jared & i bought a car off craig’s list. we got it from a nice topeka librarian. she was extremely organized. she provided us with all her receipts for all the work she’d had done on the car & coached us through the requirements for registration. i have never had a driver’s license, so obviously i have never had a car before, so all of this is completely foreign to me. but it seems like a pretty decent car. it’s a 2002 saturn three-door, which means it is very tiny. jared’s head brushes the top when he’s driving. the backseat was not necessarily meant for sitting, if you know what i mean. though there’s a drink holder back there that would prevent anyone from getting up too much else.

so now i need to brush up on my driving skills & get a license. my dad taught me how to drive when i was a teenager, & even enrolled me in driver’s ed. i was never a great driver. my dad went to college for elementary education, so he was a good & patient teacher. but on a few occasions, i made dumb driving mistakes that caused him to scream & curse, & then he made me pull over so he could take the wheel. these incidents undermined my confidence a bit, but i went in to take the driver’s test anyway. i failed three times before i just gave up altogether.

when i was in midwifery school in massachusetts, i decided i needed to learn how to drive for real. after all, you can’t very well take public transportation when you’re attending a birth. my friend amanda tried to teach me. we drove circles around a parking lot until i’d proven that i knew how to stay in my lane & make turns, & then we hit the open road. unfortunately, the road she chose was in southie, which is perhaps the scariest place to drive in the united states. boston drivers have a reputation & it is earned. at the time, amanda was working on a tall ship docked in boston harbor, so she suggested we drive to the harbor & check it out. she directed me to turn into a parking lot, which i did, & we slowly approached a security gate. i realized that at the gate, we would have to provide ID, & my ID did not entitle me to behind the wheel of a vehicle. i didn’t even have a learner’s permit. so we had to get the hell out of there, which involved pulling a sloppy & conspicuous U-turn & driving over a decorative flower bed & a curb before re-entering the flow of south boston traffic. that was the last of my driving lessons with amanda, & that was my last time behind the wheel of a vehicle.

after that, i figured i just wasn’t meant to drive, & that i would simply live out my days in a large american city with decent public transportation. & then jared was accepted into the doctoral program at the university of kansas, & now i live in kansas. a person can probably live in lawrence without a car…but the city doesn’t make it easy. there’s a public bus system, but it doesn’t service huge swathes of the city, & the buses only run about once an hour. & they stop running at around 7pm. if i was really badass cyclist that didn’t mind biking four miles in scary bike-malicious traffic in order to see a movie or something, i could get by without a car. my apartment is near downtown, the library, my bank, the post office, a grocery store, & a laundromat. what more do i need? but now the grocery store wants to re-model, so they will be closing down for ten months in 2011 while they add such amenities as a starbucks & a sushi bar. technically, we could walk to the next-closest grocery store, which is maybe two miles away. but a weekly four-mile round-trip on foot in a dicey proposition in a state that regularly hits triple-digit temperatures in the summer & gets multiple feet of snow in the winter. & at least half of the walk to the grocery store would be along streets that do not have sidewalks or street lights.

so we threw in the towel & bought a car. it kind of feels like giving up, but it will make things a lot easier in certain ways. walking to the grocery store takes about twenty minutes. driving there takes two minutes. jared will have a car available when he has to go out of town on research trips. we can drive to friends’ houses instead of having to arrange rides (sometimes we get invited to stuff way out in suburban lawrence–way too far for me to bike even when i feel like biking). if we end up at a shitty party, we can just leave, instead of dragging away a ride that may be enjoying him/herself. we can visit friends in kansas city & columbia at our leisure, rather than asking around for rides from other people that may be going. & we can transport our own selves to their airport.

plus, there’s some talk of having a kid in the next couple of years, & while a child does not necessitate a car, i don’t see myself wanting to walk to pre-natal appointments at the hospital (about two miles away) when i am eight months pregnant. & i am not such a hardcore anti-car person that i would actually walk my baby home from the hospital/birth center after it is born. though i have heard some tales of people doing exactly that.

it’s quite the threshold in adult living. though it still all seems very hypothetical to me, since i can’t drive the car. apparently i have to get a learner’s permit, which i can’t do until i get a copy of my birth certificate. (i used to have my original birth certificate, but it was stolen a few years ago.) once that’s squared away, i can practice driving until i feel competent enough to take a driving test, & if i actually pass this time, i can go cruising for hotties to my heart’s content.

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