I spent 45-minutes as a passenger in a car yesterday. The shining sun and the cool air blended into the most harmonious of temperatures. It was a spring day in St. Petersburg, Florida. If you are not familiar with the seasons in the “sunshine state” early spring is a notoriously small window of time when the dreaded humidity of late spring, all of summer, and well into early fall, has not yet steamed in. Yesterday was as good a day as anyone could ask for anywhere. It was the perfect day to ride a bike or take a walk; to stroll past the crowd at the “Seafood and Music Festival” and the yacht club docks where halyard lines on boat masts clinked and clanged. But, alas, I was in a car. And worse yet, there was traffic. I looked out the window like a trapped pup and with as much mindful intention as I could muster I drew in a deep breath through my pursed lips and slowly exhaled. “Just try to enjoy the ride,” I said to myself. OMG, I literally said that to myself. I thought about the people, so many people, not only the elderly and infirm, who delight in sightseeing from the comfort of a car. Had we decided to park the car…oh, let’s not even go there.
The problem with trying to live up to my zero car standards on vacation, is that other people are involved. I am visiting Florida to socialize with my parents (in their late 70s) and my brother’s family visiting from the Pacific Northwest of Canada—as car dependent a set of relatives as any Zero Car Daughter could deign to imagine. If I want to do things with these people, and that is why we flew down here, I have to get in a car. A lot.
My folks have bikes here for us, which is awesome. There’s a right size bike for my seven-year-old and an old hybrid with meaty tread on the tires for me. It’s a sturdy, good ride. The cheap foam helmets are just for show and I never feel safe wearing them, so this trip I strapped my own to my backpack and carried it on the plane. In the first two days, I have ridden the bike once, but I have done a good amount walking. A grocery trip with my sister-in-law would have been an easy bike journey of about 1.5 miles, but we took the car. I have to admit that without my gigantic soccer backpack, I wouldn’t have been able to get the load of groceries back to the house.
One way to avoid getting in cars is to make everyone else do the errand running while I sit in the hammock by the lake reading short stories by B.J. Novak, laughing out loud while sadly reflecting on how much funnier he is than me. Or I could regress to my adolescent self (that happens anyway I suppose) and actively reject, rebel, mock, and isolate. “I am not like you people! I recycle and bicycle. I love anything with the word ‘cycle’ in it.”
I am trying to find the right balance of enjoying my family and staying out of cars. I will write again soon. Probably from the hammock while someone else drives to the store to get more chips.