I am afraid that living without a car for nearly 19-months has turned me into a less-than-perfect parent. Something like the opposite of a helicopter parent; maybe a pool-side cabana parent? Without weekly, or even monthly, fill-the-SUV trips to the grocery store and our summer CSA ending two weeks ago, the cupboards have seriously thinned out.
Zero Car Kid: “Mom, what can I eat?”
Zero Car Mom: “If you add some water to the flour in the pantry, you can make a paste that can be cooked like a pancake. Add some salt for flavor.”
Zero Car Kid: “Ugh. Again? Can’t I have mac and cheese?”
Zero Car Mom: “Sure, if you can find some. If not, we have some chickpea flour and dried beans.”
I learned about that flour and water fritter recipe in 8th grade when I read the The Grapes of Wrath. Who knew it would come in handy in 2017. Without a car, we have a by-default frugal (a.k.a lazy) life that would make my Depression-era grandma proud. With not much food in the house, we’ve had a lot more “fend for yourself dinners.” Don’t worry, no one is starving. With Zero Car Dad eating a plant-based diet, Zero Car Kid eating a no-plant diet, and well, me, being pretty bored with eating anything that doesn’t have a shot of bourbon in it, it’s working out for now. There is a chance that we have never been happier because we all get to eat what we want.
But I know that you are really reading today because you are just dying to know how we going to handle our holiday shopping without a car? Of course, there are Amazon and Etsy, but where’s the fun in just pointing and clicking? Right? Is that what you were thinking? I am trying really hard to figure out what you’re thinking, because not driving a car for 19-months has me feeling quite removed from, and possibly at risk of being ostracized by, car-owning readers like you.
The holiday shopping question is a great one because it gives me yet another opportunity to use a righteous tone while I talk about how laid back and anti-consumerist I am. Rather than take credit for these morally upstanding concepts, I will instead compare myself to the brilliant Albert Einstein who once said, “A calm and modest life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success combined with constant restlessness.” Einstein apparently wrote this good advice on a napkin or something instead of giving a tip to a hotel bellman. So, it sounds like he was kind of fiscally thrifty, too. The similarities between us are sure adding up.
Not owning a car has been one of the most restful decisions I have ever made. Like my doppelgänger Albert says, calm and modest is a happier way to live. I challenge you to argue that you do not feel rushed, one might even say restless, when you are out and about doing things in your car.
From where I sit, on my couch, you are always going somewhere. I am never going anywhere. You are frequently “just running out to get a few things.” I have flour in the pantry and water on tap, so I’m all set. You are frequently rushing back to where you were before you went out. You see, I’m still here on my couch. And, here’s the kicker: what is the most likely thing that you were doing when you were out driving? You were buying something, weren’t you? Maybe it was lunch. Or a 30 heads of garlic at Costco because that’s how many you needed to get the discount. Or buying gas to put in the car itself and well, since you’re at the gas station, maybe a bag of Munchos®, because you always loved them as a kid and you were sure that they didn’t make them anymore, but they do and why do they only sell them at gas stations?
Mile for mile, driving a car may be faster than walking or riding a bike, but driving back and forth can make us feel more rushed and out of time. You can’t feel rushed if you’re not going anywhere. It’s magical.
Magical. That reminds me, this post is supposed to be about the holidays. A magical time of year for our Zero Car Family because we keep it simple, or like my buddy Mr. Einstein likes to say, “modest.” But I also don’t assign a success or failure label to my performance as a parent during the holidays. If I have more time to spend with my kid, I mean, come on, that really is the best gift I can give.
3 things that I don’t miss about having a car for the holidays:
- Parking at the mall
- Shopping at the mall
- People at the mall
3 things I love about a zero car holiday season:
- I walk to where I can shop.
- I buy only what I can carry in my backpack, so I don’t overspend.
- I have lots of free time not driving, parking, or sitting in holiday traffic.
Not owning a car means that we have had to re-calibrate how to experience happiness, including the holidays, in a different way. December can be a month of free time, a gift to yourself, if you walk to Main Street instead of driving to Target. That leaves me more time to bake some brownies or watercolor some greeting cards for my friends.