Thursday, April 11, 2019

Who Needs a Car?

When I moved to New York City from Nebraska in 1961, I didn't need a car. I could hoof it, bus it or subway it anywhere in town, although standing  in the subway did stimulate some male strangers to pat my butt.

However, subway rush hour proved impossible. When I tried it, we passengers lined up three deep waiting for a train to stop. The moment a door opened, subway workers pushed us inside. I swirled in with the pack, grabbed a strap, and balanced on one foot with no place to put my other one. I dangled to my stop. At home I discovered the twist had broken my brassiere. 

That ended my rush hour travel. Instead, I adopted the New York City routine, out of work at 5 and into a nearby bar to drink until the subways settled down.

In 1963, I moved to Boston. There I found public transportation so inferior to New York's that I had to buy a car. I bought the only one I could afford: a used turquoise Volkswagen Beetle.

I found a boyfriend, too, Jon Powell. Together we drove from my home in Quincy, Mass., to Wyoming and back on our first date. We all three held up well.

Later Jon and I drove into Boston for a theatre matinee. Afterwards we piled into my Beetle to head home, Jon driving. He took I-93 south to Quincy. As we crested a hill, we saw in the distance—to our dismay—all three lanes of highway ahead of us full of barely moving vehicles.  

John braked. We slowed but kept moving. He braked harder and harder until we crashed slowly into a stopped car.

The windshield crushed my nose. I sprained my right foot, in a foolish attempt to brake the car myself. Jon fared better, but he'd totaled my little Beetle.

Buying another Volkswagen didn't feel safe, so I chose a used Volvo station wagon, a German Duett, two-toned green. I liked it. It seemed sturdy but looked almost classy. 
As Jon and I drove the Volvo, I discovered its weakness: an electrical system that broke down so often I stopped hiring electricians to fix it. By then, I'd watched so closely that I could fix it myself.

When, in 1966, we moved to New York I took my green Volvo with us. 

Big mistake. New York parking regulations required a mathematician to follow them: on this street one day but not the next. My fines piled up until, in desperation, I sold my Volvo.

Solvent again, I hoofed it, rode the bus or took the subway. Or waited in a bar until subways mellowed down. 

Who needed a car, anyway?

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