Friday, July 11, 2008

Auto Libre

Since Monday, I haven't had a car and it feels GREAT. I don't have to worry about Chicago's guerrilla street-cleaning-sign affixers, fellow garage parkers denting my doors with theirs or getting a new parking sticker. Next month, I won't worry about renewing my insurance or my registration. I will not soon worry about where I parked my car when I last used it four days ago. Red light cameras, speed traps on Lake Shore Drive and running parking meters are now crossed off my admittedly long list of things to worry about. If a shady mechanic makes up a list of malfunctions I'm not qualified to evaluate, they won't be about my car.

The money benefits aren't too bad either. Since I've been in law school, I haven't driven all that much, but I still fill up about once every 3 weeks. That's about $75 a month. Insurance is $100. My Chicago Sticker, neighborhood parking permit and registration come out to about $25 a month. Even without scheduled work like brakes, oil changes and the like, I'm $200 richer every month, which means I can take a cab to the supermarket every time I go and I still save money.

On the subject of cabs, even when I was driving, I had to take them a fair amount. Drinking and driving is a no-no, as is any form of airport parking.

But yet, there's always a caveat. This is the first time since the middle of college that I don't have a car. "Freedom of the open road" and all that. Where exactly is that open road? In college, I could get to an uncongested interstate in short order. My ancient station wagon was pretty much impervious to police radar guns, probably because no right minded trooper could imagine that 16-year-old clunker could even reach the speed limit, let alone exceed it. It was great to roll down the windows and crank the stereo all the way to the Pennsylvania state line and beyond. Here in Chicago, there is no open road. Fight your way to any interstate and it's more likely than not at any hour of the day to be congested. Even when there is some freedom to gain a little momentum, there's probably a toll booth. As for speed, those troopers had no trouble believing that my most recent car could go very fast - so I made sure it didn't.

Does not having my car make me less of an American, less of a man? Maybe, but if so, it makes me a far more relaxed commie-sissy.

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