Sunday, January 12, 2020

Getting a Ride

I’m having some very strong feelings about football this morning and something tells me this is not the day to share them. Perhaps some other day.


The other day my car was in the shop. I needed to get home from work and I attempted to use the Uber app. I failed. I ended up texting my daughter and she bailed me out. I was lucky. As I stood outside waiting for my ride I thought about how rarely I need to do this. Having a car in our car-centered culture is the key that unlocks personal independence. No waiting.

On the other hand, we are so dependent on our cars. I have a car because I need to work. But I must work in order to pay for the expenses that having a car entails. It’s a vicious circle. What if one can’t afford that unexpected $900.00 repair bill?

It was snowing as I stood scanning the road for my daughter’s car. I put on my hat and made sure my coat was zipped all the way up. I put my hands in my pockets. I thought of all the people who wait for rides. Waiting for a bus, or a cab or an Uber, waiting for a friend or a family member. Waiting. As a young person fresh out of college, even as a young married with an infant, I was that person. I was always grateful for the rides but embarrassed to need the assistance.

Our culture is so centered on the self-determination of having one’s own automobile that anything that deviates from this feels like failure. And communities which are built with only that one person, one car mindset make breaking that mold well nigh unto impossible. If Columbia were being built today I wonder if its goals would include a layout which promoted multiple ways of getting where its residents need to go.

Pools, parks, and pathways are awesome but they do not get you to work, the grocery, or doctor’s appointments.

Our obsession with cars is so complete that reaching an age where it is no longer safe to drive is seen as shameful, a defeat of sorts. The loss of independence is so limiting and isolating that many older drivers persist in driving long after it is no longer safe for them to do so. While Columbia/HoCo has a wonderful nonprofit called Neighbor Ride which works to fill the need of seniors who can no longer drive, it cannot change a cultural mindset that many folks have that driving oneself is a kind of  validation and that we are less valuable as humans without it.

Changing that needs to begin long before the point at which one gives up one’s car keys. It’s an enormous cultural shift that is long overdue.

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