Sans car

Last week, in a scene that reminded me a bit of Han Solo’s running commentary, “It’s not my fault!”, my car unexpectedly went from moving a brisk clip to zero on a well traveled bit of road in the Northeast.  Nothing dangerous; just expensive (most likely a blown head gasket).   A quick call with a cell phone, and AAA was there, and in less than two hours, I was at my mechanic’s garage.

This incident brought up a few elements that have been discussed here and elsewhere; the complexity of modern systems, and especially how if they don’t work, things can go south really quickly.  In this case, fortune smiled upon me, for the weather was pleasant, my cell phone was working, and no major events tied up the flatbed truck that arrived on the scene incredibly quickly.   Due to the magic of the Internet, my mechanic has a few leads on used engines, and the car might be operational in a little as a few weeks.    Rental cars are easy to get as well, but I took it upon myself to not get one for a few days, since nothing was pressing outside of my local area for the weekend.   One wonders if this had happened in the dead of winter at night, or if I was enroute to something important (the airport, an emergency room visit).   Luckily, I have access to one of these in my trunk…folder…so at least some disasters can be handled without too much trouble.  A folding bike can be useful when you run around in a place where parking is at a premium; in some ways it’s like having a little shuttlecraft (or lifeboat, as the case may be).

A few months ago, I brought up the fact that making changes to your life could be sometimes difficult.  This morning, my travel options became limited to bus or bicycle, and even though I managed to get a ride with a friend this morning, the return trip home via bus brought the fragility of how certain living arrangements could become.  Now, instead of opting to ride my bicycle or take the bus, I had no other choice.

Of course, this is an incredibly minor difficulty, and if I wasn’t so cheap so forward thinking, I could have easily gotten a rental, and driven around town.  But this opportunity to be without very easy access to an automobile is a wonderful little test of what happens when some of your conveniences go away.  Now, I do have to get someplace not in public transport range in a few days, so I will have to rent a car.  But my mindset around it has changed; I will definitely try and make the most efficient use of it.  Rather than get the car for a few days, and access it in a lasses-faire manner that I did when my own car was at my beck and call, I’ll try and plan a heck of a lot more, and use it efficiently – a reverse Jevon’s Paradox, if you will.

There’s the oft heard phrase, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”   Here, given a few weeks of lemons, we’ll see how well we can live with drinking lemonade on regular basis.


  • Have you ever voluntarily given up having a car?
  • What “setbacks” in your personal world have forced you to be more efficient or change your ways?
  • Do you have your own “shuttlecraft” or “lifeboat” (of any sort) to get you out of difficult situations?  How much do you rely on technology?  Do you have old maps in your car, a blanket, and a flashlight, for example?
  • Do you own a bicycle and ride it regularly?

One thought on “Sans car

  1. Pingback: Learning to live without | peakfuture

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