Tuesday, October 9, 2012

My (carfree mom's) Love Affair with the Automobile

Today I'm an Active Transportation Activist.  But that wasn't always the case. I loved my Matchbox car collection, visited car museums, enjoyed high speed car chases on TV, toured a car factory or two, and dreamed of driving a fancy car one day.

young me coveting some stranger's Rolls
Reflecting back almost two years after our breakup, I can date my early attachment to the car back to my potty training days.  The tiny bottomless chair would fit amid luggage in the trunk of the ’68 Olds on roadtrips from our Connecticut home to destinations south and west in preparation for emergency stops along the highway (where the roar of vehicles was thunderous enough to scare the crap out of any toddler.)  Shorter journeys north sometimes involved a family convoy of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins to Vermont and New Hampshire for fall foliage, maple syrup, hand crafted cheese, and hiking boots.  My personal childhood favorite route ended at Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts, where, wearing the pioneer dress sewn by my grandmother, I journeyed back to a simpler time without modern conveniences such as automobiles.  Needless to say, we wouldn’t have made the 100 mile journey as often without one.

me at the print shop                   the blacksmith's                and the meeting hall
In the fond fogginess of childhood memories I can recall the wide expanse of the back seat, the blackness of the interior, the smell of the heater, the warm vibration of the driveshaft hump in the middle of the floor, and the sticky feel of the vinyl seat against the back of my legs in summer.  As an only child, I was ruler of the back seat.  Without as much public awareness about seatbelts or booster seats in the 1970’s, I could lie across the seat for a nap, lulled to sleep by the rhythmic clickety clack of the highway and the static drone of AM talk radio, only occasionally rolling to the floor upon stopping short.  Or I could find mischievous entertainment kneeling on the seat and alternatively waving or sticking my tongue out at the driver behind.  Sometimes I would keep a list of the different state license plates of our fellow highway travelers.  Since Oregon plate sightings were a rarity, I concluded that the state must but a great place to live since Oregonians didn’t bother traveling to east coast vacation destinations.

not my childhood crush, but a close likeness (click for Oldsmobile's 1968 "Youngmobile" ads)
There were other special adventures that helped me form a close childhood bond with the sky-blue sedan whose dent in the right rear fender (from backing into a tree) I would trace with my finger and whose smiley face scratched into the driver’s side window reflected the artistic genius of my toddlerhood.  Once, out of curiosity, I opened the back door while the car was moving, and was scared out of my wits by the power of the air pushing back against the door.   Another time I thought it would be amusing to play peek-a-boo with the driver (my father) by covering his eyes with the removable lid from the Styrofoam ice chest.  I remember climbing in and out of the crank rolled windows yodeling “yeeeeeehaaaaaw” like Bo and Luke on the Dukes of Hazzard while the car sat in the driveway.  One evening I sneaked out of the house during a driving rainstorm to use the windshield and hood as a high speed (albeit short) waterslide.  When the time came in the 5th grade to trade up to a more practical Datsun station wagon, I was sad to say goodbye.

What in taaaaarnation was I thinkin'? (click to be entertained)
By adolescence, the automobile was transforming from an icon of happy family memories to my sought after means of escape.  In (boarding) high school I didn’t even have a drivers’ license let alone a vehicle, but easily found off-campus misadventures with peers who lived within commuting distance.  My first driving experience occurred shortly before my 16th birthday in a friend’s father’s midlife crisis (red Corvette convertible) with a light tap on the accelerator nearly taking us through a neighbor’s stone wall, which would have been devastating for my babysitting career at the time.  Identifying friends with driving privileges became a top priority for summer vacations at home, where teenage life with the ’rents was feeling ever more oppressive and unbearable.  I didn’t much care about the destination or the driver’s safety record as long as I could get away from home.  I longed for fall, college, freedom, and roadtrips.

again, not the same car, but a good proximity
Truckin! (click for music)
Before leaving for the institution of higher learning, I earned my driver’s license but not the means to pay for a vehicle or insurance.  As an avid user of the Student Union’s rideshare board, however, I could be a virtual hitchhiker from West Philadelphia to almost anywhere I couldn’t reach by foot, mass transit, or Greyhound.   When my roommate wrangled possession of a mechanically functional clunker from her parents to keep near campus, life was good, bringing downtown restaurants and out of town Grateful Dead shows within easy reach.  The fun lasted until the car was stolen off the street, a situation that took the roommate some explaining to her parents, since she had redirected the allowance they gave her for secure garage parking to the college party fund.  With the mastery she exhibited manipulating the truth of that incident, it’s no wonder she became a successful attorney including a stint as Assistant D.A. in Manhattan.

Jaws of Life
On July 14, 1990, I found myself at life’s crossroads on the side of a Rhode Island highway, being extricated from a mangled car by the Jaws of Life.  Actually, I “found myself” about a week later in recovery following a memory-devoid stay in the ICU with only brief intervals of consciousness.  The driver, a “friend” who later admitted he was driving under the influence of prescription drugs (unbeknownst to me), had lost control of the vehicle on Interstate 95 and smashed into an abandoned, hippie sticker covered VW bus in the breakdown lane.  The unwitting Flower Power mobile had contributed to a violent event, pinning me inside with a pneumothorax, broken ribs, lacerated liver, and bilateral concussion that kept me hospitalized for two weeks.  At the time, I didn’t denounce the cars or the driver because I was too busy figuring out how to get back to Philadelphia without a ride and how to pay tuition now that my summer wages had hit the brakes too.

a different VW bus, artful and peaceful outside the library
Long story short, I took a leave of absence from school and moved in with a friend whose parents provided plenty of rent, food, and spending money (in addition to a vehicle) to cover living expenses for two while I got back on my feet.  Nearly dead in the passenger’s seat in July, by August, with just a few scars for evidence, I was in the driver’s seat of a full-size Ford Bronco, learning how to maneuver the massive vehicle through narrow streets, receiving instruction on highway intimidation of smaller vehicles, and reviewing the four-wheel -drive instructions before winter.  Because of the parking hassle, I usually chose walking for downtown destinations and the city bus for uphill trips to Cornell campus (where I transferred in ’91).  Even so, my allegiance to the automobile was stronger than ever, with the big bad black Bronco making me feel far more powerful than my diminutive 5’4” frame, a hero to fellow students struggling through deep snow, and a rock-star to families I worked with in rural areas.

don't miss the ice scraping
After graduation, my car dependence increased.  I commuted from New Haven, CT, to NYC for grad school because fueling the drive was less expensive than paying rent in the City or taking the train.  Even if I had used mass transit to get to class, a vehicle was required for the social work field placement that soon after became my full-time job.  I quickly racked up the miles driving to clients’ homes (families referred by Child Protective Services for Intensive Family Preservation Services), also providing them with transportation as necessary.  My ride, a white VW Jetta with a sunroof and the first vehicle under my own name and credit, was my noble steed, carrying me on a mission to stop child abuse and neglect, my partner in crime-fighting. 

Jetta & me pregnant with #1*
Or so it was until a 3/10/95 car accident brought me to yet another of life’s crossroads.  In the second accident as in the first, I was a victim.  The double rear-ending during rush hour seemed mild in comparison, but the impact left me with post-concussive syndrome (compounding the 1990 TBI) and a worker’s compensation case that didn’t settle until 2001.  In the meantime, I completed a second master’s degree, co-founded Resources for Health with Moses and assistance from Yale Law, and gave birth to four of our five children, bringing us to a mini-van dependent lifestyle.  By this time we had moved from CT to AZ, and other than some local walks with the stroller, could conceive of no other way to travel with little ones in the scorching desert heat than with full air conditioning.  When Moses hurt his back and knee in 2003, we certainly didn’t see any other options.  With his physical mobility severely limited for the next 7+ years, carfree was not in our vocabulary or thinking.  If not previously, we were officially car dependent then.  The minivan – a.k.a. the rolling shitbox – was a necessity.  
ok, sometimes it was a rolling citrus box donating 300 pounds of gleaned fruit in Phoenix
If you're still reading and interested, please stay tuned for the next episode to find out how our Carfree Family migrated from handicapped parking space to bike rack!  Like us and stay in touch on Facebook, too.

* at 2271 Ridge Road in North Haven, former home of Ruth Emerson and "Tommie the Commie," in whose class Hillary and Bill met


  1. It essentially tells the whole story. Cars do become a part of our lives whether we admit it or not. My tale is about my second hand vehicle and being a government employee, I was subject to Motor Vehicle Salary Sacrifice.

  2. Nothing beats classic cars. They're really classy without even trying. -Cadence

  3. Thanks for providing such a great info, you can see Vintage Jesus Christ Images plz like and share this post. Thanks Regards

  4. Download the latest information regarding RRB Result
    and RRBResult2016

  5. Really impressive post. I read it whole and going to share it with my social circules. I enjoyed your article and planning to rewrite it on my own blog.
    Packers And Movers in Bangalore

  6. Nice blog i must say u had done a tremendous job here thanks for all the efforts you made.Please visit our official website for necessary information we provided-
    Packers And Movers Jaipur

  7. I must say you had done a tremendous job,I appreciate all your efforts.Thanks alot for your writings......Waiting for a new 1...Please visit our wonderful and valuable website-
    For More Details Visit are Official Websites..
    Packers and Movers Kolkata

  8. I must be thankful for sharing your ideas.Thank you for the good writeup.its a brellint job.please visit here for more detail:
    Packers and Movers Delhi

  9. Thanks a lot for providing me this opportunity to write here i feel myself very blessed.
    please visit our official website for all the useful details-
    Packers And Movers Ahmedabad

  10. Really impressive post. I read it whole and going to share it with my social circules. pls visit
    Packers And Movers Chennai

  11. We are Goa escort babes who have all kind of escort girls which is provides escort services in all over Goa.

  12. nice article thanks for sharing!
    We know it very well that only one person cannot complete the shifting work on his own risk and a single person is not much capable to take that big responsibility on his head about shifting a house with lots of luggage and the necessary material. It is just a simple fact that is understood by you also and you will also agree to this point that this task is much difficult for the one person to complete it. And if we look out for the today’s time then only 10 percent of the educated people are not working. Otherwise one or the other person is just earning money in some or the other way. This scenario is just because of the changing environment these days and the need of money to satisfy the basic need of the family.
    Packers And Movers Bangalore

  13. An excellent information provided thanks for all the information i must say great efforts made by you. thanks a lot for all the information you provided.
    Packers And Movers Pune charges

  14. Hi – It’s good to read such interesting content. I agree with much of what is written here and I’ll be coming back.
    Thanks again for posting such great reading material!! To get more relevant information visit here
    Packers And Movers Bangalore to hyderabad

  15. An excellent information provided thanks for all the information i must say great efforts made by you.
    thanks a lot for all the information you provided.
    please visit our official website for further details-
    Packers And Movers Gurgaon
    Packers And Movers In Gurgaon charges

  16. Happy Easter Sunday is all way round and we can’t stop ourselves to welcome these enchanting spring season by Happy Easter Sayings Quotes our close ones. The festival is more often a family gathering where people share Happy Easter 2017 Quotes with friends and family members. Easter Eggs Coloring Pages Printable (Easter) gather together wishing and greeting each other. Today in this blog article we will be sharing with our viewers some of the darling and spring themed Easter Images, Black and White Easter Clipart and also contemporary Easter Eggs Pics. Many people also like Happy Easter 2017 Wallpapers

  17. The information was really amazing and informative. Thanks a lot for posting it. movers and packers Bangalore marathahalli

  18. Char Dham Yatra
    Please visit our website for booking your tour package. You can Book online Chardham Yatra Package 2017 at Tourtraveltourism.com. Feel free to call 07351064829 and book your tours at affordable price .Visit our website.
    Char Dham Yatra from Delhi
    Char Dham Yatra Packages from Delhi
    Char Dham Yatra Tour Package from Delhi

  19. Char Dham Yatra
    Char Dham Yatra is one the most popular sacred yatra among the devotees. You can here select the package at Tourtraveltourism.com. This package can available on your choice and preferences. Just call us at 7351064829 and customize package according your needs.
    Char Dham Yatra from Haridwar
    Char Dham Yatra Packages from Haridwar
    Char Dham Yatra Tour Package from Haridwar

  20. Char Dham Yatra
    Here at Tourtraveltourism.com offers a different range of tour packages. We have customize tour packages for both the Indian and foreign customer. You can book online from any country of the world. For more information and detail contact on 07351064829.
    Char Dham Yatra from Hyderabad
    Char Dham Yatra Packages from Hyderabad
    Char Dham Yatra Tour Package from Hyderabad

  21. Char Dham Yatra
    Tourtraveltourism.com is a known travelling website. Here we provide convenient transportation, best accommodation in terms of hotels, and best type of escorting facilities. You can select different types of customize packages at Tourtraveltourism.com.
    Char Dham Yatra from Ahmedabad
    Char Dham Yatra Packages from Ahmedabad
    Char Dham Yatra Tour Package from Ahmedabad

  22. Get the best packing and moving service provider in Uttam Nagar at very reasonable price, that you will not be able to get in the market too. That packer and mover is Dealkare. To know more just visit www.packersmovers.dealkare.com
    Packers and Movers in Uttam Nagar

  23. Windows 10 is fairly new for some users, and the rest decliningrest declining this idea or considering that they have been fix connections to bluetooth audio devices and wireless displays in windows 10 using it for a while now may want to get their facts checked with a developer.

  24. If you are looking for car rental services to Nainital ,then you have landed at the right place. Here you will find all types information about cabs /taxi rental services in your city to nainital.
    Taxi from Delhi to Nainital
    Delhi to Nainital Taxi
    Taxi from Delhi Airport to Nainital
    One way Taxi Fare from Delhi to Nainital
    Taxi fare from Delhi Airport to Nainital

  25. Packers and movers in chennai@
    Packers and movers in patna@
    Packers and movers in noida@
    Packers and movers in dwarka delhi@
    http://www.transmoving.in/packers-movers-dwarka delhi.html

  26. Packers and movers in indore@
    Packers and movers in jaipur@
    Packers and movers in thane@
    Packers and movers in varanasi@
    Packers and movers in surat@
    Packers and movers in lucknow@

  27. ShiftingSolutions.in offers Free Quotes of Registered Movers and Packers Pune. Compare to save money and select the best.

    Packers and movers Pune
    Packers and movers in Pune
    Packers and movers Wakad
    Packers and movers Magarpatta

  28. ShiftingSolutions.in offers Free Quotes of Registered Movers and Packers Delhi Compare to save money and select the best.

    packers and movers in delhi
    movers and packers in delhi
    shifting solutions in delhi

  29. ShiftingSolutions.in offers Free Quotes of Registered Movers and Packers Delhi Compare to save money and select the best.

    packers and movers in delhi
    movers and packers in delhi
    shifting solutions in delhi

  30. www.shiftingsolutions.in/packers-and-movers-bangalore/



  31. ShiftingSolutions.in offers Free Quotes of Registered Movers and Packers Delhi Compare to save money and select the best.



  32. Search of movers packers in your city has become very simple now!
    Best Movers Packers Mumbai

  33. thank you for this awesome post. It really shows your immense knowledge and research on this topic. Please keep sharing. Microsoft edge customer service

  34. Packing and moving shifting services in Chennai. All online website Fooglepackers.com shift your belongings quickly and words class according’s for the entire most almost business keep like the top most services movers and packers in Thane. Hassle for header to meekly us needs end of the day a satisfied customers their functions will technology dedicated staff get one process by the shifting services for the re-location with boosts our confidence in doing this work. At a random efficiently by more wonderfully process quickly and induce through nicely request them. They are also movement top quality interoperating for the material dedicated confidence in doing business shifting services to location for you.


  35. Copenhagen Bike Rental Thank you for this fascinating post, I am happy I observed this website on Google. Not just content, in fact, the whole site is fantastic.

  36. lej en cykel I am jovial you take pride in what you write. It makes you stand way out from many other writers that can not push high-quality content like you.

  37. On the off chance that you will Install QuickBooks Tech first time no stress here We are accessible for help at Quickbook Technical Support Number 1888-396-0208. Introducing QB endeavor not an exceptionally pivotal undertaking, but rather post or pre establishment, client have to specific rules for appropriate utilizing QB programming.

  38. christania’s “Bicycle Rental Copenhagen” bikes are rolling across the city. The system, less than a year old, is funded by christania’s municipal government. It is currently only in one of christania’s 22 administrative districts. Although a 2nd generation system, there are 12 “Houses” in this district, each with around 40 bikes. The yearly subscription cost is the equivalent of $2 US, and allows the use of a bike for up to four hours at a time. In less than a year, there have been 6,000 subscriptions sold. There are larger 3rd generation systems in the world, which do not have a subscription to bike ratio as big as that.

  39. Such a rate covers important fashions work, tax, Broker along with other taxes. This unique sum is be more responsive to change if you do not make payment amount. The local surf forecast in an european collect point in addition to states, Importance value-added tax in this particular selling isn't recoverable.

    This type of dollar percentage takes into account it Camisetas De Futbol Baratas applies persuits responsibilities, Income income maillot de foot pas cher tax, Broker in maillot foot 2018 conjunction with other penalties. This juegos de futbol realisation measure is controlled by change amazon müller trikot if you do not make installment revenue. The local surf forecast in an european manhood suggest as well united kingdom, Signific tax with Maglie Poco Prezzo this put money into isn't recoverable.

    Through sending a simple offer, You are Coach Outlet Online Store investing buy this key fact component from the resultados de futbol vendor if you are dfb trikot müller the wonderful prospective Maglie Calcio Poco Prezzo buyer. You read and sign the worldwide supply course requisites frees in a different windows while well as case. Signific bills historically estimated are typically short sale change so long as you help to build up you top quote quantity.