“Hey, will you Google what it means when a red battery light comes on when you’re driving?”
Initially, I wasn’t worried when another light illuminated on my cars’ dashboard; my 11-year-old companion had seen many miles and a plethora of mechanic visits.
However, on my drive home from Boulder, Colorado in the dark of a quieting expressway the lights in my car slowly started to fade, the radio dim, and my engine slowly sputters.
“Never mind,” I responded to my boyfriend the impromptu Google mechanic, “It means my car is about to die.”
My car: moving storage unit, fellow adventurer, enabler of independence, sat dead on the side of i70, where rattling shakes and sways created by passing, speeding semis invoked a long utterance of swear words and dramatic dismay, as I sat waiting for a tow.
I didn’t know that this small moment, sitting in my car, smoking the moldy cigarettes from my glove-compartment out an open door (the windows, of course, would not go down), cold piercing my ill-equipped crumbling Tom’s shoes, would be the last moment I’d share in my car, the last memory.
Prices climbed quicker than a playful squirrel up a tree; repairs surmounted, the final project fee for fixing my car was worth more than the vehicle itself: totaled.
I received the news, and awaited a surely impending panic, chaotic take-over of stress-induced shaking, worry, a need for alcohol…but, I remained, unexpectedly calm.
For an odd reason, to my surprise, I felt, free.
One friend, offered encouragement, quoting Chuck Palahniuk; “It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.”
It’s been a month to the day since I lost a means of quick, independent reliable transportation, but as nostalgia arises during reminiscence, I remain immune. I do have to say, that losing my car might be the best thing that has happened to me in a while.
Reconnection with Nature
Whether it’s walking to a bus stop, trekking down the mountain to town, meeting a friend at a brewery, running to the yoga studio—the main means of transportation is my legs. Which means I’m outside, despite the rain, snow, hail, wind, sun or swirl of all aforementioned.
Oh, how I love the trek outside—discovering fox families, listening to the ruffle of a creek over rocks, smelling the character of leaves carried along with the wind, feeling the sun, accepting the rain: feeling my feet hit pavement in a steady pattern, is meditation, stress-relief at it’s finest.
The Bank is Happy
Canceling my car insurance the second the totaling of my Escape was final added an extra near one hundred dollars to my monthly allowance. No more money spent on gas, oil changes, small tune-ups. Bus rides? Free. Walking? Freeing.
Openness in Asking for Favors, Reaching Out to Others
Independence was always something I found as a strength but it hindered my ability to allow others to help me, to accept assistance or aid.
At first, when I needed a ride to move from apartment to apartment, or company on a yoga training, I’d stare at my phone, stomach knotted, wishing I could teleport, before finally, I gave in, and asked for help. I offered beer, hugs, love, anything, but was reassured: you don’t owe me anything, of course I’ll help you.
I’ve connected with more humans, developed deeper friendships, created new friends by simply accepting a ride, an adventure three hours away, being a passenger, listening.
Kindness is abundant in humans, who are quick to add, if one is open.
Traveling light is essential for your mental and shoulder health, you learn quickly.
When grocery shopping, you ponder, is a gallon of coconut oil an essential requirement to my life? Your grocery lists shrinks. You’re moving storage unit is gone, so, you can see everything you have, you sell or get rid of those items that take up too much space.
Time Moves Slower (in a Good Way)
Suddenly, you have more time to read, to ponder, to relax.
You have more time waiting for the next bus, staring at beaming snow-capped mountains. Walking alongside trees, blades of grass, puddles creeping through pebbles, slow your thoughts, your mind, the world.
Passing cars seem to startle the energy of the air, too fast, they pelt.
If I could pass on advice—take the long way home, bike, walk a half hour somewhere, carry what you need for the day (which is never much).
For me, my vehicle was a way for me to escape from the world and I won’t say not having one doesn’t come with some inconveniences, like when I want to take a drive down to the city, or a concert, or event, or a yoga training, but cannot without aid.
The benefits, however, out-weigh the cons.
The relationship with my car was symbolic for the quick, uncommitted, fleeting relationship I maintained with the people of the world: impersonal, set apart, a simple gaze from a safe distance.
Losing my car, forced me in a way, to awkwardly connect.
You have more connections, conversations throughout the day: hugs after looking at pictures of a bus drivers nieces, strangers sharing their day, friends briefly sharing their well wishes in passings on the street, the sun embraces you more, calling forth freckles for play.
Take the long way home, the whole world will walk with you.
Author: Elizabeth Brumfield
Editor: Sarah Kolkka
Photo: Nydia Hartons // Flickr