When I was in my late 20s and early 30s, I would routinely visit my grandparents on the weekends who were then in the last years of their life. Depending on the state of their health, we would laugh, talk, and I would usually take them out for groceries. It was a special time for all of us and I still think about them daily.
Invariably, on a monthly basis, my Zadie would look at me long and hard and say with a twinkle in his eye, “You know, a grown man has to own a car!” And to counter his harmless little dig, I would then start my routine:
“Look, I live so close to work it doesn’t make sense to drive a car to work. And since I live in the city, everything I need is so close that I walk to all the different stores. Plus, there are no parking spots and trying to find parking on the street is really annoying. Finally, I would drive it so rarely that I would just spent my evenings moving it from one side of the street to the other to avoid getting a ticket”.
With that, he would look at me again and say, “But a grown man has to own a car!” And so the debate remained unresolved until he found a way to win it.
When the family finally convinced him in his early 90s that he really shouldn’t be driving anymore he accepted it as long as I could continue to run errands with him on the weekend. The answer to that was an unquestioning yes, of course. So, for a few months I would take the bus or bike over to see them and we would spend a few hours tooling around the city driving to whichever stores they needed to go to.
Then one day he struck. He sat me down and with complete pride announced that I should have his car. He was convinced it was the best idea ever—I was convinced it was the worst. But seeing how happy he was about the decision, I just couldn’t hurt his feelings. So, we went to the Régie (The Québec Government’s Auto Insurance Board), we transferred ownership to me, and I became the owner of a Volkswagen Jetta that I didn’t want—and the car knew it.
From day one it became the biggest and only real stress and annoyance in my life. I felt burdened by it and every justification I had for not having a car came true: I never drove it to work; I just moved it from one side of the street to the other to avoid the snow plows; the worst thing was this—because it was driven by an older man who probably never drove it above 40 km/hour, it was a total lemon; I had nothing but bi-weekly mechanical problems with it. Oh, and it hated the cold weather.
So, I kept the car for a couple of years to keep my grandparents happy until I just couldn’t deal with it anymore. So, one day I put it in their garage and left it there until I sold it to a friend at a “please make this problem go away” price.
Years later I can still proudly say I don’t own a car. My lifestyle justifications are still in place and still make sense to me. I know all the reasons why someone would and should have a car and I don’t begrudge anyone for it. My reasons aren’t idealistic or judgemental, they are just personal. I just like the lifestyle I’ve carved out in my little part of the world. Now, if I could only figure out why owning a car stresses me out so much.