Friday, October 13, 2006


the project itself

i met someone at my folks' house a couple weeks ago who had ridden her bike there. of course i was excited--a kindred spirit. when i had the chance, i congratulated her on living without a car, told her i thought it was cool...but she said abruptly, it's not by choice--i'm seriously unemployed, need to find a new job, and get a car. well, that burst my bubble. i realized then that most people riding bikes aren't doing it like me, with a perfectly functioning car in the garage, which they choose not to drive.

this makes me think about my reaction to barbara ehrenreich's [sp?] book Nickel and Dimed, which i thought was not a very intellectually honest project. she pretended to be poor so she could write a book about being poor...pretended to subsist at low-wage service-sector jobs, all the while, with a credit card in her pocket in case anything really bad happened. with a clear head and years of education behind her, she abandoned a cushy life to try and experience poverty. about like the way supersize-me's morgan spurlock did the same thing for 30 days in on minimum wage.

so, as i biked to campus today, and was thinking about this, i wonder, is my project any more intellectually honest than theirs. am i really subjecting myself to the deprivation of not having a car, if i have an operational one waiting for me in my garage at any moment i absolutely need it. i think part of life without a car is not having a safety net...not having knowledge in the back of your head that if you need to take your child to the hospital, you can get him or her there in a few minutes, faster than an emergency squad would arrive.

another aspect of this project that people searching for my hypocrisy have challenged is that i will ride in cars at all. they wonder why i do it, if i wanna claim to be car-free. i tell them i don't have to swear off riding i cars, just like i don't have to refuse to buy groceries that arrived at the store by delivery truck, or not buy clothes that came off a truck either. i guess if i extended their question/assumption, i should not allow people to drive to my house to visit me either. but that's not my project, trying to eliminate cars. my project is to see what the detriment to my life is--what sacrifices do i have to make, or how much do i have to impose on my friends--if i don't personally operate my private automobile.

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