The Car-ful World is a Little Smaller

I began seriously looking into buying a car last month. Somewhat ironically, getting a car is one of the activities that would have most benefitted from having a car. I first went to the DMV to get a license, which I technically should have done several months ago (within 10 days of moving). Unfortunately, the DMV is too far for biking and only open during business hours. I managed to make it on the bus and into work soon enough, though not before locking myself out of my house. Oops.

Next was actual car shopping, which again could have benefitted from a car. Fortunately, going to the DMV revealed to me that the local bus system is functional, and I visited several dealerships in the area. Thus, over the span of a month, I ended up taking the bus more times than I had previously in my entire life. And seeing as I now have a car, perhaps I won’t ever need to take it anymore.

The common attribute of getting a license and getting a car, which ironically make both activities car-improved, is that both are infrequent activities. I managed to go car-less for several months because common activities are made convenient (typically by availability). I can go shopping without a car because there are many grocery stores close to me because everyone goes to grocery stores. I can’t easily get to the dealerships because there aren’t many dealerships near me because most of us only rarely shop for cars.

Having had the car for just over 2 weeks now, I noticed that the world has gotten a lot smaller. Previously, 99 Ranch was a trek that I made only when I had run out of several Chinese cooking supplies. Now, it feels close enough to be a trivial trip. I’m no longer bothered by how far the car dealerships seem, and the DMV here might actually be closer to me than it was back in Houston.

In fact, I think things here might actually be much more accessible and convenient than they were where I grew up. There, the nearest grocery store is just over 2 miles, while I have at least 6 within just over a mile. I had always known that Texas (or at least Houston) was spread over a wide area, but now that I have a car here, I can actually make a balanced comparison. Apparently, I was never judging absolute distances: I was always comparing travel times and effort.

Despite having the car, I have been trying to limit my use of it. I still bike to work because it’s convenient enough, and I can always fall back on the argument of being cheap to save gas. I think the real reason, however, is that I want to prove to myself that I won’t let the car “change” me and my ability to largely survive without it. It does make many places more accessible to me, but by trying to behave as small as possible, hopefully I can stay grounded and relate to less mobile people. It’s a pain, but not an insurmountable one here in the Bay Area, and I hope it can stay that way.

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