Friday, August 7, 2009

I Am Not a Car

Most of the major metropolitan areas on the North American continent are driving communities. Places where most people must drive a car or car-esque vehicle several times in the course of their daily routines. New York City is not one of these places. You can live here* and without much effort never have to pilot a car again. Cabs, buses, subways, and commuter trains make it unnecessary to have a car in every garage. And that’s assuming you have a garage. Which you probably don’t.

But I straddle the two worlds. My wife Lindsay drives to work farther into the Garden State. I work at home or take public transportation under a large river and into the former New Amsterdam. On weekends, though, we have the freedom to choose the PATH train (a subway that runs between Jersey and Manhattan) or our car. And if we go somewhere in our car, I drive.

Switching back and forth can be taxing. Sometimes, after a weekend of driving, a Monday morning walk along a sidewalk with the flow of traffic (yep, walking traffic; city sidewalks are pedestrian highways - believe it) will find my reflexes still thinking I’m behind the wheel. When I want to look behind me, I don’t turn around. Instead I glance a little to the right and a bit upward to the spot where my misguided brain thinks there will be a rearview mirror. I am genuinely perplexed when my eyes find at best blank space and at worst a suspicious passerby. I’ve also caught myself dropping my gaze to a person’s hindquarters to see what State this tourist is from and why in the Samuel J. Hill she’s walking so freaking slowly and zigzagging (is she doing it on purpose?) back and forth when I’m clearly trying to pass her because I’m already seven and a half minutes late to work?!

But of course there is no license plate on her bumper, because she is not a car. She is a person. A slow, clueless person. Probably from Jersey.



*Yes, that’s right. I claim to live in NYC. Maybe you’re calling foul, rightly pointing out that my address clearly states Jersey City, New Jersey. Seriously, you insist, “Jersey” is in there twice. Yes, it is. But we live four blocks from the Hudson River. We’re at least five times closer to Manhattan than we were when we lived in Queens. It’s practically another borough and I’m counting it. While we’re on the subject, where do you live, gentle reader? Chicago? St. Louis? Los Angeles? Or is it Wheaton, Columbia, IL, or Pasadena? That’s what I thought.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

I will add Utica, Michigan to the list of gentle cities - or was that gentle readers. Either way, it's where I live and if I never had to drive a car in traffic to get to work or anywhere else mundane, I would gladly surrender my keys and enjoy the docile world of mass transit.
Love, Mrs. Westphal- Mom 2 - or Anne, take your pick.

Steve said...

Don't lose hope. I'm sure it'll be only a few years before they expand the People Mover to your neighborhood.

ARL said...

Steve, do you take the PATH train into NYC? I hear it runs all day and sometimes at night. Though it's cheaper than the MTA, wouldn't you rather just pay? I know you're envious of those within NYC proper. I can hear the defensiveness in your prose!

Steve said...

When you are constantly attacked, it's foolish not to be defensive.

I'm going to look for the music video of that song you're quoting. Maybe post it here...

Joaquinez said...

KCMO. haha. This reminds me of the Jersey song you sang a couple Christmases ago, that my mom recorded and has since misplaced the disc that proved you sang it.

Jasmine said...

Hi Steve,

I live in LA now but I used to be a New Yorker and the fact that you're calling Jersey a borough could be found offensive to New Yorkers. Just saying ;)