Car-Free: The Good, The Bad, and The OMG

Mini waiting for the bus to dance class... in the rain
All told, we had 4 weeks of no-car living.  Of considering the idea of taking my bike and quickly dismissing it because I knew I'd end up killing myself and/or causing a 5-car pile-up if I tried.  Of walking.  Of taking public transit.

Not since I was a hot, brilliant, 20-something engineer with a body that just won't quit living in Greater Vancouver with a 45-minute commute on the SkyTrain had I taken public transit so much. 

So, what was it like?  (She's going to tell, she's going to tell, she's going to tell... you know, from Monty Python...  No?... okay, never mind then)  Ahem, anyway, here are my thoughts on my car-free period -- the good, the bad, and the OMG...

The Good...
1: We felt so loved!  As soon as we lost the use of our car, so many of our friends offered to drive us around, to help us with groceries, gave us rides home, etc.  It warmed the cockles of my heart.  Totally.
2: The pain in the ass of parking a car Downtown is completely eliminated by not actually having a car.
3: We have a great public transit system, and we're lucky to live close to it.  And sometimes, with careful planning, we were able to get to places almost as quickly as we would with the car.
4: Instead of driving to our fave grocery store further out, we walked to one nearby and discovered that it had a better organic foods section.
5: Even the biggest, gruffest bus drivers get all soft, mushy, and smiley when cute little Mini flashed her sweetest grin and politely says in her little voice, "Transfer please."
6: We didn't buy gas for a whole month and saved $45.
7: We were even greener than we usually are by not adding to gas emissions.
8: With all the walking, I got more exercise... and lost 5 pounds.
9: Roomie and I, while the kids were at school, enjoyed a day cuddling and holding hands on the bus on the way to the mall across town.  It was like university all over again!... except we talked about our kids the entire time.

The Bad... 
1: Our independence and autonomy were stripped from us, and I felt bad that we were at the mercy of the weather and the schedule of public transportation.  I truly felt sorry for myself.
2: With our packed schedule and the amount of time it takes to get to some places via public transit, we were forced to cancel many of our appointments that were farther away... like our chiro adjustments which is at the opposite end of town.
3: Lam has severe motion sickness, and bus rides completely do him in.  The chiro adjustments helped him, but since we couldn't go to our appointments, he just got worse and worse.  We kept Gravol in business.
4: It's frightening when my kids vanish for a couple of seconds in a crowded bus surrounded by strangers and the occasional weird riff-raff.
5: If I have to be at a certain place by a certain time, I had to plan my connections carefully.  And I couldn't be late.  This meant getting the kids ready hours beforehand.  This seriously cut into my lounging around watching HGTV hanging on facebook writing and getting housework done.
6: We may have saved $45 on a full tank of gas, but we spent more than that much on bus fare.
7: My kid gets motion sickness on the bus.  Yeah, it's so bad I had to mention it twice.

The OMG...
1: The coughing, the sneezing, and the not-covering-their-mouths-and-noses while coughing and sneezing!!!  Public buses are germy.  I'm completely shocked that we didn't come down with the cold or something.
2: It was spring, but on the first weekend, IT SNOWED!!!  My warmed up cockles totally froze.
3: Oh, the smells!  Food, BO, and OMG the perfume and cologne!  And a lot of which added to poor Lam's nausea.  You know it's bad when the odours get on the bus before the people do. 
4: It threatened to rain cats and dogs on Picture Day at Mini's dance school.  You know, the same day we missed the bus.  And had to walk 3 long blocks.  Without an umbrella.
5: There were some really scary people on the bus.  They freaked Mini out.  They freaked me out too.  I held her very close and very tight during those bus rides.

In the end -- which, yes, it is because we now have a car! -- it was a learning experience.  I learned that it's ironically like riding a bike.
That once you've done it, you can do it again.
That it's so much tougher with kids!
That it's a good thing for my kids to experience.
That it's a good skill to know with the inevitable energy crisis and we haven't gotten off our asses and considered an alternative fuel source.
That our schedule is too packed for a stress-free car-free existence -- which I kinda have a problem with.
That it really isn't that bad.
And that I may not always be so quick to use the car and might consider using public transportation instead.

I'll tell you all about the new vehicle... in my next post.


  1. As one who has always relied on public transportation, I can safely say that you never really get used to most of the OMG factors of taking the bus. At least, I hope people don't get used to them.

  2. We've decided to take family bus rides more often, to the zoo, museum, maybe even THE RED RIVER EX!!! And hey, if my oldest runs away from home, its just one long bus ride to your street. Either you or Auntie G would be home. Right?

  3. Hi Nenette! It sounds like the public transit adventures were...uh..adventurous. ;)

    I have never ridden a public bus (horrible I know), and mostly it's because we don't have one nearby. And also because I remember hearing the story of my friend having her watch stollen on a subway in New York...

    Anyways, I'm glad you survived the month, are with-car now and can choose if and when you want to take advantage of the public transit in your area. :)

  4. What a cool experience. I am in San Diego and we don't have a very good public transit system, well at least where I live. I will have to see if I can try a mini-version of this. Especially since gas it close to $4.50 now. Yipes!

  5. Anonymous23 May, 2011

    My goal for the month of May was to not drive my car to work, taking the bus or riding my bike instead. Taking the bus takes 1hour (walking time included), driving takes 17 minutes. Riding my bike is out, as the paths are currently flooded. I was successful for the 1st week, took the bus once in the second week and failed in the third. Too much time!