We are on Day 39* without a car. Our car’s engine died the third week of January. Our trusted mechanic told us it wouldn’t be worth putting in a new engine with the body our 2002 minivan had; just too much rust. We knew this day was coming, but it still left us in a numb kind of shock. It’s been our only car for several years now, and we just can’t afford a car payment. There were also some new payroll deductions so for now our salary has been reduced, significantly, and we’re not really sure how we’ll get through that. However, that is one too many problems for this discussion.
I don’t want to make light of the added stress and anxiety this has caused us, not to mention our younger children. When can we…? I don’t know. They’ve shown a level of patience that I thought they weren’t capable of so that has been a silver lining.
While our oldest son lives on his own and has his own car, he also has a fulltime job with an inconvenient work schedule. He’s made some of his own time sacrifices to get me to doctors’ appointments which I am reluctant to change or cancel. Everything else is fair game for cancellation.
I do want to say that despite this hardship, along with our oldest son, we have very good friends, and they have all rallied around to help get us where we need to be as well as getting us to the store for grocery shopping. We have one friend who has recently loaned us her car while her husband was out of town and it would just be sitting in the driveway. We are very lucky and extremely blessed. This has been one of the good things we’ve experienced – seeing how generous my friends are, especially my church family. It’s been a real lesson in gratitude and grace.
Despite this, we’ve still had to cancel some things that feel important in our day to day existence, but that we’ve managed to put off until we can borrow a car for an extended amount of time (like this week.)
In the last thirty-nine days we’ve discovered a few things; some of which we’d like to keep up and others we can certainly do without.
For one thing we are extremely fortunate that my husband works from home 99% of the time so at least the logistics of commuting hasn’t been an added stressor.
I’ve had to cancel planned workshops at my local retreat center. Anyone who follows my writing knows how much of a lifeline that retreat center is. It’s nearby and the day classes are very affordable. Last year, I had tried to visit once a month, which to be honest was afforded by skipping Starbucks three times. Not a very big sacrifice. I haven’t been there since the end of last year, and I can feel my spirit sagging.
I wasn’t sure about being able to attend my writing group, but I had three offers for rides. They like me; they really like me.
I have had to withdraw from one or two of my interfaith council obligations. I do have a neighbor who also attends and will (has) drive (n) me, but I don’t like the uncertainty of maybe with my attendance. It’s like waking up to a snow storm that wasn’t predicted, and being lost for a day trying to reorganize my mind around the whim of sudden change.
I can’t go to church or church events without acquiring a ride from someone else going. Next week is Mardi Gras and it’s awkward enough to request a ride for one, but then to ask for four… I know that most people don’t mind and truly are happy to help, but that doesn’t lessen the feelings it dredges up in my husband and me.
One of the most startling good things about not having a car has been that (and it’s been an amazing surprise) our house has remained pretty clean. I would have thought that the more we were home, the messier it would get, but it has actually been the opposite circumstance; an anomaly if you will. We’re no longer rushing around to get anywhere and coming home tired, dropping everything from rolls of paper towels and non-perishable shopping bags to coats and gloves.
It’s been a very pleasant experience.
We’re actually enjoying our house and aren’t as frustrated being “cooped up” as we thought we’d be.
We’re not eating out, which is great monetarily, but it also means that we’re needing to plan our menus in advance, make sure we have pasta for those times we run out; put together our shopping lists for the moment that someone offers a ride, and buy two gallons of milk at a time. Tonight we’re having the leftover roast chicken mixed with fettuccine alfredo.
I keep running lists of what we need when we’re “in the neighborhood” for groceries and household items. We can’t just run out to Target when we run out of something (like milk and toilet paper) as we’re so used to doing.
One of the most frustrating thing about not having a car has been not being able to meet our family obligations for our kids. My son wanted to see The Lego Movie, and we had to say no until he came back and told us his friend would pick him up. Then we had to figure out how to get him cash without going to an ATM. (We found some Christmas gift cards that he used.)
The same with my daughter and a sleepover she wanted to attend. My daughter is also in drama club and that comes with very strict responsibilities and attendance requirements and for most of the crew days and rehearsals we aren’t able to pick her up in the evening after school. We have arranged rides and this week we’re covered, but it’s hard on everyone.
Our friend has loaned us her car for the month of March. A true kindness.
Which was perfectly timed with my daughter’s musical, my son’s superhero movie schedule and yesterday when my oldest texted about his car being at the dealer all weekend for a recall asking if could I drive him to work on Sunday, and then pick up the car on Monday. It was a wonderful feeling to be able to say yes after all the recent times that we’ve asked to borrow his car or have him drive me to the doctor or to the supermarket or get his siblings from a school event. It was like the embodiment of parenthood; unquestionably being able to help your kids when they need you.
Overall, it’s been a nice refresher in what is important and what seems important but can be put off or cancelled altogether. I’m going to try and continue reflecting on how we’re doing without a car and work our lives around new priorities.
*Day 39 was last week, but after my pneumonia vaccine, I was sick and am just starting to get over it. Please suspend your disbelief.