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Adapting To A Car Culture

As we drove to our new home from the
airport a few weeks ago, I gawked out the window at our new
neighborhood, trying to figure out where “our” spots
would be. Driving past a Starbucks, I did a double take, unable to
believe what I’d seen. A few moments later, I was
breathlessly telling my 17-year-old niece that our neighborhood had
“a Starbucks with a DRIVE-THROUGH! How amazing is
that???” I swear, my niece looked at me with a mixture of
contempt and pity and said only, “I’ve seen it.
It’s not the only one.”

Moving from an urban setting like New York
to a suburb of a large southern city has meant a lot of changes,
and one that’s amongst the hardest to accept is having to get
into the car to go ANYWHERE. One of the things I love most about
New York is how independent you can be – you can get anywhere
on public transportation, and while it may not always be
instantaneous, you’ll never have to worry about gas prices or
a full parking lot. And I always enjoyed running errands by
stroller when Maddie and Cora and I went out for our mornings at
the park; not only would we walk to our community playground every
day, but we’d hit the bank, the post office, and the grocery
store on the way home. All my little errands could be run on foot,
and if I had to venture further afar, well, that’s what
subways are for.

I knew things would change in Texas; after all, I grew up here and
don’t ever remember seeing people walking anywhere. But one
of the reasons we chose the new home we did was because it’s
in a great location, and there’s a bank and a drugstore
within a mile of our home. So I thought we’d still keep some
of our walking habits in our daily routines.

But you know what? It’s pretty dang hard. I talk to people
about running quick errands, and they say, “Oh, it’s
only about ten miles away – just dash on over.” Ten
miles! That’s a lot of gas! That’s a lot of time spent
folding a toddler and a baby into their car seats, packing the
snacks that must accompany any such trip, and making sure it
won’t interfere with a nap (since cars have a hypnotic effect
still on Cora). Then you have to weigh the end result against that
effort, plus the monumental amount of work that goes into getting
the toddler and baby out of the car, through the errand, and back
into the car again. It’s exhausting.

Which is why, I guess, they invented drive-through EVERYTHING down
here. Our pharmacy has a drive-through window so you don’t
have to get out of your car to fill your child’s
prescription. Krispy Kreme has a drive-through so you can get your
hot donuts that much faster. And of course, there’s

I’m still struggling to keep the driving down to a minimum,
but it’s not easy. We’ve walked to get an ice-cream
cone, or to lunch with family, but we’re the only people on
the streets and we’re crossing major intersections. And when
it’s late and cold and rainy outside and your husband offers
to watch both kids while you run to the drugstore, it’s just
so EASY and COMFY to get in your car in your nice warm garage, head
to the store, pick up your prescription and get back home, all
without getting out of the car until you’re back in your
guaranteed parking spot just a few steps from your kitchen.
It’s seductive.

I know Maddie’s noticed the difference in our lifestyle; the
other day as we were driving to the Container Store (hee hee) she
looked out the window and said, “Why aren’t there any
people outside of the cars?” “What do you mean,
honey?” I asked. “No one is outside of their cars here.
Everyone is inside a car everywhere,” she replied. Maddie
begs to go outside a couple times a day; we still have our daily
walk to the park (come on, people, it’s only two blocks) and
play time, but she often pleads for another walk around the
neighborhood after her nap or dinner. She loves to get outside and
stretch her legs and people-watch, and I notice on days we have
errands to run in the car that she’s restless and easily
frustrated by day’s end.

Brian started a new job recently and is now commuting downtown, and
since we try to be kind to the environment (and because we only
have one car) he’s taking the commuter rail every day. Which
means every morning and evening we hop in the car, drive to the
station, and drive back home. I’d probably tell the
environment to fend for itself if it’d buy me an extra
half-hour in bed every morning and make my husband drive himself to
the station, but I need the car during the day for all those
errands I used to do on foot. So for now I get out of bed and try
not to crab.

And if the morning’s really bad, the Krispy Kreme
drive-through is on the way home. So easy.


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