Fuel Saver

I just got a letter in the mail. Needless to say, before I describe it, this “letter” is junk mail. It’s from some insurance company, and because it had a little “personal access card” glued to the letter, I opened the folded sheet to see if there was any magnetic strip on the card. Now opened, I began to read the letter:

As a responsible driver, we think you may qualify for a reduction in your 2009 auto insurance rates. 

This is funny. Why you ask? I haven’t driven nor owned a car for nearly nine years. Looks like I get yet another benefit from being carless.

But this reminds me of another benefit that came up recently. A lot of grocery stores I’m familiar with give a credit to you if you bring your own bags. Well, my brief time in Louisville has shown me that the Krogers here were giving us a 5¢ credit for every cloth bag we brought. How nice! Largely insubstantial, but nice indeed. That was until last weekend when I noticed the cashier’s ringing in our “credits” were not indicating the 5¢ return. Curious about this discrepancy, I asked.

Evidently, this benefit will only apply to those who not only bring their own cloth bags, but also buy gasoline from Kroger. The credit doesn’t go towards your grocery bill, but towards any gas you intend on buying from Kroger. This begs the question as to Kroger’s original intention of offering the credit. Whatever greenwash they plugged with the original bag credit is ruined by the benefit only going to motorists now. Bring your own bags instead of using ours not to reduce consumption but to increase the incentive to drive. Where are the Kroger gas pumps anyway?

Bah! It’s really just mildly disappointing.

Observations from Behind the Wheel

I drove a car yesterday. I was originally excited about it because of the manual transmission, but that quickly faded in about five minutes. Five minutes of blissful manual shifting, anything else while behind the wheel to me is just about the same as being a passenger. I haven’t felt that since I got rid of my Honda Prelude six years ago. Yeah, five minutes was all I needed until it occurred me that being a motorist is a pain in the ass. It was a good reminder though, I don’t like driving, it’s an inefficient, impersonal, and an absolutely aggravating activity.

The whole process seems inherently rushed, inherently aggressive, inherently selfish. Rushed because, no matter how relaxed I tried to be, something would occur that made me have to worry about the time. I swore I left with sufficient time: Yet another red light! Gotta get gas! “Would you mind driving me over the hill?” One interesting thing about driving is the sheer number of interactions you will have with other people along the road, but these interactions are shielded by four tons of steel barricade, how personal can it get? There is very little that is positive, or friendly about these interactions; these are not interactions that enlighten us or bring us closer to humanity or community—quite the opposite seemingly. They are only personal with their aggression, competitiveness, and selfishness; in that we take these interactions as personal affronts to our well-being and punctuality. And the people that think they can make it through the intersection at a yellow light and instead block it, how selfish is that?

Is it really this bad being behind the wheel? Is this a common emotion felt from behind the wheel? The perspective itself, from behind the wheel and windshield, is like that of a computer monitor or television, detached from the reality of the road. Just a façade of isolation from any injurious action.

I normally only drive maybe two or three times a year now, and with that it’s usually a Flexcar. That’s all well and good, but it makes me wonder, is there a distinct difference in attitude from driving your own POS vehicle with that of driving a nicely maintained new car? I don’t know for sure, at least in a nicer car I guess I’m more comfortable, it’s all a façade of comfort though, we’d still rather be at our point of destination, or better yet, safe at home. Driving is something people have to do, not something they desire to do (no matter how cool they make it look in those television ads—albeit, we all know we’re not allowed to drive the way they do in those ads). Were I to own my own “nicer” car, it’d cost me a fortune and it would eventually turn into a POS that would still be costing me a fortune. Good investment!

Even as I sit here in my apartment, far from the road, I can here wheels spinning on icy pavement. I wonder if I can feel that individual’s frustration and anxiousness to get to where they’re trying to go. The feeling that they’re going to “lose the race”. Yesterday, from every intersection along the brief stretch of SR-99, strip mall extending beyond the horizon on either side of me, it felt like a race to the next red light. People revving beside me, jockeying for position, all the while I’m casually attempting to manage the abundant standing water on the road, avoiding the threat of hydroplaning. Still the strip malls were attracting my eyes, it’s another world to me, one I’ve not seen in a long time (and I’m thankful for that) there’s so much to see, and yet it’s all the same, all repetitive, red light to red light. Such distraction, I don’t know what I would’ve done had there been a stereo in the car, or if I had to read directions, or send a text message, damn I was hungry too, thankful I didn’t have something to eat at the same time. Distraction upon distraction. What an existence it must be to have to do that every day. I am not a praying man, but I pray for this: that I never have to rely on a car in this capacity ever again.

Driving a car every now and then helps sustain this notion in my life, it was thoroughly compounded with my experience yesterday. Next time I gotta go to Edmonds or the like, I’ll ride my bike.