"Wow, that's a lot of strawberries," a fellow farmers' market goer smiled at me as I hefted a flat of organic strawberries to my car, parked along side the road.
"They are just sooo good," I grinned back and opened the back passenger door, gently positioning my red babies on the floor, under the empty car seats. The boys were home with their father and I'd slipped over to the closest farmers' market for some produce to tide us over until the big Wednesday market. I settled into the driver's seat and glanced at my watch and then the stack of books on the passenger seat. There was just enough time to return my library books and pick up Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet, which I had reserved on another blogger's recommendation. An hour and a half to myself was a luxury and I intended to enjoy it.
I stuck the key in the ignition and turned. Everything was still. That's strange. I tried again and again nothing happened. Checking to make sure the headlights were off, I tried a final time. Again, the engine was silent. Sitting in my car, parked along the side of the busiest road on the San Francisco Peninsula, I felt an overwhelming sense of . . . calm.
Not just because I'm a grown up now. With a husband, two kids and a mortgage, though, I am assuredly that. No, I was undisturbed because, for now anyway, a car is just a convenience, not a necessity. A year ago, I would have felt very differently but many of the changes I've made to reduce carbon emissions have made local life second nature. First, we've significantly curtailed the kids' after school activities and, without a car, well, we'd just cut back more. Certainly, a five year old can live without gymnastics and the local park and rec offers a wide variety of classes. Next, we stopped our weekend outings to the zoo or the amusement park. Hiking closer to home, gardening and discovering a local creek have provided just as much amusement. Finally, to both reduce consumption and support small businesses, I abandoned Target in favor of local stores. With the exception of my farmers' market, nearly everything I need on a weekly basis can be found in my small downtown - just a fifteen minute walk from home. Besides, sauntering down a shaded street, listening to birds gossip in the trees and watching flowers wave cheerfully in the breeze, well, just feels better than sitting in a car.
I pick up my cell phone - only one bar left - and dial the Automobile Club. Someone will be here within the hour. I then phone home to let my husband know I'll be late. With no radio and the need to conserve my cell phone battery, I might as well read. I pick up an overdue library book, Seed to Seed. Before I've finished the first chapter, the tow truck has arrived, the battery is charged and I am on my way.
It's a different way than the way I've come, though. And it will likely lead me down a different road. Will I give up my car? No. I just may move one of my sons to a closer school, replace a far away doctor with one closer, walk a little more, and finally get on that bike of mine. Independence is one sweet ride.