Life Without the X
When I travel, public transportation is a part of the experience. I rarely have a need or feel the urge to get anywhere quickly. I just take the challenge to get somewhere without a car or as cheaply as possible. I ride a bike, take the bus, find a train or use my feet. I meet people, I overhear conversations, I see the landscape of a different country….
But sadly, Travel Me and Work Me are two different people. My real world persona is all Type A… and always late. So what is life like without a car in the concrete jungle of Phoenix, Arizona? A little like trying to be a tourist on the Amazing Race.
Two months ago, the lease was up on my beloved Xterra. Instead of getting a new car, I dropped it off at the dealer, they drove me home, and my life on two wheels began. The learning curve of alternative transportation was as difficult as learning to walk.
It didn’t help that my first week without a car was also one of my busiest weeks at work. Typically, I just have a few meetings or events close to home. But this week I had to be everywhere from Glendale to Gilbert (nearly 100 miles apart). I took the unbearable light rail of being, rode my bike and kicked up the scooter. I learned quickly how to find other people going my direction and ask for rides.
Each commute was double or triple my travel time in a car. I would leave earlier and still be my typical 15 minutes late. On the fifth day, the scooter ran out of gas. I pushed it into a parking lot, jumped on the neighborhood shuttle and waited while the driver called in back up to deal with a strange smell. Ah – the glamorous life of mass transit.
Tourist Me saw the irony. All busses smell. Work Me needed a drink.
I was exhausted. In a week, listening in to English conversations was much less interesting than eavesdropping on French or Spanish. The Phoenix desert is beautiful. The brown uniformity of strip malls, not so much. I met some unique people, but none I wanted to see again.
A friend picked me up, we refilled the scoot and 2 and half hours later, I was back home. The next day I rented a car.
It’s gotten easier since that week. Work Me and Travel Me have found a middle ground. I plan meetings within a bike and scooter-friendly 7-mile radius. I avoid the light rail. I’ve embraced the art of scooter maintenance. And I actually miss it when I don’t ride my bike during the day. I see more people I know. Stay longer at places and meet new neighbors. My world is smaller, but much more interesting.