Carless in America
By Joan Millman
It was a nostalgia trip that left me carless. I was roaming favorite haunts in my beloved Wellfleet, Massachusetts, never noting the trailing police car. As I pulled into my driveway, a gruff voice ordered me to hand over my license. The officer said, "A miracle you didn't kill anyone!"
At 83 I considered myself to be a safe driver. I could have protested, perhaps gotten my vehicle back, but the threat of a fatal encounter killed that bravado. What would it be like to depend on others for transportation?
Amazing how joyous everyone was. Of course nobody had surrendered their license. "You'll save money!" "No insurance, no gas, no repairs." (What repairs? I had a Toyota Yarris.}
Also no spontaneity. Constantly wishing someone would volunteer, it became clear how few of my neighbors still drove. I live alone in housing for the elderly.
Here were my options:
1) The Ride - Boston's subsidiary of its public transportation system . . . To qualify, a doctor must declare you either old or disabled. (I am both.) A trip is a few bucks, but you pay ahead for approximately a month. You must call a day ahead, be kept endlessly on hold, before you make contact. Either a van or sedan will show up, but not necessarily at a reasonable time. Since the vehicle makes several stops to pick up others, allow for delays. Amazing the places you visit on this arduous journey. The worst was being taken to Taylor St. in the city's South End when the destination was Tyler St. in Chinatown.
2) Veteran's Cab - Newton-based senior vouchers. Although only $2 each way, endless limitations hinder your joy, Only in Newton, daylight hours, no weekends. But prompt!
3.) Newton at Home - a group of volunteer drivers, no charge, not very available. But, oh, these people are saints!!
Then the challenge of selling my car. I enrolled in all the secondhand businesses but fortunately the grandson of one of my neighbors was probably the only high school student
who walked to school. His mom told him to drive my 7-year-old sedan around our front lot. He loved it! As she whipped out a check (amazing: no negotiation), he began unloading my junk. I thought of my wheels as my extra apartment. Instead of bring pleased at the easy transaction, I wondered if I sold it too cheaply.
Oh how I hate being carless!!!! One of life's major deprivations. I fantasize becoming rich, rich enough to have a private chauffeur. I must learn how to summon Uber or the Lyft.
And, oh yes, I saved a lot of money and I'm making plans to use it to take a wonderful trip.
Joan Millman, a writer and wit, lives in metropolitan Boston.