Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Carless in Dallas: The Heat Is On

Being outside feels like hugging this
Just when I got my mind set on going carless, something frustrating happened. My brother called me and mentioned that he would be gone on tour for a few weeks this summer, and that if we wanted, we could borrow his car while he's gone. I mentioned it to Julie and said that we don't really have to take him up on it if we don't want to. She said, "Yes, take it! Now!"

Those are the words of a woman who has already grown tired of walking a mile in the heat everyday to pick Nigel up from school. Honestly, the car was a blessing, and we view it as God's provision for us in his bizarre, inexplicable way. God is like that, I think, and I don't know why. However, that was over a week ago. In that time, the temperature has risen over 100 degrees, and I find myself wondering: how sweaty is too sweaty?

When I'm on my bike in the afternoon, there's no cooling breeze anymore. Instead, gusts of hot air lick my arms and face.

Thankfully, another friend, Toby, read this here blog and has volunteered his car for most of July and all of August while he's on tour. It looks like we're going to get through this thing without having to sweat it out too terribly thanks to the kindness of my bro and friends like Toby, who is a good guy. 

God's better though.

And as my family walks through this tough time of saving cash before we buy a new car, instead of getting into debt over it, I feel God's providence. It just feels like we're in the right place, in the pocket, in the groove. Even on those blazing walks. Even when I have a near death experience trying to bring home groceries on my scooter. Even when we're making those groceries stretch further than they've ever stretched before.

We're already about a third of the way there.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Carless In Dallas: There Will Be Blood

Julie spent a lot of time getting mentally prepared for today’s trip on the DART Rail. Before bed last night, she spent a substantial amount of time calculating her trip on the DART website. She’s like that: well prepared.

Julie works from home, but on Thursdays she has a staff meeting to attend, so I stay home with Townes and take Nigel to daycare. As she said her goodbyes this morning, Nigel, in all his excitement, somehow ricocheted off of her leg into the coffee table, biting into his upper lip.

There was blood. Lots of it.

Julie immediately knew what to do. She threw down her bags and scooped up the boy. He bled all over her work clothes. I, on the other hand, frantically ran around for a minute until I came up with my sole contribution.

“I’ll call the doctor,” I said, hoping to avoid the emergency room (and, secretly, the co-pay). The doctor said she could see us in 20 minutes, so I scrambled to get out the door with both boys screaming. That’s when I cheated on this whole carless thing.

“You go to work. There’s still time to make the train,” I told Julie, and she sprinted in the direction of the train station. I threw both boys in the car. The one my mechanic told me would never be safe to drive. Ever again.

The doctor’s office is only half a mile away, but it was too rainy to walk there with both boys.

By the time we got there, Nigel was fine. The Tylenol we gave him had kicked it. The doctor took a look at him and said he’s OK. It looks a lot worse than it is, so no trip to the emergency room (and no co-pay), she said.

Relieved, I put the boys in their respective car safety seats and returned home. When we walked in the door, Julie was standing there. She missed her train. I was kind of glad. It turned into an impromptu rainy day in for our whole family.

We were all pretty beat up from this morning, but I can’t complain. We have it so good.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Carless in Dallas: There's No Way to Avoid the Wetness


The adventure of going carless began pleasantly enough today. To catch up those of you who are new here (judging by this blog's pageview report, that would be all of you), yesterday my mechanic told me our only family car is dead. So, starting this morning, we are traveling by foot, moped, or DART.

It was warm and a little humid when I set off on foot to drop Nigel off at his daycare, just half a mile away. He was in a stroller, I was in jeans and a t-shirt.

I think I'm going to like that part of being carless, just me and the Nige (one of his many nicknames) walking the streets of Deep Ellum, looking for cool things like a weird rock, something painted a primary color or a birdie. He points them all out to me as we pass.

When I got home, Julie pointed out how sweaty I was. I had a set of imposing pit stains. Turns out, though, that it wouldn't be the only time I'd be wet today.

Later on at work, our bosses planned a sort of staff field trip to a nearby watering hole to plan an upcoming issue of the Observer. As I hopped on my moped to go to the meeting, I noticed some dark clouds overhead, and halfway there, I was pelted with big, stinging raindrops.

"Our bathroom has some of those hand dryers," said the lady behind the bar when I walked in. I found the men's room and peeled the soaking denim shirt off, running it under the hand dryer for about five minutes. It was a waste of time.

Two hours later, with a cold, wet shirt clinging to me, it looked like the meeting was winding down as my coworkers went for their third and fourth rounds. I noticed a break in the storm. That's when I made my move.

Only a few minutes into the trip, the storm came on strong again. The rain sprayed, stinging my face and arms, and by the time I got home I was completely saturated. Drenched. Soaked. Cold.

Thankfully, when I got home, there was a hot shower waiting for me. Somewhere else in Dallas, someone was caught up in the same storm and didn't have the same luxury as me. With that in mind, I look back at today as a success. A giant step into a simpler life.

Tomorrow, Julie takes the DART Rail to work for the first time, and I'll have another sweaty shirt before 9 a.m.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

So Long, White Shadow or Going Carless: A Social Experiment

In the words of our esteemed governor, "Adios, mofo."

Tony shook his head and made a cringing face as he stared under the hood of my white 1999 Honda Civic, or as I like to call it, The White Shadow. Actually, I've never called it that. Not once. That, just then, was the first time. I tend to come up with great ideas too late.

"It doesn't look good," he said. Tony, a short, peppy hispanic guy, has been my mechanic for years. Everytime I bring my car in he points to it's many dents, scrapes and ghetto paint touch-ups and makes fun of the terrible shape it's in. This time, there were no jokes.

"Your head gasket's blown," he said. "Ooooh," I gravely replied, pretending I knew what he was saying. "What does that mean, exactly?" He went on to tell me that, in summary, the cost of the repair is greater than the value of car.

"Ooooh," I said, this time with a bit more gravity. On the drive home (the car is still drivable for a short time until it inevitably will explode, Macgyver style), I started thinking of options. There weren't many. After all, besides my moped, it was my family's only source of transportation. When I got home, Julie and I talked.

She asked me a simple question: "Why do we need a car?" It was so outside-the-box that it took me a few minutes to actually consider leaving behind the convenience of owning a car. Considering my moped and the DART Rail station literally across the street, I couldn't really come up with a good answer to her question. We don't need a car. At least not for now. We certainly don't need the debt that comes with a new car.

So, our plan is this: For the next four or five months, we will live on a tight budget and put away enough money to pay cash for a reliable car.

In the meantime, we will ride the DART Rail, which Nigel will love. I'm excited about looking at our city's public transportation (the largest light rail in the nation) as a necessity rather than a luxury.

What I'm most excited about, though, is looking at this as a way to simplify our lives.