I think this blog deserves a long and thoughtful post since I have time and desire to write.
Maybe I could write about some lofty topic like gender equality, or civil rights, or something that could be revolutionary and life-changing, but I can’t think of anything articulate to say about any of those topics.
I just blogged about homelessness, so that topic is out.
I could, however, blog about how we expect poor families to put as much energy into their children’s educations as we expect other families to contribute. And, I would be onto something that means a lot to me, but that seems like it should be logical: if you work all day at sustaining your families lives, you don’t have energy to put into working on homework with your children, monitoring what they watch on television, or even making sure they take baths.
There are a few things I have learned in the three years I have not owned a car:
- It takes me much more time and energy to even get from place to place. If I walk it takes about 15 minutes a mile, not to mention if it is snowing or raining. If it is doing either, I have to pay attention to passing cars to avoid being sprayed with foul, street-water spray. I also have to carry an umbrella, which slows the walking time a bit. If I walk any faster, I show up wherever I am going all sweaty and gross. Who wants that? If I take the bus, I have to plan to be at the stop when the bus will be, or I have to wait an extra half an hour for the next bus. If I had children, would I make it to the stop every time on time? Also, it takes about 45 minutes to make it Robert Bell by bus, but I can walk there in about 25 minutes. I have the option of riding my bike, which only takes about 6 minutes a mile, depending on how much I have to carry. Some days the bike is out because I have to carry too much. There are also days, when the rain wrecks my riding and I end up drenched.
- Getting yourself everywhere by your own power uses energy. If the snow is deep and I walk to school, by the time I get there, I am tired.
- I end up feeling like a mooch when I ask for rides to places I can’t get to on my bicycle or by foot or by bus. In the summer months, I have the luxury of using my motorcycle (unless it’s raining). I typically have to ask my brother for a ride to my parents’ house. I have to ask my friends to meet me in Muncie for coffee, lunch, or whatever we might be doing. Sometimes I can ride my bike to Hartford, but it takes about an hour and a half, and I have to carry my clothes with me that I will wear for the day, because I get all sweaty.
- Perhaps the most difficult for me is that I get a little stir-crazy. When I used to have a car, before I got rid of it, I used to go to Indy quite a bit. If I had a day off, I would drive down there, go to a coffee shop and read or work on writing or schoolwork. I would sometimes drive to Richmond to meet Amy, or drive to Hartford to see my mom and dad. Sometimes, I would even just take off and for no reason drive to Chicago, walk around for a bit, and then come home. Now I can’t leave Muncie like that; I have to plan. I feel a little trapped, honestly. I can see why when Kellie first got my Jeep, she drove all over Indiana almost every weekend. You go a little nutty just staying in the same place all the time. I find it sad that some people who live in Muncie have never been to Chicago, or even Indianapolis, but when you don’t have a car, you can’t get to those places.
- Riding the bus is interesting. Nowhere brings people together like riding the public transit. I have learned to love so many types of people by riding the bus. From the homeless guy who rides the same route until the driver kicks him off the bus, to the woman and her socially (and I think mentally) challenged child who wears a stocking cap, moon boots, and headphones that are attached to nothing all year round, to the business people who take the bus because it’s cheap, to college students who take it because it free, I have learned to observe and understand many diverse groups of people. And, buses know no color; people of every ethnicity ride the bus, even here in little old Muncie.
I think what I am trying to get at is that we don’t realize how much of a burden it is for people who don’t have cars to simply function in our culture. Of course, I am speaking of the midwestern, non-urban settings. We are lucky in Muncie to have the MITS buses, or we would have no way to get from one point to another. And, as I have indicated sometimes the bus situation is still a little sketchy.
By no means am I trying to ally myself with the poor, working-class, or impoverished groups of people who work so hard each day just to survive, but I am saying I get a glimpse into that life on a daily basis as I try to negotiate getting from point A to point B.
I am having an increasingly hard time when I hear other people talk about how the poor should just pull themselves up by their boot straps and make something happen. I have a growing desire to say to them, “Let me take away all of your conveniences, your car, your extensive wardrobe, your fancy gadgets, your running water, your morning Starbucks (or whatever coffee), your washing machine and dryer, your heat and air-conditioning, etc., and see how well you could pull yourself up.” I am sure it wouldn’t be pretty.
I still have people everyday who say to me, “How do you survive without a car?” I get by because I have friends who give me rides, because I can walk, and because I have a bicycle. It is hard, though. I won’t lie. I can’t just pick up and be somewhere at the drop of a hat. It takes time even to walk downtown. What is a two- to three-minute drive is an 18 minute walk.
Please don’t think I am complaining. I am certainly not. I relish these three years, because I have learned much from them. I am simply trying to say that when we hop into the car that sits in the driveway in front of our house, swing through Starbucks on the way to work, and then pull into a parking space no more than a five minute walk from our workplace, we need to remember that some of coworkers and students may not have had any of those luxuries. They may already be starting out their days having had to do the workout we perceive to be privilege or a chore. Think about it, most of us pay to go to the gym to walk or jog as far as some people walk everyday just to get by. And, they do it powered by gas station coffee. 🙂
I would also hope these ideas would transfer into our classrooms. Some parents are simply lazy and don’t really care about their kids’ grades until they get a bad report card. However, there are some parents whose lives consume all of their energy, so there simply isn’t any left over to put into their children’s educations. I propose we don’t fault them for that, and that we, in turn, put more of our lives into those children. Someone has to invest in their futures.
I suppose this is at least long. I hope it is also thoughtful. Mostly, I hope it isn’t taken as being preachy. I never would have considered any of this if I had not gotten rid of my car and had to survive without it; therefore, I would never preach at you for something you probably don’t understand.
These days remind me of when I was little and gasoline was so expensive during the gas shortages. Even though my mom was a school teacher and my dad also worked, we didn’t have a lot. Sometimes my mom would bundle us up and we would walk the two miles to the public library to get books while my dad was working his way up the greasy corporate ladder at Burger Chef. If it was summer, we might ride in the wagon or ride our bikes. At any rate, I feel like I am going back to my roots.
Exercise: ran two miles, walked the dogs three miles, rode bike to 505 and home
Breakfast: decaf Americano with cream and honey, banana, juice, plain bagel with cream cheese
Lunch: provolone and sweet pickle sandwich, pickled duck egg with pickled beets, milk
Dinner: veggie riblet, mashed potatoes (the real kind), spinach with poppyseed dressing and parmesan cheese, blueberries with whipped cream
Snack: popcorn, 1 oz. cheese, tiny honeycrisp apple