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12/22/2006 Archived Entry: "First truckless week"

FIRST TRUCKLESS WEEK. Last Friday the faithful Toyota limped home with a blown head gasket. After receiving beaucoup good diagnostics from the chivalrous mechanics of TCF, I decided to mothball the truck for a while instead of getting it fixed right away.

Partly I'm weary from a string of the sort of expenses that don't improve life but merely keep it running in place. (You know those kind of expenses.) But also, since I don't have a job I must drive to, and since I live within a mile of a small town, I figured well, maybe I'll just try foot, bus, and eventually (if I can solve those downhilling problems and if the weather cooperates) 'bent trike & see how it goes.

It's now been a week -- and a mixed bag.

The good: Friends in need. Kudos to KM who came over Tuesday and plunged right into work to get the coolant out of the crankcase and the truck ready to mothball. A friend who'll wriggle in oily darkness under a broken truck for you in wintertime is a friend indeed. K's wife R made the essential run to the parts store for an oil filter and sparkplug socket.

The bad: When you don't have a vehicle, an afternoon of errand running that involves a 10-mile round trip and several stops takes as much planning as the invasion of a small, insignificant country. Okay, now the bus can leave me there at 2:15. But the next bus can't pick me up until ... and that stop is only made on the outbound route ...

The good: In my first venture onto a bus in 20 years, I hit a bus driver who was not only friendly and helpful, but was related to the founders of the town and told me all kinds of colorful history and lore I never knew.

The bad: Somewhere in my first public-transit journey, my much-loved Spyderco Assist II folding knife (a gift from S.W.A.T. publisher Rich Lucibella that I carry everywhere) came unclipped, slipped out of my pocket, and is probably gone forever. It's a little easier when things slip out onto your own car seat, to be retrieved later. Sigh. Spyderco appears to have discontinued that model, too.

The good: I still have my Spyderco Assist I. AND thanks to Masked Woman and JS, I now have two other fantastic hand-made belt-knives -- although the one with a Damascus blade is never going to see the risky inside of a bus.)

More good: People in general. In addition to KM, RM, and the chivalrous mechanics of TCF, all kinds of friends and acquaintances have offered to drive me in an emergency. The Pyramid Man offered the moment he saw me at his office (the destination of the heavily logistical bus trip). After my appointment, I'd no sooner reached the bus shelter than his office manager, a woman I don't really know, pulled up and offered me a ride home. She, too, insisted that I call her in event of any emergency. Thanks ML! And GL. And LB -- all for offers of transport.

The bad: Taking four dogs on leash to a safe place where I can walk them off-leash. Every morning used to begin with a mile or two's drive up into the woods to one of our favorite safe walking roads. Now we're more limited. This morning on the main road, I struggled with tangled leashes while I smiled and waved to an oncoming driver then signaled him to slow down. The *&^%$#@ glared at me, deliberately sped up, and threw mud and gravel all over us. That's not usual behavior in these parts. That was the first time in 20 years I flipped somebody the bird.

The good: The world is full of interesting things you don't notice when enclosed in a vehicle cockpit. Birds wheeling over a particularly fragrant factory, hoping for a handout. Interesting rock formations. Artistically peeling paint on old houses. Wood smoke. A pocket-sized view you don't see at 30 mph.

The bad: I'm really noticing how many cops there are cruising around these parts. Driving, I'd move past without noticing their patterns. On foot, I observe them circling round and round and round and round like buzzards.

The good: I'm no longer worrying about getting pulled over by one of them while driving and not being a "properly documented citizen."

The bad: I notice that the cop cars have "Paid for by drug abusers" on their bumpers. It ought to be "Paid for by stealing from people who haven't been convicted of any offense," since 80 percent of forfeited assets are exactly that. Arrogant, thieving cops.

The good: I'm spending less money -- not just on truck fuel, but on all those little stops I don't just casually make while just casually bopping around town. To my surprise, round-trip bus fare to the next town over (where some errands take me) is less than the cost of the fuel to drive there in the Toyota. (Yes, I know, the taxpayers are covering the real costs. Yes, it bothers me.)

The good and bad. I'm getting lots of exercise going down and up that long hill to town.

The biggest thing I was worried about was how to handle emergencies. The second was being unable to be spontaneous ("An invite to come over to your place? Sorry, no transportation." "Uh oh, forgot to buy eggs for the cookie dough. Now do I really want to walk two miles back to the store in this weather?") The third being unable to haul large items. The fourth was leaning too hard on other people for favors I might not be able to pay back.

These are all still concerns. But they're not freaking me out as much as they did the first couple of days. My vet -- bless her once again -- told me that, in event of a doggie emergency, she'd simply have one of her staff drive out to get me and the suffering critter.

Overall, I'm appreciating the sense of being closer to the earth, more in touch with the realities around me, even when those realities are cold, wet, and the occasional rude driver. I'm liking having to find creative new ways to do things. I'm sure appreciating the help I've gotten from so many people, even though I worry about repaying it. (As ML noted while driving me home yesterday, "We like to give more than to receive around here.")

And I feel a curious sense of liberation. Hard to say whether that will prevail as winter stretches on, inconveniences manifest, and flexibility suffers. But at the moment I feel liberated from the pressure for government licenses, government-required insurance, tribute payments to oil cartels, and worries about all the little and large things that can go wrong with an old, high-mileage truck. I don't have to worry any more; they've already gone wrong.

After beginning with considerable apprehensions, this first week has been easier than I'd ever have imagined. Thanks to a little help from my friends.

Posted by Claire @ 10:23 AM CST

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