I read with amusement Joe Centers' column earlier this week. I, too, have experienced being in the passenger seat during a harrowing journey with a big city taxi driver at the wheel. In my case, the taxi driver was taking me to La Guardia Airport, and he was listening to the traffic report blasting on the radio as we approached the George Washington Bridge, which connects New Jersey and New York, changing lanes rapidly while he decided whether to go on the upper level or the lower level of the bridge based on which one had fewer accidents blocking traffic.
I, too, am not surprised by the statistic that the average household now has slightly more cars than drivers. When I first came to Norwalk, I was amazed by the fact that we have no mass public transportation system here no buses, no trains, no subways, though there's some taxi service and those county transit vehicles now. But it's still important to have a car preferably at least one car for each driver, if not more.
Over the past year, our family has sent two old cars to the junkyard a 1989 Dodge minivan and a 1991 Ford Taurus wagon. That has left us, for the last few months, as a family with three drivers and only two cars.
We have managed this remarkably well. Granted, sometimes I ended up walking, but it was good for my health. It meant the three of us had to talk together to negotiate the use of the cars and any time family members talk to each other, it's a good thing, even though no one was eager to fill up the gas tank at the current prices.
Now that my older son is in Hong Kong, he left us his car for the summer. So, for the past few weeks, we are a family of three drivers with three cars. This still takes a massive amount of planning: whoever will leave first in the morning has to have his or her car not blocked in by the other two. And whoever plans to leave between 7:15 and 7:25 a.m. on a school day has to make sure the car is facing forward, because it is impossible to back out of our driveway while traffic is heading into the middle school.
So who gets to drive my son's car that was left with us temporarily? Me.
This is actually quite exciting. For years, I have been driving a large vehicle remember the 1987 minivan and the 1991 Taurus wagon? They were big cars, purchased for a big family to haul four children plus their friends to soccer games and other events. Our family has shrunk since then, with children leaving for college, but we have not bought a new car. So we are left with two minivans...and now, my son's compact car, which I get to drive around town.
I had forgotten the joys of a smaller car. It can accelerate much faster. It takes curves more easily, at higher speeds. It can fit with much less effort into tight spaces. It just feels nice, and not so awkward.
The first time it rained and I drove it, I could not find the rear windshield wiper. Then my son informed me: a small car like that doesn't have a rear windshield wiper. It doesn't need one.
I also had no clue how to operate the radio in my son's car. It looked like an empty space to me where the radio should be. That's the big city thing: this car of my son's had previously been owned in a city, and the radio/CD player hides in the glove compartment, where it can be locked away where no one can steal it. I still haven't used it, but at least now I know where it is.