Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Carless Mama

I know why they have strollers with SUV names. It's because they are supposed to be every bit as big and heavy as SUV's, and you should have a driver's license, a black belt in karate, and bench press at least 400 pounds before you buy one.

When I had just one child, I thought I was developing major muscles from carrying him around. I just saved hundreds of dollars getting buff without a gym membership! They should market child safety seats as fitness items instead of baby gear.

Anyway, child number two comes along and demands a double stroller. Kids these days! So spoiled! So I get one and discover all the health benefits of lugging around one kid do not automatically double themselves when there are two. No, sadly, two is about when the body gives out and says, "Enough!" Either that or middle age hits. Anyway, so I huff and puff and still I don't blow my stroller down. I nearly fall over, though. I'll let you know if my knees and arms and feet recover from all my kid-pushing. I guess pushing weights doesn't bulk you up quite as much if the movement is horizontal.

One reason I walk so much is that I'm usually at home without a car. That's right, my spell-check works, we are a one-car family. This, I've discovered, is an unusual situation to be in. In fact, I'm going to reveal something else shocking. My husband and I did not have a car at all for almost the entire first year of marriage.

We care about the environment. We want President Bush to know we won't put up with high gas prices any longer. We hope the folks who plan public transportation routes will take notice. We hope nearly being squashed to death on the pavement will cause planners everywhere to make their cities more pedestrian-friendly.

OK, so we don't have the money.

We're not flat broke. But it certainly is nice not to have a car payment for a little while. And we'd like to have a down payment before we buy again so we don't have to make payments for seventeen years.

I live with it. I am getting good at running errands on the weekends and in the evenings. I don't really want to take both the kids grocery shopping by myself anyway.

The hardest thing is that I feel like I'm the only one in America who walks anymore. If you see a lady shoving one foot in the door to hold it open, holding a shoulder up to her ear to keep the diaper bag from falling, tipping the back of the stroller with her feet to get it over the threshold, and steering it with her knees down the hall to the doctor's office, that's me. Not that people don't try to help. But they can't get through the doorway to hold the door for me when there's a bus-sized vehicle, two kids crying from being jostled over the non-handicapped, non-accessible doorframe, and a very frazzled mommy in their way.

I'm also the one you see waiting. Waiting and waiting and waiting. Because I'm not going to walk home and walk back again after dropping the kids off at preschool or their friend's house or their activities or whatever. Sometimes I find somewhere else to go while I wait. So if you see me staring at you while you wash your car or buy your postage stamps, humor me. Being the only mom in America without a car is a little lonely.

I don't know what kind of car I'll get when it's time. I swear, I am the only mom on the continent without a big huge minivan.

I hate those big enormous gas-guzzling SUV monsters that look like they could take out anything smaller than a house. Maybe their drivers refuse to subscribe to the minivan mama club. My kids have nightmares about monsters. I have nightmares about SUV's.

It's inevitable. Whenever I'm in the right turning lane (like between 7 [after dinner] and 7:15 pm [when I need to get home for the kids' bedtime]), a big hulking mass of metal with some outdoorsy-sounding name pulls up beside me to turn left, totally oblivious to the fact that it is larger than my house and that I cannot see around it in my tiny little Nissan Sentra.

Then there are the minivans. Look, I understand that you've got about a bazillion kids and that you need to haul around enough gear to fill the county landfill. But, please, even if Johnny and Susie are pulling out each other's eyebrow hairs and Sarah and Timmy are smashing last month's chicken nuggets which they discovered on the van floor into each other's ears so they can't hear you yell at them, try to keep your eyes on the road. There might be a pedestrian dragging two kids across the pavement in your path.

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