Friday, 24 July 2009

My Newest Favourite Thing: Cars

My sister has been away for a month, during which time she lent me her car, with the proviso that I pick her and the children up from the airport. I apologise in advance to the environmentally conscious, but it has been wonderful to have a car again.

Now I’m not usually a car person. I will watch Top Gear (although the great journalism, photography and production values have a lot to do with that – not to mention Richard Hammond) but generally a car is just a car, unless it’s an E-type Jag of course.

But the thing with a car is the amazing freedom and independence it can bring. When we moved to Wellington we sold the 4WD – whereas it was very handy on ski-field access roads and back country South Island Southern Traverse type routes, it wasn’t exactly necessary on the streets of the nation’s capital. (Someone really should tell the Khandallah tractor drivers they could negotiate the punishing supermarket car park and school playground in something slightly smaller and less deadly – apart from killing cyclists, why do you need bull bars, exactly?)

Him Outdoors has a vehicle for work and we generally use that. We share a ride to and from work and if I need to go somewhere at any other time, I take the bus or a train. At the weekends we work out who needs it for sport or theatre purposes and if we both need to be somewhere, one of us will use the public transport system or catch a lift with someone else. For shorter trips there are always bikes, or legs.

But with a car, you can go where you like without having to wait on the vagaries of some one else’s timetable and route choice. You don’t waste time waiting at bus stops outside theatres or pubs fretting over being late, and you can leave whenever you want. You can play your own music or listen to the radio (although people do this on buses – the tinny sound of their headphones is only slightly less annoying than those who sing along, usually out of tune, to whatever they are plugged into like some intravenous drip).

When I first starting seeing Him Outdoors I was an impoverished student. He had already been through university and got his degree and a job. He was intelligent, attractive, sporty and amusing. We had similar tastes in music, beer, travel and politics; all of which was terribly important when I was 21. What most impressed my friends about him, however, was that he had his own car (a company car no less). Not only could he buy me a beer, but he could drive me out to a nice country pub to drink it. It was a much-underrated attribute by me, but now I can understand the appeal.

Now my sister has returned (and it’s great to see her again, honestly!) and I’m back on the buses or relying on other people for my transport. It’s like having a sliver of liberty removed and I have to compromise my schedule once more. Cars may well make us selfish (witness the appalling driver-behaviour where normally mild-mannered individuals become self-righteous road hogs) but they are certainly convenient.

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