ColGlobe At The Spoof

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Going Green in America - Giving Up Driving

In the United states, having concerns about the ecology of the planet is apparently akin to some sort of crime. Over a year ago, in the face of the highest fuel prices in history, I gave up driving. I gave up my vehicle, and since have allowed my drivers license to expire. I haven't had a regret about it.

I am in better physical shape now than I was a year ago, mostly a result of riding a bicycle when I needed to go somewhere. I am also in a better frame of mind, because the bike rides give me ample opportunity to reflect on the world around me - to smell the roses, if you will.

But when it comes to my friends and neighbors, it is a whole different story. Last week, I spent 20 minutes trying to explain to someone that I gave up driving voluntarily, and the blank look on their face told me that they never did comprehend the concept. Apparently, the only reason one gives up the privilege of driving is through DUI or some other legal intervention. There simply isn't an analogy for giving it up voluntarily.

No, I was not arrested for drunk driving, there are not a lot of points on my driving record, and no judge took my license away. I chose to give up the non-right of my own volition. In return, I am healthier, and have reduced my problematic stress level. And I save several hundred dollars every month in car, insurance, fuel, and upkeep. In my mind, it was a decision worth making.

If only I could get my fellow Americans to see that there is no crime in cutting the strings that tie you to the fuel companies and insurance companies. Only in America is it accepted that everyone who is anyone has to drive a car. In other countries, vehicles can be shared among the entire family, or not owned at all, but we Americans have somehow got the car fixed in our head as a symbol of personal freedom.

THERE IS NO FREEDOM IN A VEHICLE. The idea that having a car makes you more free is absurd. If you have a car, you are a prisoner of the car makers and dealers. Your are held helplessly in the grip of auto insurance brokers. You are forced to pay tribute to oil companies in exchange for driving your "little piece of freedom." A vehicle is a liability, it is a luxury that has somehow become confused with a carefree, lifestyle. It is a huge expense, and little more.

People expect me to be embarrassed about not owning a car, as though it were a mark of my poverty or sin. It perplexes them when I am not penitent. They quiz me at length, trying to determine what my hidden crime may be, knowing it must be a hefty one indeed, for me to lie so vehemently about it.

After all, no one gives up driving a vehicle voluntarily. The idea of saving those thousands of dollars every year is completely beyond the average person's comprehension. Nothing short of a court order can stay most people's right foot, and even that won't work for a majority who perceive driving as a symbol of their brave and bankrupt nation.

Yes, there are times when having a vehicle would be nice. But there are others who own vehicles, and when times are tough, most people are willing to drive you around for a few extra bucks in the gas tank. It is an inconvenience when I have to find such a ride, but nothing compared to the financial burden of owning my own car.