Friday, February 15, 2008

Commuting, part two

A few days ago, I signed up for a car share program, courtesy of City Wheels. Basically, I paid a one-time membership fee, an annual fee, and subsequently pay an hourly (or daily) rate to borrow the car. Gas and insurance are covered. Said vehicle could either be a Scion xB (the ‘B,’ I’m assuming, stands for Box) or a Toyota Prius. The Scion is located near the Red Line Station in University Circle. The Prius sits near the intersection of Euclid and Ford. The ignition key is kept inside the vehicle at all times -- car share members possess a little plastic chode called a ‘key fob.’ This device is held to a sensor attached to the windshield and the doors unlock automatically.

On Wednesday, I reserved the car for the whole day and went out to Mentor to see my special lady friend. She recently had a few teeth pulled and needed someone to lightly stroke her cheeks and provide comfort. Around 9:30, I received a call from the owner of City Wheels, saying that I had not yet picked up my key fob and that no one was going to be around the office that day. The business, as I came to understand, is mostly handled remotely: registration and reservations and the like are conducted online. The process is really quite simple. Luckily, the owner was in the area and could drop off the key fob at my apartment. He even gave me a ride down to the lot. By 10 a.m., I was on the freeway toward Mentor. That late in the morning, the roads were mostly empty and the ride was smooth and quick.

It was nice having the car for the day, even though my lady and I only used it to pick up a pizza. Still, she appreciated not having to cart my lame ass around. I tasted freedom. I tasted America – and just a tinge of socialism sprinkled on top. I tasted pizza.

Only problem was, I had to return the next morning by 8. Someone else had reserved the car at 8:15. I assumed that hitting the road by 7:15 would give me plenty of time to make it back to University Circle. I stopped at Sheetz to refuel, which is covered by a credit card in the car. Then I braved rush hour traffic on the Expressway for a good 40 minutes. I haven't owned a car for a year and even when I had one I used it sparingly -- mainly because the thing was busted most of the time (refer to: shelia-5). Rush hour is something I have never really experienced, or experienced so seldom as to find it rather novel. That is, I found it interesting for about 15 seconds. Then all the stopping and going made me angry and I became nervous that I would not be able to return the car in time and I drank coffee like a fiend.
I made it back to the lot in University Circle at 8:02. The tank was full and the inside would be warm for the next person. But the stress of a rush hour commute only reaffirmed for me why I don't own a car. And it makes me thankful that I live in an area with reliable public transportation. The car share program is just an extension of the public transit system. The option is there if I need it, and that is comfort enough.

1 comment:

MikeS said...

Traffic is just something you'd have to get used to. It's either that or pick a more efficient route to get to where you're going. Say, 271 to Wilson Mills, and then Wilson Mills turns into Monticello, then Monticello all the way into Coventry. Mapquest is your friend.

It's not that bad, and you get used to congestion on the road.

Then again, I suppose there are some places where insane congestion is unavoidable (like 90 at the times you're talking about...I was there once or twice for that). In those cases, if you're forced to drive those routes, you simply leave home sooner or later to avoid the rush.