The first word out of my infant lips was apparently “car.” Some of my earliest childhood memories involve cars, from learning all the makes and models before I could spell my name, to my dad taking me to the local junkyard where I dreamed of working when I grew up, to watching all those awesome chases and crashes on popular TV shows of the time like ”CHiPs” and the ”Dukes of Hazzard.”
I remember counting the years, then the days, then months until I turned 17, the unfortunately late driving age in New Jersey, and the elation I felt when that long-awaited day finally arrived. But the harsh realities of adult life soon made themselves abundantly clear after a blown head gasket on my 10-year-old, 100,000-mile pitiful Pontiac had me in the pits again.
When I was a little older, with a lot more disposable income, I set about acquiring some of the dream cars of my youth. When I was 25, I moved west from Florida to Hollywood by car, this time a Carnival Red Jaguar XJR, and for the first time explored the backroads of America. In the years that followed, such epic road trips were the highlights of my year. I’d always eschew the monotonous interstates for the two-lane blacktop ribbons that criss-cross our great nation, always discovering amazing new people and places along the way.
My love of automobile remained strong even after I left the United States to live and travel abroad in my early 30s. But the seeds of change were planted in my mind as I saw that people in other countries didn’t need cars to get around. Returning to the States after a few years, I settled in San Francisco, that most ‘European’ of American cities, where I figured I might be able to get by without a car. I sold my last vehicle, an ’06 Mercedes CLS 55 AMG, and took the plunge into the world of public transport. That one night when it took me more than an hour to find a parking space near my home (I cannot afford the $50,000 it costs for a tandem space in my own building’s garage) was the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back. That and all the parking tickets that kept racking up, threatening to impoverish me $55 at a time.
While my conscience thanks me for doing the right thing, my friends and my feet don’t often agree. Going without a car in a city with a notoriously unreliable, overcrowded and underfunded public transport infrastructure (even while it makes life extremely difficult for drivers as part of an official ‘transit first’ policy) has its own set of challenges and frustrations. But when all is said and done, those footsteps on the sidewalk mean less footprint where it really counts, and I’d encourage others who live in big cities to sell their cars too.