Shortly after moving here, I wrote a blog post about driving in polite and patient New Orleans as compared to traffic-laden road-rage Los Angeles. Driving was so often miserable in L.A., that I did it as little as possible and almost always tried to make it fun – convertible top down, taking winding roads in the hills rather than freeways, music cranked. That could be downright joyous.
New Orleans has SO much less traffic but my little low-to-the-ground ragtop hated the weather here. Floods, sap and sun tore holes in my ragtop, rusted my brakes and rotted the floor. During rainy seasons, enough tiny plants grew around the ragtop for me to joke that the car was a terrarium on wheels. The air conditioning broke the first summer here. And I could only put in 3 gallons of gas at a time. It was okay though – between the streetcars, busses, carpooling and walking, I averaged less than 900 miles a year of driving. Today, I donated the car and am starting my new life as a person without my own wheels.
As a teen, I saw car keys as freedom. Just having a set to my mom’s car made me feel like the world was my oyster. I bought my first car at 19 – a stick-shift just like Mom’s. That car took me all the way through college and grad school. Then I got a “grown up” 4-door sedan (stick, of course) to start my life as a home owner/career woman. As many of you know, I left that life to become an actor in my late 20’s. After that car finally gave out in L.A., I began my life as a Miata-lover – for over 20 years.
My last car has gone to a good cause, the Volunteers of America, who ran the dorm-like building I lived in when I was starting out as an actor in New York. And I can borrow my husband’s car when he’s not using it. But, I’m now without my own set of wheels for the first time since I was a teenager. It’s an identity adjustment. Now I will rely more heavily on public transportation and walking and will end up leaving an even smaller carbon footprint. It’s a good thing. But it’s an adjustment.
No more renewing brake tags (figures I JUST renewed my registration) and no more insurance. But, no more just grabbing my keys and going. And no one even makes stick-shifts anymore. Goodbye 17 year old Miata. You served me well. You were hit and run 5 times starting with the sideswipe on the door 3 weeks after I got you. Including the last hit here in New Orleans – only twice did people leave a note. I called them both to thank them. The previous Miata was hit and run 7 times (no notes) and it was rear ended by a Santa Monica “Big Blue Bus” and we both survived. We’re both tougher than we look.
See you on the streetcar!