This I Believe

Kristen - Rochester, New York
Entered on May 12, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
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Today, I’ll Drive

This morning over coffee, I read the paper. Consumer advocates encouraged, BOYCOTT GREEDY OIL CONGLOMERATES! Environmentalists pushed pedal power and the benefits of walking.

I’ve been staying at home, lately, avoiding unnecessary trips which, not long ago, were motivated by a simple desire to be on the road. My car addiction was once so great that I drove a cab for six months, spending not one second of my twelve-hour shifts practicing proper fuel efficiency. I maneuvered that ’85 Grand Marquis gas-hog through traffic like the Danica before Danica, windows open, hair blowing, sweat beading under my sunglasses, music screaming through open windows.

I don’t stay home in defiance of the big oil companies, or look out the window at my old Toyota—useless in the driveway under a golden film of maple-dust and fallen petals—because I can’t afford what little gas I use. And I’m no bleeding-heart, as they say. I have hugged a tree, because it was beautiful, but I would never make love to one, except in my mind. Giving up driving for a tree would, to me, be tantamount to making love to it.

I don’t drive, unless I Have to, because of the peer-pressure guilt.

Two days ago, I ran out of cream. I tip-toed to my car, employed all the necessary car parts to get to the store (clutch, gas pedal, steering wheel), bought what I needed, and went home. My car had become a tool for transport. I had used it, but I hadn’t enjoyed it. I had become, inside, a walker.

Walkers make a good case: hoofing it appeals to the slower senses, allows time to bend over, take a tulip in hand and nose-dive into its center bowl. Blossoming magnolia branches can be tugged down for a lingering sniff.

But, from a car!

From a car–windows down, hair wind-whipped and air-softened–smells flicker by in bold stripes. Cut grass! cookies! some kind of…some flower, not sure what…lilac, maybe? Apple blossom! Green onions, tree bark, something defying classification, then burger fat. Then fuel. Sweet, forbidden fuel.

Sitting at the window, now, I imagine I am in my car. Jiggle the gearshift into reverse and back out of the driveway.

Once on the interstate, the engine whines and I keep it in third through fifty for the extra push. A waste of gas, and it feels naughty. For a second. Then, fourth gear, zip left around the Buick, zip right around the weight-laden Hummer, push my little beater to eighty and hold my hair off my eyes. The road stretches before me, dark gray with a bright white, broken center line, and the sky is impossibly blue, rolling hills on either side of the highway an undulating sheet of green.

Sunlight reflects off the Toyota’s chrome and warms my face through the office window. Across the street, a hundred-foot birch sways and leaves flutter on their branches.

Today, I think I’ll not use my car.

Today, I think I’ll drive.