Mar. 18th, 2013

wendyzski: (winslet)

Still feeling like crap, but at least all of the coughing means that I'm actually getting air...

But, I wanted to write about last week.  A friend was traveling out of Chicago by train for just over a week, and rather than pay to have her car sit idle in an expensive downtown parking garage she asked if I'd like to use it for the week and then just pick her up at the station when she got back. Now, I've lived in Chicago for more than 20 years without owning a car, though I do the occasional rental and am a member of a car-sharing service for bulky errands.  But this was my first experience with regular commuting by car.

A few things I noticed right away:

  • I have no idea how long it takes to drive anywhere.  Programmed by public transit, in my head somehow Arlington Heights, Wheeling, and Naperville are all the same place - they have hotels there that I get to by going downtown, getting on a Metra train for half an hour, and then take a shuttle the last bit.

  • Driving a Smart Car on a regular basis really redefines your sense of what constitutes a "big enough parking place".  I was never very good at parallel parking - it wasn't part of Drivers Ed and NJ has parking lots everywhere so it wasn't really an issue.  But with this little thing, I got really good at taking those little leftover spots on the end of the block, or those half-plowed ones at the mall.

  • There is a surprising amount of interior room for a car that looks more like you put it on than get into it.  I managed to fit 5 IKEA bags full of warehouse club groceries plus a case of toilet paper into it, though there wasn't much room to spare.  Trunk Tetris FTW.

  • Joining the 21st Century was kind of cool.  I was able to plug my phone in to an outlet in the glove box, turn on navigation, and the car told me where to go.  I love living in the future!

I also found that I quickly got out of the habit of wearing hats and gloves.  Wasn't outside long enough to need them and they just become more crap to tote around.  Same thing with my bag - I ditched the backpack for a week in favor of a smaller tote that was easier to toss in the passenger seat.

I found that going from my home in Rogers Park to the office in Roscoe Village in the morning it was slightly faster to take Damen, but coming home if I got out on time at 5 Western was the better bet.  I was usually able to find parking within a block of my home, and easily about  block from the office on Belmont.  (Belmont has timed parking restrictions so I usually just put the car on Melrose and left it for the day).

Comparing times, when I take the bus I walk out the door at about 7:38 and between busses and the last 3 block walk (if there isn't a bus around) I get to work at 8:30.  Driving, I was really only able to get 12 more minutes, as there was still the need to walk to the car, get around the one-way streets and onto the right road.  So time-wise it wasn't a great savings.  It was nice to have the ability to get to places that are less accessible by public transit, but the up-side just wasn't that much of a swing for me.

Throughout the week, I noticed a LOT of people stopping to look at the car.  I think partly because it's pretty distinctive and people were impressed with where it could park, but of course it may have also been the "Don't blame me - I voted for Dead Bob" bumpersticker...

I did find that I missed my commuting time on the bus - that's when I do a bit of reading or listen to an audiobook, or check my e-mail and generally chill and sort of mentally "check out".  You can't do that when you're driving.

I started the week with a pretty full tank, drove out to Schaumburg and around one day, hauled heavy stuff another, and went to Niles once but other than that I did mostly in-city driving.  That took me down to about 1/4 tank, which I filled back up for just over $27 at Sams Club prices of around $3.86/gal.  So it's very efficient but also has a tiny tiny gas tank.

I think that if I had the means to have a car this one might suit my needs,  It's utterly unsuited to more than 2 people or any kind of family setting.  But if it was just me (and Winslet) it would work just fine.  I've been considering (once the housing situations stabilizes) looking into getting an electric scooter or moped for the commute, but for my lifestyle at this point a car really doesn't make sense.


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