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Reborn Carless:

Happy to be Walking!

Yesterday my car broke down, probably for the final time. It's been a hassle in the short term, dealing with the logistics of towing it off the highway and across town, but that level of the experience is already fading. I'm questioning the larger picture already.

Why did it break down? The mechanics told me it could happen any time, but they had never seen quite this type of breakdown. Lack of care? I have been taking it in to a 'respectable' mechanic for years, keeping it up as best they could. Perhaps my mechanic was assuming I was caring for it on my own. Did they know it was primarily their responsibility? Perhaps there should be an automatically scheduled mandatory checkup on cars. The smog check is one thing, but oil, electrical and many other automobile systems should be mandatorily checked.

A device could easily be invented and attached to the car odometer that would notify the driver of the need for an oil change based simply on the mileage. This device could save many cars from engine damage caused by simple human forgetfulness. The device would be very inexpensive, built as part of the odometer, and could be a standard part of the car.

It seems that planned obsolescence might be helped along by neglect. Who neglects the car? The owner, but also the mechanic. Who profits from neglect? The car companies and the mechanics.

We've all seen the long roads lined with automobile shops of every kind: new car dealers, used car dealers, car rentals, repair shops, auto body shops, auto parts stores, car washes, gasoline filling stations doubling as convenience shopping stores. Our lust and utter dependence on cars seems concentrated in these areas, always dirty and noisy, except in the new car dealer showrooms, where the dream of owning a car has not yet crashed head on with the expensive reality of owning a car. I read somewhere that $6000 a year is the average cost of owning and maintaining a car. Gasoline is a drug, so who's addicted? Ah, how nice to spend that money elsewhere now, or to not have to work so hard!

After fifteen years of owning my car, I can definitely say it was not worth it. The amount of money spent is just not worth it. Buying it, paying it off in monthly payments, gasoline, insuring it year after year, watching my insurance go up for minor speeding tickets, paying for repairs... it all adds up to some amount that was never really justified. Sure it extended my reach for entertainment and work, but I find that I can entertain myself just as easily right here at home or in my neighborhood. And working locally or at home is by far the best way to live. Commuters seem to have put themselves in an automobile prison for 1-2-3 hours a day. Now that's insane!

Riding a bus is much more relaxing and fun; I can read, watch the scenery or talk with my neighbors, whereas driving was always a struggle to avoid getting hit or hitting someone or something. With huge Sports Utility Vehicles flooding the roads, it just gets worse. The driving habits of the S.U.V.s seem to be highly influenced by the hyper-aggressive style promoted in the advertising. Should we worry when we see military tanks in driveways in a car advertisement in a magazine? It's true! I saw it. Is the world going military? In a few years, we'll probably see gun turrets on top of the S.U.V.s.

The rant could go on, but all this must be obvious to one who's been on the road for more than a couple of years. The problem is that the novices are easily fooled by illusions of car culture, while the rest of us are complacent and dependent. Onward to a life unencumbered by the gross machine!

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