Awhile back, a friend of mine, aware of my nearly car-free lifestyle, sent me a link to CarBusters.org (I think I mentioned it elsewhere here), with a note that they were now accepting submissions.
So, I checked it out, and the first thing I saw was a magazine cover featuring a Mini Cooper surrounded by green leaves, with the headline, “Fueling an Obsession: Beyond the Hype of Biofuels.”
Wait a minute. That doesn’t sound very nice. Are they trying to say that cute little Minis are bad?
I surfed around. I learned that by owning a car, and naming my car — pretending that Lucy has a personality — I am a part of the “problem.”
So I’ve decided that while I can allow myself to read the site for information, and learn about ways to live a nearly car-free life (I have not driven since early last December), I’ll never, ever be able to say that cars are evil. It would mean turning against everything I’ve ever known, even my own family.
I was reminded of this again when Miguel and some good friends and I dined at El Paseo in Mill Valley the other night (by the way, the tasting menu coupled with the wine pairings is, while expensive, an amazing culinary experience; you won’t regret it). Somehow, we started talking about Shelby Mustangs.
As Marge talked about the rumble of her own 427 Rouch Mustang, thoughts of my own childhood flashed before me. My eyes got a little moist, as in my mind I heard the comforting echoes of my mother revving her Shelby to heel-toe downshift through the turns, still blocks away, as she approached Donlon Elementary School to pick me up after I’d missed the bus.
My dad proposed to my mom in a Shelby GT-350 Mustang. It was in this car that I first became aware of shuffle steering, and the all-important heel-toe downshift. I learned this from my mother.
It’s really hard for me to believe that people drive stick shifts without heal-toe downshifting.
Of course, my mom should have just taken public transit, but we didn’t have public transit. So what was she supposed to do. Well, I mean, aside from ride a bike. Yes, yes, I know, I know, probably, she did everything all wrong.
But at least when you’re behind the wheel of a Shelby Mustang, particularly the ’66 fastback variety, if you know what I mean, you are fully conscious of the power at your feet. There is no power steering, for example. You need Eric Heyden quads just to hold down the clutch for more than ten seconds.
So it can be said that such a car, particularly for short trips, requires effort and concentration. It is not like the cars of today, where you can sit there mindlessly, and the car will take you where ever you want to go, and you won’t even have to touch the steering wheel.
Likewise, a Shelby GT-350 is not a car for ten billion errands during the day. My mom limited her driving for special occasions, which was, for her, tennis twice a week, grocery shopping once a week, and then, well, of course driving to autocrosses.
These were very important things.
While in Prague, I was criticized for my car-centric childhood.
“Think of all the dinosaurs who died so you can have fun,” one neighbor in the Hotel Dum remarked. The Hotel Dum is where a lot of English teachers from abroad lived. Few of them seemed to notice all the two-stroke Trabants racing around, or bothered to learn Czech to understand what people were really saying, which was that the Audi Quattro-whatever is moc dobre, vole.
Feeling superior is so easy to do when you’re in denial.
I mean, think about where Car Busters the magazine is published. In Prague, a public transit mecca.
I’d like to see them do their work where it’s really needed, like Bakersfield.
The difference between my parents’ driving, handed down to me, and that of today’s driver, with automatic transmissions, automatic windows, mapping devices, blah blah, is that today, people treat driving not just as a right, but as a requirement. They don’t want their tax money going to public transit. They want everyone to drive.
And that’s the problem, likely perpetuated by the auto industry, but we let this happen. We didn’t stand up for our public rail lines when we had the chance.
We naively thought that cars were the way. We created subdivisions and shopping malls, entire town landscapes that required car ownership. We weren’t thinking.
But true drivers think about these things. Well, I do, anyway. I’m a driver’s driver. Are you?