Put me in your gas tank.
I’m reasonably certain we all agree the planet’s natural resources are of a finite quantity. God’s finished making water and dirt here, and may be doing it all over again somewhere else so far away that it takes more fuel to get there than we can package. All Earth’s dead dinosaurs have turned to T-Rex Hi Test or Pterodactyl 89 Octane. Aside from what’s already in the ground, nothing else is decomposing into fuel. I’ve never really understood how we figured out about getting dead lizards to power our vehicles anyway, but I was probably doodling when that was taught in school.
There’s a pretty consistent barrage of chatter about using public transportation. It’s like those ubiquitous plastic grocery bags – we didn’t ask for them, but one day (I actually remember it and thinking how flimsy they were) they were in all the stores, displacing the brown paper bags that held 3X as much stuff. We didn’t ask for those plastic bags in the first place, but somehow it’s our fault that we’re all using them. Now we all have that car in the garage because that’s how our lives and our world are laid out, and we’re supposed to feel guilty about driving it, despite the fact that the auto industry is (or was) a major economic engine, a driving force. Stop with the puns already.
Where was I going with this? Back to the point. Mike and I spent America’s birthday in Philadelphia this year and availed ourselves of public transportation (a foreign concept to Texans since everybody knows we all own our own horse), mostly in the form of trains. Depending on their mood, upon arrival of the train the conductor would either announce the next destination or simply glare at us. Lesson: know thy geography. If they don’t feel like doing so, they’re not going to tell you that yes, I know where you’re going and you should get on this train. And bring cash since that’s how you get a ticket on board. No credit cards, and beads will only get you Manhattan. Antiquated comes to mind, as well as dangerous. I can’t believe nobody’s rolled that guy holding that wad of cash. The train from the airport dropped us at a city station where we wandered off into the nation’s beginnings. We hopped on the purple Phlash trolley (you get it – Philly – Phlash – terribly clever) and rode it end to end. By the time we traveled half way around its loop, the trolley was full to the rivets with people and the temperature inside had risen noticeably. Two thirds of the way through, the driver was obliged to turn away people waiting for a ride, and they were way less than happy about that. Their unhappiness was expressed in words that would make the Founding Fathers wince. The end of the ride was marked by small children screaming and crying at a wondrously frightening volume.
Mike stayed on in Philadelphia for business and I returned to Charlottesville. I tried every way I could think of to return by public transportation. A flight from Philadelphia to Charlottesville cost more than $400. The train to Charlottesville was sold out, and would have dumped me in town well after dark, requiring me to get in a car with “Ridin’ High Taxi” printed on the side, driven by an unknown male smelling of (at minimum) tobacco, to be delivered to my isolated country neighborhood where I would hand him some form of payment if I survived the journey. I wouldn’t be the first female to disappear from this area, but that’s another story (and I’m not pointing at cab drivers, I’m just SAYIN’). I juggled an attempt to get on public rails from Philadelphia to Richmond or Baltimore or DC, which produced brief excitement at the substantial choices among those, till I discovered I’d have to either take a bus from those end points or rent a car, and drive the rest of the way to Charlottesville. It was the classic “you can’t get there from here” scenario. The cost of the car rental was the same, one full day’s worth, whether I rented from Philadelphia or Richmond or Baltimore or DC. The car rental just didn’t work like those rent-by-the hour cheap motel rooms with rubber sheets (I only know about those because somebody told me about them.)
Some might call me a quitter and a threat to the environment, but I gave up. I rented me a little car, tossed my bag on the back seat, kissed Mike goodbye, cranked up my tunes and sailed onto the road. I careened along I95 and I66 with Steve Martin & the Steep Canyon Rangers (Atheists Don’t Have No Songs) and John Lee Hooker (Boogie Chillun’!) for company, stopping when I wanted and where I wanted. Who knew MickeyD’s had such a good Southwestern salad? Twenty five bucks’ worth of dino fuel got me from Phil to our local airport, where the Magic Bus had spent the weekend waiting for me and watching the prop planes come and go. I returned the rental and paid the credit card gate to spring us from parking and got myself home. The total cost was less than flying and a little more than a train ride would have been if a train ride could have been.
There was a well-written article in our local rag recently about how simple it is to take public transportation to area airports (Dulles, BWI, Regan – but not Richmond, because there ain’t no public transportation between Charlottesville and Richmond a little over one hour distant, WTF?), which involved friends, busses, subways and trains. After researching the possibilities, I did what I know how to do and have always done. I drove. It was like that scene from the Indiana Jones movie where Harrison Ford is in a plaza facing an assassin who’s using elaborate, time-honored fighting –by- hand methods, and Harrison Ford pulls out his pistol and shoots him. The guy drops dead. Simple. Like driving. There’s one train track between here and Philadelphia, but there are numerous highways.
When I can get here from there, or there from here, without spending hours trying to figure out connections that ultimately don’t exist, I’ll take public transport. Till then, I’m driving. Guilt free.