21 December, 2009

Adjustments to life - including thoughts on the car

It's taking Tom and I quite a while to adjust to our new way of life and it's not just that we're in another country on the other side of the world. For the last two years, Tom has been working from home in a room above the kitchen. He's worked extremely hard but because he had a short commute up some stairs, he's also been around for the school run, lunch with me, kisses when the girls get home from school, pick-ups from the Brownies, dinner and so on. Now he's back in the office and we are adjusting to seeing a lot less of each other, and to the relative rigidity that the daily commute imposes. I probably miss him more than he misses me, given that he suddenly has lots of lunch companions to choose between and people to talk to who actually understand what he is saying (when discussing work, he is comprehensible the rest of the time!). Working from home can be lonely and when you're 8 hours adrift from the office hours it is more complicated. So being in the office for Tom is, I'm sure, an improvement, but adjusting back to the more traditional way of working after two years at home in a barn in rural Wales - well, it takes time.

Commuting especially by car is dead time. And Tom doesn't like driving. I'm also getting used to not having a car when it was there for all my trips in Wales. For me, this is fine. I've always been reluctant to jump into the car for every small journey, and I love to walk so don't even take public transport unless I have to. And of course we're in a city so everything is easily available close to home. The only slight hitch is the size of the juice and milk cartons which weigh you down and make nipping to the corner shop an endurance test. Factor in the hill back up to our flat and you've got an exercise regime right there.

Anyway, we've been thinking about the car. We'd assumed we were going to buy one but this weekend we started wondering whether we should. The girls are happy to walk to school. I don't need one, or at least not much. Tom can take the train to work and read, turning dead time productive once more. For trips out of town we can hire cars easily. Or we can join Zipcars. This is a brilliant idea which is quite widespread now - mostly in the US but also in London as of 2006. Basically it is a car sharing scheme. All over San Francisco there are cars available at an hourly rate of $7 which you can book to drive when you join. Insurance and petrol are included. There are at least 10 cars within a ten minute walk of this apartment. This may be the answer. Perhaps we don't need to own a car after all.

It won't necessarily be easier though it will cheer Tom up enormously not having to hunt for parking. We will have to be more organised about when we really need a car ahead of time. Tom's journey will be at the mercy of the BART and Caltrain which are barely integrated and not exactly frequent by our standards. But we would save lots of money, probably quite a lot of stress and we can feel a bit better about all the flying we'll be doing in the next few years.

1 comment:

just Gai said...

I'm really pleased to hear that you're considering living without a car. We don't own a car and never have. There are four of us, including two teenage daughters. We live in Bristol which has an expensive and fairly hopeless public tranport network but we're only a 30 minute walk from the centre (10 minutes to the local shops etc) so we make most of our journeys on foot. We shop locally, subscribe to a weekly fruit and vegetable box and place a monthly online supermarket order for the bulky goods. There's a City Car Club along the same lines as yours but we've never used it. My husband doesn't drive. I haven't driven since I passed my test 20 years ago and wouldn't trust myself behind a wheel. Domestic holidays to Scotland and Cornwall, or trips to London, are by train or coach and we've even taken the train to Italy and the Basque country.

I'd be lying if I said I've never wished we had a car but I can honestly say that our lives haven't been any the poorer for not having one.

So my advice would be to resist the pressure to acquire a set of wheels. I'm sure you'll manage fine without.