Friday morning, short on time, I decided to take my car down to the post office to check the company’s mailbox. As I turned on to Santa Monica Boulevard and looked in the mirror, I got something of a surprise. On my car, between the drivers’-side mirror and the door there were cobwebs!
Since returning from Washington, D.C., more than a week before, I had not touched my automobile. I either walked wherever I needed to go, took a taxi, or relied on the good graces of good friends to get me home for bedtime.
So when I hear President Bush say there is no magic want to control fuel costs, or Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the mainstream media moaning over the cost of gasoline, I find it difficult to have sympathy. If I can reduce my need for buying gasoline to practically zero – living in Los Angeles – so can most Americans. And, I’ve found, you don’t need to buy a Prius or Smart Car!
In 2000, when gas was less than $2 a gallon, I drove more than 24,000 miles a year. Commuting across the San Fernando Valley to work, going to the gym in Santa Monica and visiting my brother in the Fairfax district added miles quickly.
Today, with gas prices well above $4 a gallon in my neighborhood, I fill up my tank less than once a month. Here’s how I did it.
The first thing I did to reduce my commute. I moved closer to work, then got a job closer to home. Eventually, I worked it out so I could have a home office. That has the best commute of all: the walk home from Starbucks at which point the “home” becomes the “office”. The hill is pretty steep, but I can make it.
Step two for me, was to learn to love walking. Sure it doesn’t burn as many calories as running, and it is not as fast as taking the car, but most of the places I need or want to go can be found within walking distance. Gym, dry cleaners, grocery stores, pharmacies, and countless forms of evening entertainment, are within a mile radius of my house, which are but a leisurely twenty-minute walk.
My biggest challenge was to learn that the bus doesn’t bite. Sure a subway would be nice, but this is L.A., so subways really aren’t an option, yet. There should no longer be a social stigma to taking the bus for trips of a mile or more, and at a buck-twenty-five, it is cheaper than the gas and parking fees it would require to take a car for a similar trip. I just wish Los Angeles’ bus system were more reliable. Some days I can wait for a half hour only to see three busses stacked up one behind the other!
The final thing I have learned from this eight year journey is the value of friendships! Yes, sometimes that mile-long walk be fine on the outbound, but getting home, it can seem daunting. My liberal friends, supportive of my car-free lifestyle, have no qualms giving me a ride when I want one, and the conservative ones who offer, well they’re just heaven-sent.
So my challenge to America is to stop complaining about the cost of gasoline and start making better personal decisions. At some point you will no longer care if gas cost $4 or $14 a gallon!
In the meantime, anybody interested in a low-mileage 2006 BMW 325i? I’ll brush off the cobwebs.