Rendered Fat Content


William G.R. Hind, oil painting, “Breaking a Road in Manitoba,”

" … there's really no place I need to be (or really want to be) except right here at home."

The Muse and I operate a one horse town, by which I mean we own a single car between us. Each of our neighbors own at least two, and one owns four that I know of, all more or less trucks. Each morning, we decide who will get the car that day. Usually, I insist that The Muse take it, that I don't have anyplace pressing to go. Some days I slip out for a few minutes to fetch a gallon of milk or some hardware for a project before she leaves, but most days, I'm left without transportation, save my ancient one speed bike and my two left feet. We live in a neighborhood which calls itself a village, and it might well qualify as a village because it sits in a rather remote location without supplemental public transportation. Without a car, I might just as well be in an isolated cabin, which suits me fine.

I might be the primary reason we have one car rather than two. I hold strong opinions about how many cars our family should own.
Two seems an excessive number given that a second one would double our carbon footprint and otherwise complicate our lives. Two cars would completely fill our garage, for instance, and I prefer some elbow room in there. Two would also more than double the expense of transporting ourselves, and we mostly travel to and from places that might not qualify as worth the trip. We can stock the larder together on Saturdays. On those rare occasions when we might encounter a conflict—I want to go somewhere when she wants to go somewhere else—we negotiate a resolution. I almost never really need to go anywhere these days, so The Muse's schedule generally rules. If I really need to get out, I can hike there and back or hop on my trusty 1963 Schwinn American to at least get there and she can fetch me and my bike on her way back home. It's steeply uphill to here from everywhere.

I hold the strong opinion that us Americans spend too much time behind the wheel, rather mindlessly burning through fuel that we only ever get to use once. I've spent plenty of my life driving to ward off boredom, an unwise use of fuel and of myself. My mom called this joyriding, but I admit to rarely finding much (if any) joy in it. Driving represents nearly absolute tedium to me, a genuine chore, naturally boring and a little frightening. I always surprise myself when I arrive anywhere unscathed, and fret before leaving and all through the passage about the likelihood of this trip becoming the end of me or the car. Driving's more of an onerous responsibility than a pleasure for me, so I welcome those days when I have no good reason to, as we say, keep the car. I caution The Muse to be careful driving down the hill, a gauntlet I always dread which she seems to find no terror in at all.

The advertisements speak of the freedom of the open road, but I feel more freedom from an empty garage. A hollow garage means that I will not have to interrupt whatever I'm doing to zoot down that dangerous hill to fetch The Muse in the late afternoon. I never know when she might return, for when she takes the car, she doesn't have to commit to any quitting time. When I keep the car, I usually end up sitting in the parking lot for a half hour or more while she closes down shop and hikes out to the Lab's security perimeter to meet me. The ten minute drive down becomes at least an hour's excursion, the sole purpose of which is always to accomplish in my hour what she could have easily completed in her own ten minutes. This calculus doesn't work for me.

I warmly anticipate the day which might never come, when the whole idea of owning a car becomes about as popular as owning a horse has become. Every kid wants a pony, but no kid has to pay for the care and upkeep of their beast, and most finally abandon their childish aspiration in favor of more affordable dreams. I fantasize that one day, an autonomous 'village car' will circulate through the streets at ten minute intervals, where I can hitch a ride to drop me off at a bus or light rail station where I will transfer to a trunk line which will transport me anywhere I want to go. The shops will gladly deliver whatever I might purchase, leveraging large numbers of deliveries to make transport essentially free. I will greet the delivery truck and carry my new stuff a few short feet to restock my larder, never sitting behind any wheel for weeks, even months at a time. Until then, The Muse and I will confer each morning to determine whether me or her will assume custody of the car that day. Mostly, I will defer to her superior need because, most days, there's really no place I need to be (or would rather be) except right here at home.

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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