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Carless-Day One -Taking Credit

We’ve declared ourselves carless for the next few weeks. Why? Not our sincere dedication to the environment, though I probably shouldn’t have admitted that. Sure, we might avoid spewing a few pounds of carbon into the environment, but that alone wouldn’t have chased us out of the vehicle. We’re interested in saving the planet, but we’re no less stuck in this car culture than everyone else.

The *real* reason has more to do with financial than environmental security. Amy tracks our credit score. I’m pretty certain that I don’t know or particularly care about that, but she insists that it’s an important metric. So important that she’s learning how to game it.

Like all metrics, the credit score represents a bunch of assumptions about how credit-worthy someone might be. I, for instance, would score in the low teens if not for Amy’s attention to detail. Like many others, our credit score evaporated along with the economy, back in 2008. We pulled the plug on it ourselves; gratefully. We stepped out of the market, which might be the one thing anyone interested in their credit score should never, ever do. The CS Gods prefer that everyone continue play.

But that was four years ago now. Amy’s been slowly building up a reliable credit history, borrowing little bits then paying off the loans before they’re due. We’d planned to refinance the house we own but can’t live in, and she reckoned that by this fall, we could refinance then buy a newer car. But two weeks ago, a distracted SUV driver took off her Honda’s back bumper, and the insurance company declared it a total loss. Though she could still drive it, repairing it would cost multiples of its ‘value.’

The insurance company rented us a car for ten days to carry us through the transition, and during that time, Amy commenced to engage in some careful cyphering. Her conclusion: it will look a lot better on our credit history if we refinance the house first, then buy a newer car. The refinancing might take six weeks to conclude, so we’re, by careful consideration of the credit score game, carless for the duration.

And some might consider this a hardship. I feel relieved. Relieved of the obligation to drive in truly terrible traffic. Sprung from the responsibilities of the road. I know this qualifies as a naive notion, especially since I haven’t yet faced the challenge of restocking the cat food, which comes in twentyfive pound bags from a store six miles away, but I’m game.

Yesterday, day one of the experiment, I found myself needing to run an errand downtown at four o’clock on a Friday afternoon. With a car, this need would have qualified as delusional, perhaps physically impossible. My rule when the car was here: park it after four pm except for neighborhood hops. Driving downtown would have taken two hours minimum and pretty much spoiled the rest of the day.

I laced up my sneakers and walked the two blocks up to the arterial, where a bus met me and shuttled me on to the Metro station, where I merely walked across the street and up the escalator, waited a full three minutes for the next train, then sat in air conditioned comfort for about twenty minutes. A four block stroll took me to the place I needed to get to, and five minutes later I was hoofing it back to the Metro, watching the continuous clog of cars nudging their way along the streets.

I felt about a ton and a half lighter on foot.

I called Amy before going down into the Metro hole, and she needed something from the store. Hey, there’s a favorite store just a block from a Metro station two stops down the line. While we were talking, I remembered that I really wanted to pick up a book, and there is a book store in Union Station, just one stop away. So I hopped off the train there, spent all of five minutes browsing to learn that the book I wanted was not in stock, hopped back on the next train ... three minutes ... to the next stop, where I spent no more than fifteen minutes securing Amy’s secret ingredient. Another short wait then back on the next train and off at my home station fifteen minutes later. I was moving like greased lightening without the encumbrance of wheels.

A bus was idling just across the street, and five minutes later I was hopping off to check out the Fish Truck occupying the Co-op parking lot two blocks from the house. Another five minute walk and I was home, popping open a beer to wash off the humidity.

I’m thinking we might be well-situated to adapt to being carless for the next little while.

©2012 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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