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Carless- Day Nine -Zip 'e De Do Car

’Your first Ziptrip is kinda like a first date. You're excited. You're nervous. You hope your breath smells okay. Of course, there's always that getting-to-know-you period. To keep the awkwardness to a minimum, follow the Ziptips down below.’

So begins the confirmation ZipCar sent when I reserved my first one. No, the experience wasn’t even a little bit like a first date. Neither nervous nor particularly excited, I learned that I should have reserved a car more than an hour in advance, though the technology certainly enables me to reserve a car almost the moment I need one. Almost, because there’s always the possibility that there are no cars available at that precise moment, which is what I found. I imagined that I’d just saunter over to the neighborhood lot and hop into a zippy car. Instead, I fast walked four blocks to hop a Saturday bus which dropped me nearish to an alternate Zipcar lot, where I secured my wheels.

The car was just what I’d reserved, (ZipCar names their cars. Ours was named ‘3 Mate.’ Cute, huh?) a zippy little Mazda with truck suspension. I just touched my ZipCard® to the spot on the windshield and the doors unlocked. The key is permanently attached to the dashboard with a retracting cable. I started the engine and drove away feeling as if I’d just boosted the car. Whee!

We were heading out for our weekly grocery run. I zoomed home to pick up Amy where I noticed the only really negative part of the ZipCar experience: extreme time awareness. After eight carefree carless days, I suddenly had a deadline. Had to have the car back by three o’clock or extend the rental period. I became a clock watcher. Clock watching and shopping don’t mix very well, and might even annoy Amy, who never watches clocks on the weekends. This was a weekend.

We managed just fine. The small car parked easily, had just enough room for all of our groceries, and transported us there and back again. Yes, I had to extend the rental period an extra hour and we returned the car right on time. It took the best part of another hour to get back home.

So, a planned three hour tour turned into a nearly six hour excursion, bookended with walks in the rain. No complaints.

It’s not unusual for us to spend six hours Saturday shopping. We’re particular about where we shop and the larder was pretty danged empty. As we walked away from the lot after dropping off the car, I asked Amy about her first ZipCar experience. “It was okay,” she replied. “I hated being so time conscious on a Saturday.” Later, she acknowledged that it amplified her sense that she really doesn’t like not having a car. “In the culture I grew up in,” she reflected, “mobility meant a lot. It was defining.”

Had this not been an experiment, I might have felt more inconvenienced by this exercise. It could have been a hassle to hustle over to catch that bus almost an hour before we’d planned to leave, and to wander back home between busses in the rain. But this was a choice, not an imperative. We’d explored new territory, even if that meant foregoing Saturday nap time.

Interestingly, ZipCar reminded us that we really are car people, too. We’ll need one sooner or later. Probably sooner than the next zombie apocalypse.

©2012 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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