Monday, October 24, 2016

No Car

I had plenty of fodder for this week's blog post ... filming at TVO, getting sick mid-week, bringing the baby skinny pigs to school, lamenting the lost of Bitstrips and getting frustrated with the lesser replacement ... but I thought I'd write about my car.

While I was home recovering from a epic migraine that hit the day before, I decided to "use my time wisely" by taking my car in for an oil change. (I'll refrain from commenting on why I felt the need to use my sick day for more than just time to recuperate.) The engine light was on but it often lights up due to a flaw in the car's design that makes it activate when the gas cap isn't turned tightly, but I didn't think much of it. The reality was that there was indeed something wrong with my car's engine and I just didn't realize it. The car has been at the mechanic's garage since last Wednesday as they order a replacement part and fix the problem.

I could stop my blog post there and reflect on how what I thought was wrong wasn't the issue at all and that we risk ignoring signs and symptoms (in cars and children) at our peril. I could invoke the "assume" warning: when you assume, you make an a** out of "u" and "me".

I learned more, however, in the subsequent days of managing life as usual without my wheels. The experience certainly increased my empathy. On Thursday morning, I took the bus with my son and daughter part of the way - they had much further to travel. Despite having used public transit all during my university years to get to York University from south Scarborough, I found I lacked the stamina and tolerance of my youth. It was so dark! It was so crowded! It was so long and dreary!

I appreciated the kindness of my fellow staff members, who upon discovering that I temporarily had no car, offered to drive me home. Thank you Renee, and thank you Lisa - especially for carrying the skinny pig cage to my house in the back of your car!

I learned that I had to think and plan much more thoroughly before going anywhere.
Math became quite important as I turned often to my computer to investigate how much longer it would take for me to arrive at destinations I never gave much consideration to going before. Our family walked to the local library on the weekend - a 5 minute drive was a 20 minute walk one-way. Getting to my Bootcamp Fitness Centre takes 11 minutes by car and 28 minutes by bus. Going to work takes 16 minutes by car and 41 minutes by bus. Because times usually doubled, I had to leave earlier, factor in the return travel time, and earmark a longer period of time to accomplish tasks. How do people manage when they have to go grocery shopping and haul their purchases in buggies or on the bus?

Then I realized how thankless I was being. I'm fortunate to live in Toronto, where we have the TTC and most locations are accessible for just $3.25 per trip. What about other areas of Ontario without adequate public transportation? What about other areas of the world, where children have to walk for hours just to collect water or get to school?

Knowing others have it worse can be small comfort. I asked myself how this experience would change my behaviour or attitude in the future. I think I will be more grateful when my husband (who doesn't have a licence and walks or takes the bus everywhere) does errands without me. It's a bigger effort on his part and I should recognize the amount of time it takes him. I'll also offer my chauffeur services more often to him and others. I will also be less quick to judge people when they talk about the hardships of getting to places when they can only rely on others to get them there.

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