Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Driving Days

I had two screw-ups this week - one because I left my cell phone at work, and one because I missed the damn bus - two of them - with a three year old in tow on a snow-day where I was already two hours late to work. So, all in all, I maybe drove three miles this week?

And all the walking has me losing weight, and having lots of time to think,

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Week One without Car

So it didn't all go smoothly, but I feel it all went well.

It started last week. I meant to write about Reunion, but my walk to the wine bar (where I write), and earlier walks that day had me so inspired that I decided to give up my car then and there. I was free! I wrote about it on my Reunioneyes blog.

I decided would go without driving (in our two-car family) for six months and if all went well, I would sell the car and we would go from being a 2-car family to one car and me mostly biking, bussing or walking. Here how week one went:

Thursday nights I go to my friend's house to watch Grey's Anatomy (I know, I know - it's a terrible show. I got hooked on it just after I had Reed and he would be awake for hours in the middle of the night - I would rent Grey's and watch them one after the other to keep me going while Reed nursed or blobbed around on the floor, just being awake. Besides, it's really just an excuse to get together and drink wine and chat). My friend, Katie, only lives a half-mile away, and I really don't have a problem walking in my neighborhood at night, so I figured I'd walk.

Only Dane was taking the boys to a hockey game and they were going to take Max, so I figured I'd drop them off, take the car and then pick them up when they were done. My rule is the family only uses one car, and doesn't drive needlessly. This seemed like a good try. It was a good lesson learned because when we got to the max stop, there was plenty of parking and my taking them wasn't necessary. I was going to take the max back and leave the car there, but I forgot my pass. Lesson learned.

Bussed it to work and back. It was fine, but I have a tendency to miss my bus. If I know the bus is going to arrive in 10 minutes, I leave the house in 10 minutes and miss the bus. But, I got a lot of good walking in, and it doesn't really matter if I'm late to work. And it gives me time - time to think, relax, and just walk. I decided that rather than trying to time myself to leave when the bus was supposed to come, I would leave when I was ready and see what bus was coming. If no bus would be coming within a few minutes, I'd just walk instead. That decision has led to probably 10 - 15 miles that I've walked this past week! I'm sure to a runner that's nothing, but to me, who wasn't walking or doing anything special for exercise lately, it is awesome.

Dane had martial arts class, so I was with the boys. We talked about going to the library, but just hung out and had friends over that night.

I had to work, and rode the bus in when usually I would drive. Dane went with the boys to see his mom at the hospital and came back in time for to get Reed to a birthday party and Quinn to the rock gym. I met them at the gym (from the bus) and Dane took Reed on to the party. Quinn was a super-star climber, and then he and I tried to take the bus home - but missed the first one and the second one drove right past us. Dane called when he was coming back from the party and just swooped us up. Another lesson learned - make yourself REALLY obvious at the busstop.

Worked late, really late. 9:30pmish. Spreadsheets, which suck, but it's part of my job and had to get done. I left and went to text when the next bus time was, but my phone was dead. A bus came so I hopped on and took it to downtown center (Pioneer Courthouse Square). I saw the max coming so I jumped off and ran for the max and made it just in time. I settled in and did my knitting. I noticed there were streets and shops I hadn't noticed on the ride before. Oops - got on the wrong max. In my rush I wasn't looking. And, unfortunately, it's the max to a sketchy part of town, as far as that goes in Portland. And it was pouring rain.

I got off of the wrong max amide lots of neon (The Alabi tiki lounge area). I thought there would be a bus line there that would get me home, but that far north the street wasn't a main street anymore (Prescott). So I checked the max back - 16 minutes. Bummer. So I walked, in the rain, to the next stop and checked out the seedy motels and bars along the way. I put it in perspective - the kids were in bed by then, all I would be doing when I got home was watch TV, so this was fine.

I got the max back to the next transit center, only the max changed from yellow to blue along the way. I thought it would be going downtown, so I got off, only to realize it was going east to my stop. Too late, I was already off. So i went to see if a bus was nearby - no, taking off as I got to it. The next max wasn't supposed to be there for a half hour so I didn't know what to do, but then a max came and i had to run for it. Got home around 11pm.

The crazy thing is, that even though it wasn't a great night, it felt like an adventure. I had no phone to call anyone, nothing to do but figure out my own way. It was energizing. As a mom with a stable job and a stable home, it was actually kind of exciting. Sad, I know, but I'll take whatever excitement I can!

Walk, bus; bus, home.

Wednesday, today:
I missed my bus so walked to the max. On the way, I noticed one of the nice houses in the neighborhood which had the "I am the 99%" sign out front - it was the second one I noticed in that "nice" neighborhood. Although my initial reaction to those signs was a harumph - these people weren't suffering - I got their point. Even though they're doing decently well, they're still not rich and that the "rich" and so far beyond that it's crazy. There was a woman coming out of the sign house and she looked at me, smiled, and said, "I'll walk with you!" No, I didn't know her from Adam and that's one of the many many things I do love about Portland.

We walked together about eight blocks and chatted about her sons, and my sons, peace corps, engineering, working and school and figuring out life. Then she went to the gym and I went to the max.

When I got to the max, I realized I, once again, forgot my badge with my transit pass, but since I live one stop away from the free rail zone, I risked it. Dane brought it downtown for his meeting, took me to my meeting and the rest was just like last week - wandering to pick up Quinn from school, but this time with the end in mind.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Carefree Carlessness

My first post on Carless Commuting first appeared in my adoptee blog, Reunioneyes. I'm moving it here to keep it better organized...

Walking, biking, busing; anything but driving. After eleven years driving in hell-traffic to-and-from Beaverton for my job at Nike, I just can't do it anymore. I don't want to drive. Anywhere.

Soon after I got the job at PSU, I got a bus-pass and left driving to-and-from work behind. I enjoyed it. It took away some of the stress of being late (which I usually am) because once I got to the bus-stop, time was out of my control. All of a sudden, I had a full-hour a day to do what I wanted - knit, read, journal, work, whatever.

Once we changed our schedules to try to pick up the kids after school, I had to go back to driving to work after a year of being away from it. I felt ridiculous for how much I hated it. Aside from being expensive to park downtown, it was stressful and boring at the same time and I just hated it. No longer free to bike, hop from train to bus or, having missed my bus, walk, I was contemptuously confined.

Now that the boys are back in full-time, I'm free. I turned in my parking permit and got my transit pass back, and cheered in the PSU transportation office when I did it. Today, I was back to my completely unpredictable, free, un-routine routine. I got the kids organized and ready to leave and then left Dane to drive them to school while I walked around the corner to the bus. I got to work late, but that's okay.

This afternoon, I realized I had an appointment at 4pm, but I only had to leave five minutes earlier than when I was driving to get there in time. I didn't know what I was going to do after my appointment - I had planned to go back to work, either at a coffeeshop or at work itself - but by then I didn't feel like it. So, I wandered. As I wandered, I realized I was on the street of Quinn's school (albeit a mile south), so I just kept wandering there and surprised him by picking him up. After a couple blocks walking, he was tired, so I texted the bus and found out it was coming in two minutes and voila - we were home. By the time I got home, I was more driving if I can help it.

I live in Portland. I don't need to drive. I really don't. Almost all the places I need to go to I can get to, easily. And I can use a zip-car when I need one. I had gotten all jazzed about being car-less last summer, but my friends reminded me it was summer after-all. So I figure I'll try it for six months of Winter (because, in Portland, January through June is really all the same season chilly wet season of Winter) and if I can be carless during that time, I will sell the Subaru and we can go to being a one-car family.

Tonight, I walked to my writing-date (which I often do anyway). In total, I've walked almost three miles today, LOVING it (rain and all) and only added maybe a half-hour to my over-all commuting time. Meanwhile, I got to share my love of carlessness with my son (who shares my enthusiasm for public transportation and enjoys "bus-surfing" - balancing hands-free standing in the bus, which I probably should discourage but instead coach him on best practices-feet shoulder-width apart, one in front of the other, hands at the ready for a jolt...).

I had so many revelations during the walking:
  • I never want to drive unnecessarily again
  • Even if  were rich, I wouldn't want a big, fancy house - it would be too much pressure, and I already can't keep up with the Joneses. 
  • I love that Portland is more focused on being outdoorsy than by how you look. I am prioritizing my wardrobe by what is comfortable to wear walking / biking in rain rather than what is good for work. 
  • I figured out what everyone on my staff should do with their lives.
  • I figured out what I should do with my life:
    • I want to spend as much time as possible on art and writing while being able to support my family. This actually helps me prioritize work immensely. I am fortunate enough to have a wonderful boss who appreciates my talents. I am more fortunate that he values my art and writing over my operations and business skills and is willing to let me delegate the things I don't want in my life to others. So, if I purposely focus on art and writing, I can delegate, or let slide, the other things that aren't as priority to me. It also helps my career planning - focus on art and writing and hope for the best. I can make a good enough living with the skills I have. Focus on what I love and fuck the rest. 
    • This gave me the inspiration to write out my perfect job scenario. I would love to stay with PSU. I love the schedule, the flexibility, the focus on growth and education, the anti-stress (I stress myself by my corporate training, not by the work-schedule). It would be doing communications, design and operations for the college as a director and make significantly more money than I do now (but with all the time-off and laid-backedness as I have now). So, I'm going to propose what I would love to have to the Dean and just let him know, if it ever comes up, that that's what I'm good at and what I'd like to do, and if he'd like me to do it - here I am. And see if he has any advice on how to position myself for it. 
    • In the meantime, no worries, just keep going with the the focus on art, writing, and operations and see what appears in the horizon as I go (this came up because we have an employee that we love and we are trying to mold the position around what she wants. She doesn't know exactly what she wants, so we mold as we go. It got me thinking that I should do that for myself - put out to the universe what would be my best-case scenario and let everyone know...and see what happens). 
We'll see how it goes, but I'm eager and excited to be on a new track - whether it be by bus, bike or bipedal or by the thoughts that are inspired by the wandering.