Next month marks the one-year anniversary of an experiment Mike and I like to call “What would life be like with only one car?” About nine months into our marriage, we did an assessment of expenses and realized we could save so much cash by just eliminating one car: gas, insurance, maintenance. So we put his 2000 Volvo on Craigslist and it sold a day later.
Gulp. We thought surely it would take several rounds of postings and negotiations to find someone to buy it, so we’d have plenty of time to get used to the idea of being stranded with my darling 2007 Mazda 3 (I call her Ella). Instead we had two buyers in a bidding war just a day after the ad posted (don’t get me wrong, bidding wars are good when you’re the benefactor).
The buyer drove away after assuring us he would give it a good home, with big fields for it to run around in and lots of children to play with; and with that, we were a single car family.
We had that panicked sellers-remorse almost immediately — what will we DO when we have alternate plans? we shrieked. How are we supposed to go out to lunch separately at work? People are going to think we’re NUTS.
And they did. When we told people (and still to this day) that we only have one car, they looked at us like we didn’t have access to running water or electricity. But how do you DO it? they wonder. It’s simple.
We live in Eastlake, in downtown Seattle. Mike works in Bellevue, so he drops himself off at work with me beside him, and tra-la-la I hop in the driver’s seat and take myself to work in Redmond. I have the car all day (this comes with the thrilling bonus of having to run all our errands at lunch since “I have the car”), and then I pick him up on my way home and we speed across 520 in the carpool lane. Genius!
Or is it? You can see how this can’t be working perfectly all the time. Yes, we negotiate on who gets the car and who bums a ride with a friend when we have conflicting plans. But what about when it’s REALLY not working?
When it’s really not working is when you see Abby standing alone in the Redmond Town Center mall waiting for Mike to finish his golf game. Yes, people, golf is a five-hour game. Hmm, what are my life-lines, Regis? I could phone a friend, see a movie, shop til I drop…yawn.
But that’s half the point. This one-car situation involves sacrifice. It’s not always pretty (Mike: “where ARE you, I’ve been standing outside for 15 minutes!”) and we don’t always do it joyfully (cut to the conversation where we sound like brother and sister fighting over the car in high school) — but we do it. We do it every day. And little by little as our year has passed we’ve learned a lot about what we can make work.
Being a part of the Millennial generation comes with its own sense of entitlement. We are babies of an economic boom era; life hasn’t been rough. So when you’re a DINK riding the urban wave, you think you deserve to have the perfect board.
But that doesn’t mean you should. At least, not in our case.
Once we had the gaping hole of missing a car, we could see that we had set our quality of life on how convenient we could make the day-to-day. It’s unthinkable for most people I know to miss an event because of transportation issues. For us, it’s not frequent, but it is a reality. We see now how our situation forces us to communicate, to coordinate, and to give where we normally get.
It’s funny; for all of the annoyances and frustrations a single-car life can bring, it’s also pleasantly simple. It’s one less thing to worry about. And, as hammy as it sounds, when we eventually buy another car, I’ll miss that extra hour a day with Mike in this one.