Monday, April 18, 2011

Dude, Where's My Car?

"You ever travel by bus before? No? Your mood's probably not going to improve much." - John Candy, Planes, Trains and Automobiles

How do we do it? It's apparently been a topic of conversation in at least three newsrooms in New York recently. Must be a slow news cycle for some of my colleagues.

Always asking the hard-hitting questions, they want to know: How do my wife and I manage to function with only one car?

Let me tell you: it's a lot easier than you think.

The swagger wagon
Still, while not impossible, surviving suburbia with a child and only one vehicle involves a very delicate dance. It also requires impeccable timing and reliance on public transportation... two things you have absolutely no control over. So there are days where it gets very interesting. And there are days when things go very wrong.
It has Fahrvergnugen

Daily, we perform quite an impressive tango:

I take the first bus into the city. It picks me up right outside our front door a little before 6am. My wife wakes up Peanut, gets her ready for school, and drops her off as soon as daycare opens at 730am. She then catches the 8:01am train into the city, parking the swagger wagon at the station lot. I take the 4:52pm train home, get the car, pick up the Peanut, take her home and start dinner. My wife hops on the 5:35 (or later) bus, which drops her off, conveniently, outside of our front door no later than 6:45pm. We eat dinner at 7pm.

Then, playtime, bedtime... repeat until the weekend... which is a whole other dance. A slow one, if you will.

You get all that? It's a simple rule: whoever has Peanut has the swagger wagon.

Potential hazards along the way: traffic - that's a big one. How many text messages have I received from my wife saying she's in traffic? And, of course: weather. The snow got its own post recently. It sucks (the snow, not the post). And rain isn't much better. Buses never seem to be prepared for rain. At least you don't have to shovel it.

But the biggest potential hazard, hands down: the cranky daughter. This is a hazard that I thankfully manage to avoid since I leave the house when everyone is still asleep.

Grumpy... but strapped in
If the Peanut is not cooperating in the morning, my wife finds herself squarely in the stress zone. She has 20 - count 'em 20 -minutes to get her up and out of the house. If she is even the slightest bit unruly it throws off the timing of the entire operation. Oh, the stories I've heard. She wouldn't wake up. She wouldn't get dressed. She wouldn't listen. She cried. She fought me on everything.

Depending on the level of non-cooperation, I may have to get the car at one of two alternate train stations. Or take the bus from one of two alternate gates. We have a contingency plan for everything.

That's how powerful my daughter is. Great power... yet no responsibility.

Still, I wouldn't waste the money on a second car until I absolutely have to. We make this work with relative ease.

I must admit, there are times when it would be incredibly convenient if we had a second car. For instance, we've had to skip church the past couple of weeks because I've been driving to meet my half-marathon training group on Sunday mornings. Sundays are long run days. We're up to 11 miles now... which takes me about an hour and a half (ok... a little longer than that). That means I get home right when service starts. If we had a second car, I could meet the family at church and just miss the announcements.

Thankfully, being Episcopalian means not feeling guilty about missing church (sorry, mom). It's Catholic Light (sorry again, mom).

Also, if you had a vote, which would you have us get: a second car, or a second child? We can only afford one.

Case closed.... but neither is happening anytime soon.

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