When I was 12 or maybe 13 my foster brother Bob purchased a 1971 Mustang Mach 1, that’s “Mach” as in the speed of sound not “mock” as in to brutally make fun of something, which is important because Bob knew he was very mock-able, and I’m sure that he hoped that this amazing black and gold mighty sports car would put an end to all derision and place him on the road to cool-Dom. It worked on me, but then again, as a teacher I can confirm that most 12 year olds are still pretty stupid!
In high school the most beautiful girl in my grade, Tammy Crouse, was dating a guy who drove a Trans Am. Yes, the Pontiac Firebird with giant decal of a Phoenix on the hood. In my future was a car with a decal of another sort.
During the oil crises of the mid seventies my mom had chosen to buy a fire engine red Toyota Corolla station wagon with faux wood paneling in the form of giant stickers from the front all the way to the back: Bob’s Mustang had a higher cool quotient in its gas cap than could be found in my mom’s entire car, but starting in February of 1980 that became the car I was to drive on my first date, to prom, to college in Utah, and home from my wedding.
But sometime between washing Bob’s Mustang AS A 12 YEAR OLD and now, my attitude toward automobiles has changed completely. NOW I hate them. I hate what they do to the environment. I hate what they’ve done to our cities. I hate how ugly they’ve made so much of our world. Most of all I hate how much our Post War development pattern has made US so totally dependent on them. I still own one, just one, but I’ve gone out of my way, little by little, to make the automobile a diminishing presence in my life. I’ve learned to use the bus again, I walk to the bank, the post office, and to my doctor’s office. In the row of 5 townhouses on my street in downtown Springfield, mine is the only one without a single allotted space for a car; I park my car half a block away on a side street. Behind the house, where we might have been able to park some vehicles we’ve instead planted a garden: some raised beds, a few fruit trees, and a handful of grape vines. I have some rain barrels I use to water the garden; but I never, never wash my car.