diamond geezer

 Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I sold my car ten years ago today. I drove down to my local garage at lunchtime, handed over my car keys in exchange for a fat cheque, and waved goodbye to the world of driving. It felt good, at least until I realised I now had to walk the two miles back to the office.

I sold my car ten years ago today. This was my first and only car, and I'd only had it for a couple of years. It had four wheels and an engine, and it was blue. I wasn't desperately interested in the specification beyond that. I'd only bought it because I had to, because it was a requirement of the job I'd been doing. But this was my last day in the job, and I wasn't sorry to see it go.

I sold my car ten years ago today. I was living in a Suffolk village at the time. The village had only five buses a day, scheduled at times more useful to pensioners than commuters. The local shop was a tiny post office which sold sellotape and 7th birthday cards but not milk or bread. The nearest supermarket was too far away for a pedestrian, along rat-run country lanes I'd never risk on foot. Without a car I'd have been isolated and starving hungry.

I sold my car ten years ago today. I gave up the opportunity to drive wherever I wanted whenever I wanted. I ceased hurling myself along fast rural roads in a fragile metal box. I abandoned my private bubble kitted out with blaring hi-fi and a glove compartment full of barley sugars. I willingly surrendered my independence, speed and comfort.

I sold my car ten years ago today. I probably increased my life expectancy by several years as a result. I've never been a natural driver, never very confident behind the wheel. That time I found myself staring through a tilted windscreen into the bottom of a ditch, that's when it became clear my talents were better suited to the passenger seat. If a simple bend could defeat me, I knew I'd never be King of the Road.

I sold my car ten years ago today. I never once considered buying a bike as a replacement. My driving skills weren't instinctive enough, so swapping four wheels for two never appealed. I'd have ended up in front of a bus or under a lorry, sooner or later, with no protective outer skin to shield me. So I abandoned the road for the pavement, and I never looked back.

I sold my car ten years ago today. I stopped having to fork out hundreds of pounds annually on petrol, and hundreds more pounds on insurance, and hundreds more pounds on servicing and repairs. I stopped having to hunt for an appropriate parking space, and risking extortionate fines if I couldn't find one. I had to start paying to use public transport again, but overall I saved an absolute fortune.

I sold my car ten years ago today. Nobody thanked me for my selfless action. Nobody gave me a certificate honouring the reduction in my carbon footprint. No East Anglian child noticed that the air they breathed was slightly less polluted. Nobody cheered when I stopped clogging up roads with three empty seats everywhere I went. No passing car drivers flashed their headlamps at me in deference to my greener lifestyle.

I sold my car ten years ago today. I never really understood the appeal of driving, so selling up was no great loss. I still can't tell the difference between an Audi and a BMW, merely that one car might be silver and the other blue. I never watch Top Gear because it appeals to a petrolhead demographic I'm not part of. I'm much happier being driven than doing the driving myself, which explains why you'll find me blogging about public transport quite so frequently.

I sold my car ten years ago today. I often wonder where it ended up. It probably started out somewhere in the Suffolk area, but it could be anywhere by now. Perhaps a young couple bought it and now there's a baby seat in the back. Perhaps it shuttles from a pensioner's garage to the supermarket and back once a week. Perhaps some joyrider smashed it into the central reservation of the A14 and now it's rusting in a tiny cube in some forgotten scrapyard. I fear I'll never know.

I sold my car ten years ago today. I recognise that this was only possible because I moved from Ruralsville to BigCity immediately afterwards. But now I live somewhere where not having a car is the norm, and where sitting next to people on buses isn't sniffed at. I may have less freedom than I had before, but I also have less hassle and more money. Being car-free has made my life more carefree. And, I have to say, I wouldn't have it any other way.

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