When I was 16 years old, I skimmed enough money off my Arby's paychecks to buy a midnight-blue 1999 Toyota Solara. My stepmom was kind enough to sell it to me on the cheap—$2,000. As any boy does, I tried to give it a name. I went with Penelope, because I was that kind of asshole. But the name never stuck. My Solara seemed to have its own name, one that only it knew, maybe the tick-tick-tick of the cooling engine on a sun-drunk Missouri afternoon.
Now I'm a 30-year-old person who lives and works on Capitol Hill, and I don't have to tell you that owning a car in Seattle sucks. The city's roads were laid out by feuding madmen, and they seem to be maintained by the same. Traffic is beyond measure, beyond understanding, beyond tolerance. Highways are made of bread crumbs. Drivers are dangerously cordial, and Lord forgive these people in the snow.
Also not news: Have you ever tried to find parking on Capitol Hill? In the words of a friend who moved here 10 years ago: "I've been looking for parking my whole life." Parking zones are small and densely populated, and they seem to be getting more densely populated by the day.
When you do find a spot—often a half-mile away from your apartment—you can park there for only three days. When you get a ticket for parking there for longer than three days, as I did recently, you have to pony up $44, which translates to 44,000 emotional dollars. This reaction spurs you to protest the infraction by not paying it off immediately—because fuck 'em, and, all right, because you're a little petty. Of course, this is only a momentary protest, you'll cool off and pay it in a couple days, but then life intervenes with deadlines, strange sadnesses, the one clear day this week to go for a run, and suddenly you've forgotten all about it and you're fined for late payment, so then you panic-pay the now $69 ticket (plus the $4 service charge) because who knows when the fining stops?
Oh and God forbid your car gets towed, which also recently happened to me, and you have to take off work early to catch the bus up Aurora Avenue for the opportunity to chat with the pitiless demons who work at You-Know-Who Towing, the water spiders feeding off the scum who deleted your car in the first place. My God, how does the emotional and financial pain of releasing your car from impound seem to add so much unto the already heap'd and swol'n stores of human misery?
Now that there's a light rail station three blocks from my apartment on Capitol Hill, now that the University of Washington, which I'm fond of because I went to grad school there, is accessible by train as well, I can scoot around more efficiently without a car. Light rail paired with a bike seems unstoppable. Suddenly I'm in the U-District in 10 minutes. And with a bike, it's an easy, flat ride to Wallingford or Fremont. That Gilmore Girls trail goes everywhere, right? I'm into it! Suddenly I'm singing at Venus Karaoke in the International District; suddenly I'm eating duck soup at Huong Duong right off Othello Station. Suddenly I'm everywhere.
What about hikes? Because I have chosen to make a life in Cascadia, I've recently adopted the habit of taking weekly hikes. This hobby will be harder without a car, but I have a hiking friend who's into having a car. And so long as I help pay for gas, I'm sure he won't mind if I tag along. If he falls off the side of a mountain, I might fall in with the Seattle Transit Hikers, who use bus transit to access trailheads all around the Puget Sound area. So no matter what, I can get out to the mountains, which is one of the reasons to stay here in the first place.
Granted, there are moments when I think: Wait, do I really want to sell my car? I am full of hesitation even as I write this. Selling was never the plan. The plan was the car was supposed to explode on my way from Missouri to Ohio. It was going to burst into flames on the way from Ohio to Washington State, and I'd leave it smoldering on the side of the road somewhere in the desert. At any point during the last seven years or so, I fully expected to walk out to the driveway and see my car engulfed in flames, but I never did. It never once blew up on me.
I wish it could just turn into a very nice bike. A bike worth, say, $1,200.
I do hesitate to lean so heavily on the guv'ment for my transportation. Most of the state doesn't seem very interested in mass transit. A monthly ORCA pass of $99 costs more than my car insurance + typical amount of gas I'd use in a month. Relying on public transit, you have to plan ahead if you want to go anywhere, and I'm not the best at that—I'm the guy who doesn't pay his parking tickets on time. Even with the light rail, you still can't easily access some of Seattle's most special places.
But if someone makes me the right offer, I'm ready. My dream offer is a very nice bike in exchange for my Solara. I have to admit, the car doesn't shine as brightly as she used to. It's had a busted jaw since 2007 (driver's side bumper droops), the result of a drunk frat boy kicking random cars parked on the street as he stumbled back to the house. The CD player/tape deck/radio stopped working last week, which is a shame because the speakers are so good. (Probably just a slight electrical thing.) The whole rig needs a good wash inside and out. But after seven trips around the earth, nearly one trip to the moon, and one last exit from Missouri, it still runs good. Here it is:
If you're interested, I will entertain an offer. I really don't think I need it anymore. My e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.