I used to drive. I actually owned a car--even though I live in New York, said to be the most walkable of American cities and one blessed with great public transit. Despite all that, like most American drivers, I was convinced my personal mobility--my Freedom, for heaven's sake--depended on the pathetic hunk of steel, plastic and rubber parked outside my door.
I don't recall the specific event that made me decide to pack it in and go carless. What I do recall is the feeling of unease I experienced more and more often behind the wheel--a combination of vulnerability and simmering anger. Finally, owning and driving a car no longer felt like freedom; it felt more and more like a burden.
When I decided to hang up my car keys for good, I expected I'd be panicked, for the first few days at least. Instead, what I felt was profound relief.
•An end to worrying about
--the fuel pump
•Over and done with
--hoping the damn thing will start
--wondering whether it'll pass inspection
--standing around some filthy garage, awaiting the inevitable bad news
--circling the block endlessly for parking, or paying some outrageous fee
--getting stuck in traffic, wanting to just ditch this heap and walk away
Freedom, it turns out, is being the resident of a city with a reasonably extensive, reasonably dependable transit system; and being in good enough health to be able to walk fairly long distances when you want to or have to.