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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Four years without a car ain’t as bad as it sounds

    The weeks preceding graduation feel like deflating a balloon. I’m not surprised, terrified or even vaguely sentimental. Multiple identity crises aside, I’ve always known I would do well in classes and eventually choose a profession I’m good at. But although I’ve seldom questioned these things, I have had intermittent bouts of doubt about my ability to have a successful, fulfilling college experience without a car at my disposal. How would I be flexible as a journalist, participate in a desert festival or do anything spontaneous ever?

    Well, what this four-year experiment has proven to me is that you don’t need a car – or even a driver’s license – to be active, productive and adventurous while in school.

    Aside from a smoldering disdain for my high school driver’s education teacher and an ambivalence toward being behind the wheel, I have no great explanations for rejecting what could have been my essential rite of adolescence. I simply never cared, and have always found ways around driving, whether walking to school, carpooling to orchestra or catching a ride with my younger brother.

    At the UA, my first attempt at commuting was with Sun Tran. As anyone who’s ever depended on them can attest, the public buses are frequently 10-15 minutes late and probably not what employers mean when they refer to “”reliable transportation”” (although I never dared to ask).

    Once I found myself a bike halfway through sophomore year, I became more punctual. There are, of course, limits on what you can do on a whim, which is a bummer if you’re an independent spirit who likes to disappear. The ride out to East 22nd Street and South Pantano Road on a Saturday night to go rollerskating, for example, was a trip I never repeated. Careening around a rink with high-schoolers is considerably less fun alone, much less after 45 minutes of partly-uphill pedaling alongside a major road. It was quality exercise, to say the least.

    A bicycle also never took me to Sabino Canyon, though my delightful friends have, and it’s more fun with them anyway. But invest in one and you can get most things done: Reid Park, downtown and grocery stores are all perfectly accessible if you live in the campus area, as are plenty of jobs. The less flashy the bike, the better.

    The relic of a Schwinn I currently ride cost $45 at a bike swap two years ago and has lasted far longer than my original commuter bike, which promptly had a seat and wheel stolen before being nabbed in its entirety several months later. The Schwinn is too heavy to be thrown on a bus, but most people leave it alone, and that’s what matters.

    Even the Sun Tran, though I feared relying on it at first, has taken me to and from my copy-editing internship on the South Side all semester.

    I’ve taken a cab fewer than 10 times: several times to and from the airport, until I realized the bus would suffice; once from University Medical Center, at a friend’s insistence; and once to the vet, to the dismay of the feline-allergic driver, who fortunately didn’t have a reaction.

    Finally, I’ve gotten by on a lot of carpooling. Last spring, I took a capstone course that required reporting in Tombstone, just to prove I could. It never seemed to inconvenience anyone, particularly during a time when gas prices were more than $3 a gallon and when they needed to make the journey anyway. Sure, I’ve come to rely on friends – carrying groceries in a messenger bag sounds brilliant until you try to buy a mop or kitty litter – but they’re good sports, especially if I repay them with Nico’s quesadillas or gas funds. It’s cheaper for everyone! And the occasional cab ride doesn’t even to compare to having to pay for parking permits, tickets or vehicle maintenance.

    Will not having a license limit me in the future? Well, it pretty much rules out being a professional news reporter, or living anywhere without a metro system, so I’ll cave in eventually. But it did save me from making woeful utterances like, “”I have to put more money in the meter,”” “”The gas light is on,”” and “”Dammit, I think my car got towed.””

    Whether a testament to my independence, complacency, innovation or ability to mooch off others, not driving a car has been an integral part of my early-20s existence. It’s taught me to be social, live within my means and be constantly, irrationally paranoid about locking up my bike.


    – Laura Hawkins is a graduating senior majoring in journalism and Italian. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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