Black Cat

Going not gentle into that middle age.

“Where’s Your Car?”

Filed under: Car-less,Expat — 11 October 2006 @ 5:43 pm

The last place that we lived before moving here to Germany was in the suburbs of Silicon Valley, California. In an attempt to get some exercise into my otherwise sedentary life, I tried to develop the habit of jogging through our suburban streets several mornings a week. For the most part, I was pretty good about this. Then I would get into my car and drive the two suburban blocks to the grocery store. Several times a week. It never occurred to me to combine the activities of jogging and grocery shopping.

I began to realize the surreality of this when one day I took a deep breath and prepared myself for the arduous task of… walking the two blocks to the grocery store. I just wanted to see if I could do it. It sounded so counter-culture, so hippy-like, when I heard of other people doing it. And I was in California, after all. So I set out — on foot — and found myself at the store in — 3 minutes. Well. That wasn’t so bad, but it did feel strange to walk across the parking lot without the car as my starting point.

When my purchases had been rung up at the checkout stand, I again realized a moment of surreality. The nice young man who insisted on bagging my groceries for me also insisted on carrying them outside for me. Even though I said that it wouldn’t be necessary. He asked, “where’s your car?” as I trailed after him out to the parking lot. It took a fair amount of explaining to get him to give me the bag. He was really nice, and he really wanted to save me the arduous task of lugging that one single bag all the way across the vast parking lot to my car, and he really wanted to follow the grocery store rules which said that the job for which he was hired was to save ladies the arduous task of lugging that one bag of groceries all the way across the vast parking lot to their car. I asked him if he was going to carry it all the way home for me. It didn’t occur to him that I might have arrived at the store in some other fashion than by auto, just as it hadn’t occured to me until that day to arrive at the store on foot. As I finally rescued my bag of groceries from the nice young man and started on my looong 3-minute walk home, I wondered why the nice young man’s store-appointed duties didn’t include riding in my car back to my home so that he could save me from the arduous task of transporting those groceries from my car into my home or apartment.

I never repeated the experiment. It was just too surreal.

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  1. PJ:

    This is funny! It reminds me of a time when I tried to install a “walk-to-work” program for myself. I spent weeks psyching myself up. I traced the route in my car, plotting phone booths in case I got in trouble (this was pre-cell phone era), and bathrooms along the way. I bought a backpack for snack, purse and shoes, a water bottle for the trek, a special pair of hiking socks to avoid blisters… all for a mile-and-a-half stroll from my front door to my office door. I recall arriving at my office the first day feeling disappointed that I hadn’t even broken a sweat! Within a week I was back in my car.

  2. TheBrummell:

    Came here from Matt-the-Pooflinger. Hello!

    This is a fun story. Before I owned a car, I used to ride my bike (with my backpack) to the grocery store. When the bagger asked “would you like some assistance out to your car?” I would always reply “I won? Great! What kind of car do I get?”. Between that, and the giant backpack, they usually got the point.

  3. Brenda:

    It reminds me when I told my sister, who lives in California, that M and I were walking home from the store when the tornado hit. She was more fascinated at the idea of walking to the store than a tornado hitting Hamburg.

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