Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Carless in Charlottesville

My title is a tiny bit misleading. I was carless for only about 24 hours. It would be fun to try and go longer than that.


Sunday night, I, my two daughters plus one cello piled into my reliable Toyota van after the CHS orchestra concert, and when I turned the key, nothing happened except a rapid series of clicking sounds. It was after 9:00 pm, the other parents were hustling their own teens (plus basses, cellos and other instruments) into their own cars and driving away hurriedly into the night. Stranded! My cell phone had just enough battery in it to place a single call to my husband, who, with a kind neighbor, came to rescue us. We have just one car. In the past, we've owned two cars, but the second car would always sit in the driveway, unused 98% of the time, so we downsized to one car.

My car's breaking down coincided with Jon and our two boys leaving for a small vacation with some of Jon's friends. My daughters and I had planned a girls' night out, and lack of a car did not stop us. Our original plan had been to go to the Gap and buy flip flops and probably get dinner somewhere, but we changed our plans to accommodate our carless state and walked to the downtown mall instead.

First we stopped into the new clothing store at the east end of the mall. Mazzi? Something like that. The woman working there showed us these amazing silk wraps from India that you can drape and tie in different ways to make many different styles of dresses and tops. We were sold and bought two--a mini, for making tops--and a medium length for dresses.

We strolled the mall, trying to decide where to eat dinner and opted for Bijou. Unfortunately, once we'd been seated and given menus, we were ignored so pointedly it was almost an insult. Drama Queen noticed a man who had arrived after us, being served his drinks and no one had even taken our drink order, so we walked out and ate at Eppie's instead which was fast and tasty. After dinner we window shopped, especially at Antics, one of my favorite stores on the mall, and later went to Splendora's for dessert where Drama Queen, always original, paired cucumber flavored and blood orange flavored gelato. Miss G and I were more conventional, choosing chocolate hazelnut and Mexican coffee.

We walked home in the chilly, darkening night and, since lack of a car prevented us from renting a movie, we watched Lady Jane, which I happen to own and which is one of my favorite movies. We played with our new silk wraps, concluding that the woman at the shop must have superpowers because she was so much more skillful at draping them than we were. Still, I'm sure we'll master it.

This morning my car was ready. Turns out it just needed a battery. I took the #3 bus downtown and managed to catch the trolley just as it was pulling out of downtown station. The trolley took me to within a block of C'ville Imports where I collected my car and I am once again burdened with two tons of baggage wherever I go. Not really, I have enough imagination and energy to walk places or use public transportation even when I do have a working car, but not having a car at all is freeing in a way. Your horizons are shrunk, as far as where and how far you can travel, but by the same token, you have an excuse not to go to places you don't want to. For example, I know I had a lot more fun downtown last night than I would have if we had driven up to Fashion Square.


  1. At least once a week, I try to have a "no drive day" in which I do not use or ride in a vehicle. Since my husband usually bikes to work, he has at least days in which he does not use a car.

    That's so weird about Bijou. I have never ever had bad service there.

  2. We're about to go back down to one car, partially so we can afford the new house! We can do that because we live in a community where that's possible.

    I'd bike to work, but then I'd be all sweaty, and people in Charlottesville would complain.

  3. How fun and you got a lot more exercise.

  4. i'm sorry you had a bad a experience at bizou. it is one of my favorite restaurants. don't give up on it!

    we have two used crappy cars. one has been broken all month, so for now, we have one car.

  5. Everybody has been telling me how great bizou is. The meatloaf certainly smelled delicious--everybody around us was eating it. Who knows, maybe the server who had our section went home sick, but we felt like idiots sitting there for 15 minutes without so much as a glass of water to entertain us. I'll probably try it again some day.

  6. I walk daily. Miles and miles. Well, my minimum is 2.5. Today's was closer to four. We have two cars, but the urchin dislikes being restrained in a carseat. And the Crown Vic swallowed 70 bucks worth of gas on Saturday, which made the husbandthing and I blanch just a bit.

    The urchin is just fine hauled up on my back, so that's how we spend our days. We visit my favorite coffee shop (Fox Park), walk to the Gordon Avenue library, wander to various parks, head downtown . . . lots of stuff. Sometimes we take the bus, sometimes not.

    I wish I could do summer grocery shopping via bus, but it's not just feasible to carry a baby + groceries and still need to walk a few/several blocks.