(Photo: My history with cars has never been an easy one.)
Chalk another victory up for car culture, I’m loathe to say. My recent driving lesson nothwithstanding, owning a car or living somewhere where I would need to use one has never been a goal of mine.
I grew up on the New York City subways, went to grad school for urban planning, and have spent 20 years bumming around other cities on vacation, savoring them and trying to figure out what makes them tick.
I never expected to take up with a beau who lived in the suburbs, which is exactly what I did six months ago, with Chris. Mind you, he lives in Oak Park, and as far as suburbs go, you couldn’t ask for a nicer, more historic one. And the two ‘L’ lines that get you to downtown Chicago in 20 minutes don’t hurt, either.
At least if you can get to them. Oak Parkers who live near the Green and Blue lines have an easy commute into town. Those who don’t, not so much. I’ve wracked my brain of late, trying to figure out how a city mouse like me could eventually take up with a country mouse like Chris, whose entire personal and professional life is centered west of Austin.
The answer was apparent pretty quickly. Digs near the Green Line would be the only option. Chris’ current apartment is almost a mile from the train or even a supermarket, adding a 30-minute round-trip time tax for anyone, like me, who doesn’t–and can’t–drive a car. (Or, for you drivers out there, could you live somewhere that forced you into a 15-minute walk every time you needed to get to or from your wheels?)
Ah, but the Green Line. A bit rough around the edges, sure. But completely rebuilt in the 1990s, speedy, and able to connect all the stores along Lake, Harlem, Marion, and Oak Park Avenue with each other, residents, and downtown Chicago in a single bound. Not that I want to live in the ‘burbs, necessarily. But I happen to like Oak Park very much (always have), and I love Chris.
And Chris loves his transit-unfriendly apartment. So when his current lease expires and his old (ex-boyfriend) roommate moves out this year, a common friend–with a license and a car–will move in, instead.
I can’t say I’m unhappy to stay in the city. But I don’t know yet what to make of the fact that I don’t get to live with my boyfriend because I don’t have a car.
There are many things being a non-driver keeps me from doing. Shopping at Wal-Mart, living in Schaumburg, paying $5 a gallon for gas. I’m not broken up about those limitations, as you might imagine.
But I sure never though I’d end up in a commuter relationship because I didn’t own a car. The sucking sound from the irony of that sentence should come with an undertow warning.
Michael Thaddeus Doyle
I'm a NYC-native, Latino, Jew-by-choice, hardcore WDW fan in Chicago with an Irish last name. I believe in social justice, big cities, and public transit. I do nonprofit development. I've written this blog since 2005. Believe in the world you want to live in.