Living in Petaluma has spoiled me. My daily commute to WORK is a beautiful 12-minute walk, to and from school is a 10-minute round-trip drive, our house is close enough to downtown to make most of my daily needs within arm’s reach.
It hasn’t always been this way. I grew up in rural Northern California, where just getting to the grocery store meant 5 minutes on a rough dirt road, plus 10 minutes down the squirrely Avenue of the Giants, plus another 15 minutes on the freeway. The winding roads can be deadly, but they can also be beautiful, and you’re pretty much guaranteed the exact timing each trip.
City driving can be a crap shoot. During my nine years in San Francisco, I got used to half-hour drives across the city with the requisite additional 15 minutes spent finding parking – just to get to Whole Foods. For a few years my husband Matt would spend anywhere from 15 to 60 minutes (depending on traffic) traveling from Petaluma to an office in Novato or, even worse, potentially two-plus hours each way commuting to San Jose. coWORKer Mike has just started a new job in San Francisco and his four days a week stuck in rush hour traffic are already taking their toll. One of the reasons we started WORK was to forgo these painful commutes!
Driving is an amazing blessing and a curse….
The Good: The convenience of automobiles is hard to beat. Had the car been invented in 1776, I’m pretty sure the Declaration of Independence would have read “Life, Liberty, the Pursuit of Happiness, and the Freedom to Drive.” I can take myself from point A to point B in record time at the exact moment I choose (provided everyone doesn’t decide to go to the same place at the same time). I can live in Petaluma and work in San Francisco and play in Tomales, no problem. And I can even haul along multiple people and a bundle of stuff, with no extra effort!
The Bad: This category has a lot of options, so I’m just going to start a list: smog, climate change, traffic jams, backaches, high blood pressure, wasted time, flat tires, gas prices, missed exits, road rage, potentially lethal accidents, insurance bills, mechanics’ bills, auto loan bills, parking tickets, speeding tickets, and don’t forget being too young or too old or too drunk.
The Awesome: What will the future hold? Well, Back to the Future 2 was set in 2015, so we have one year to get hover boards to the masses. More likely, at this point, would be an electric self-driving capsule that automatically obeys speed limits, brakes for cars in front, and follows the lines of the road with precision. Like this… Pretty awesome! (As in the true definition: Inspiring an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, or fear.) And with the potential to allow us to enjoy the good while eliminating much of the bad, it’s an exciting proposition.
So here’s to driving! May we live to see a transportation revolution that will afford us the luxury of independence, safety, efficiency, and sustainability all wrapped up in a convenient mobile machine.