Every New Yorker without a car should force themselves to rent a car at least once a year, if only to reiterate the inherent smartness of living the rest of the year without one. Sure there is the initial joy of feeling like you can go anywhere! do anything! You feel possessed of the heady sense of self-determination that no-doubt drove our forefathers to wagon-train into the Great Unknown of the Louisiana Purchase only to settle in what is now Utah. Then you realize that all the assholes who get in your way on the subway are now in front of you, each in their own metal exoskeleton, and each of them with as little clue as to where they're going or how much room they're taking up than on the L train platform.
I just returned a rental car (from Image on Empire Blvd, cheapest Sentras in town!) and despite how useful it has been over the past four days, I am relieved to not have to drive one for the foreseeable future (at least, not in a major metropolitan area). We got the car to drive to Baltimore to surprise Jeannie's mom, who turned 80 recently. We snuck down and stayed at a friend's house for the night, then emerged while the Moms was at what she thought was a casual dinner at her friends' house. The surprise worked (video to follow, I left my camera in Jeannie's purse), and a lovely time was had by all. We got to spend some time with her and I got to see the many faces of Baltimore, something I had wanted to do since Female Trouble. A misreading of the map landed us in West Baltimore, which indeed does have that Wire feeling, although to me it looked a lot like Bushwick in places. Our friend lives in Hampden which is like a flower-filled and silent Williamsburg, with better architecture. In between we saw sweeping mansions and blasted out hovels, historically-significant buildings and an influx of skinny jeans.
The rest of the time we were driving, to Baltimore, to Bel Air, back to Brooklyn. I know Robert Moses didn't invent the superhighway but I still like to curse him every time I'm in traffic. There was a lot of traffic to and from Baltimore, mostly severe jams that lasted hours and seemed to have no cause whatsoever. Also there are like a bazillion tolls between Brooklyn and Baltimore, whose costs were only slightly less annoying than how the constant stopping and paying affected traffic. It's impossible to relax while driving, and relaxing isn't something I'm that good at anyway, so I'm still a bit frazzled from the trip.
One shining light was the fact that Costco is right off the BQE, and we got back into town just in time to duck and grab more cat food and dish soap. Our car was minuscule but it held all the crap we got there, as well as all the crap we bought at the Bel Air Target (I know we have one in Brooklyn but it's always so picked over). The Costco trip was something we needed to do anyway so it was a nice perk to get that out of the way. We dragged the stuff home and thankfully got a decent parking spot in front of the house. Despite the positives, I still can't see how people can live like this every day.
I took the car back in the morning, thinking the trip would be a nice cruise over to Crown Heights, but once again the Impossibly Stupid Drivers of Brooklyn were out in force. It should have taken 20 minutes, tops, to get over there but it took twice as long, due to bad drivers, a plethora of red lights, and perhaps a bit of my own poor driving skills. With the car dropped off, I walked around the corner and got on a 5 train taking me almost directly to my office halfway up Manhattan in less time than it took me to drive a few miles in the car. Now that's transportation.