So this post by Mouse reminded me recently that I hadn't given a review of how car sharing has gone for us since we went down to just one car around this time last year. Let me give you a preview of how the very idea of car-sharing went for awhile:
When we lived in the city, I was in school, but Mark worked 20-30 minutes outside of the city:
Him: You should get rid of your car and just ride public transport everywhere.
Me: But I run all of our errands during the day and go to class. How can I do that without a car?
Him: You could just ride your bike and take public transit. [self-righteously] You should do that anyway.
Me: Hell no. Get away from my car.
[I feel the need to explain that I've spent more than an hour on a streetcorner in 90degree heat waiting for the bus to come. Baltimore City is not famous for it's reliable public transit.]
Conversations with my family went like this:
My sister: What are you going to do about your POS car? [cue pointed look at my father who thought the mechanical problems with the car were all in my head]
My father: It's a perfectly good car.
Me: Mark thinks we can share a car.
Family: [uproarious laughter] Has he met you? You don't share. Or drive very well. You're going to hit things in his car.
Eventually, his job moved to the city. Our two cars sat unused for most of the day. My car stopped starting reliably, and began to consistently shake and rattle when I drove it at speeds above 50mph. My car also got about 14mpg. Eventually, I returned "my" car to my parents and my dad found a buyer for the car and cleaned it out for me while I stressed over final exams. My friend Erin taught me to drive stick. Mark started letting me drive his car. We signed up for ZipCar when it came to the city. In June, the Charm City Circulator started running from our apartment in Federal Hill to my school.
And so, a year has passed. A year in which we have not yet fought over who gets the car. A year in which we have made compromises, sacrifices, and a general nuisance of ourselves to our neighbors. A year in which I have learned to drive a stick shift, ride my bike in the city, and have done an awful lot of bus-chasing. A year in which my husband has bought fenders and snow tires for his bicycle, and rain pants and ankle cuffs for himself. A year in which I have been living at home with my parents, where I could use their car, and then unemployed, then employed with a walking commute, making the choice not to buy a car much easier.
We make a lot of compromises. A lot of, "you need the car tonight, so I'll climb tomorrow night"; a lot of, "can you come pick me up after class because I took the bus?"; a lot of, "I'll drop you off at X, because I need the car for Y, but you'll have to wait until I'm done for me to pick you up." I try to keep the car generally clean, Mark tries to keep from constantly complaining that my idea of "generally clean" is his idea of "horrifyingly messy". I bring my hockey gear in, but leave my stick in the car. I track the gas mileage by carefully writing the stats on the receipt from the gas station and then reset the trip; Mark doesn't complain that my gas mileage is lousy. I would honestly recommend that every couple share a car, for at least a limited period of time, because it's a lot of valuable lessons in choosing your battles and respecting your partner.
We've settled into a system. The biggest piece of this is the general rule that whoever is at home all day has the car. We try to avoid taking the car and leaving the other person stranded at home for more than a few hours at a time. This mostly applies to weekend days; and it takes some work to make it work - sometimes Mark drives me up to a half-an-hour to get me to a friend's house to carpool, sometimes it means a long and unnecessarily difficult trip on public transit, sometimes it means walking or riding a bike instead of driving, even though driving would be much easier.
We carpool a lot. We try to make it work so we aren't freeloaders, but we drive whenever it's convenient for us and get a ride whenever it isn't. My sister bought a house recently, and will no longer live across the street, and so the carpooling will be harder. My running buddy lives on our street as well, and I really hope she never plans to move.
Since I was the most resistant to sharing a car, Mark has put a lot more work into making this work. He has been the one to change his plans more than me, and use public transit even when it's decidedly inconvenient. If there is a person who wants to car-share more than the other, they need to be the one making the sacrifice and they need to be the one figuring out how it's going to work. Our car currently needs servicing and has a recall and I've put Mark in charge of figuring out how to get it to the dealership and deal with that, because, "this was your idea." Eventually we came up with a plan that involves me spending two hours at the coffeshop next to the dealership when I'm off work, but we don't have a weekend day to devote to this and I have flexible hours. Mark is a firm believer that we'll still be able to share a car when we have children, I am equally certain that we will not, or if we are, it will not be a stick-shift Corolla.
My always-depressing-and-fluid employment situation shifted again recently, and I'm on the hunt for a new job. I'm applying all over the place, and we've talked about whether this means we will have to get a second car (or a Vespa!) if it's somewhere far away. The plan is to stick with one car for as long as is reasonable, and then make a change if we need to.
Do you share a car? Could you? Do you and your spouse even have a car? What would need to happen for you to be able to?