To Drive or Not To Drive

Hamlet’s famous soliloquey deals with the ultimate question: should I stay or depart from this world. This isn’t a question I ever ponder because for all its problems, I love life. Yet I am assailed with environmental questions on a daily basis, the main one being: how do I shrink my ginormous Bigfoot carbon footprint into a petite Lotus Foot?

Hamlet pondered whether or not to plunge his bare bodkin into his gut. My existential question boils down to:  To drive or not to drive. Driving is fast, convenient, and relatively cheap when compared to public transportation. You don’t have to plan your trip with schedules, transfers, and correct change. You aren’t beholden to listening to the jerk behind you singing Van Morrison in the key of loud. You don’t stew at the station waiting for a delayed train. Rather, you simply jump in the car, put your favorite beverage in its holder, and accelerate. It is a no-brainer. A no-brainer but for the fact that every mile driven is a pound of carbon dioxide spewed into the atmosphere.

For an entire week, I went back and forth about whether I should drive my car to my friend Frank’s house in San Mateo or take public transportation. It is a relatively easy public transportation foray. Bike to Amtrak and train to Richmond, switch to BART, ride to Milpitas, and bike to Frank’s house. 3 hours, 30 minutes door to door. Roundtrip ticket, $50. Or I could drive. 1 hour, 30 minutes and $25 gas and tolls.

Extenuating circumstances included: Djina was on-call over the 24 hours I would be away, and I felt a bit guilty about leaving Solly on his own because that meant an awful lot of The Simpsons reruns. I could save both time and money if I drove, and I wouldn’t be chained to the train times. But the carbon footprint, Matt. What about that?

For five days I was on the fence, handcuffed by indecision. I started feeling the best way would be to stay home. Save money, save gas, play football with Solly. In the end, I rationalized that I’d make up the 200-mile round trip to San Mateo in eight days of bicycle commuting to work.

So I guiltily drove off.

30 miles into the trip, the engine made a new kind of sound. I pulled over and discovered a spark plug was not in its usual place. $270 and three hours later I was back on the road. Clearly, a lesson was to be learned. But what was it? It depends on whom you ask. If you ask me, the universe/God/karma/whatever was speaking slowly in simple sentences as if explaining to a small child: whenever you have a choice, don’t drive.  To Djina, the lesson was also abundantly clear: take the car in for routine maintenance, and spark plugs won’t fly out of engines. Solly’s take home was: you should have stayed home and watched The Simpsons. They had a new episode which was way better than going to San Mateo and there’s no carbon footprint.

If I am ever going to be serious about arresting global warming, I will need to learn this lesson. I suppose that goes for us all.

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