This is what a hectic day looks like for the car-free family. I know it’s not nearly as hectic as a lot of peoples’ days, and that is partly by design and partly by luck. But for me, six trips in one day is hectic, even though I never traveled more than a mile and a half from my house.
6:35 a.m. Get up a little early because we are out of milk. Bike to Walgreens because it’s closer and smaller than the grocery store, and get home in time to put the kids’ breakfast on the table.
8:10 a.m. I leave the house for the kids’ school, on foot, several minutes behind the kids. After making sure my littlest made it to the kinder yard, I fill out a permission slip for the oldest, using my left hand as a writing surface, and hand it to her just as the bell rings and she’s walking into school. Phew.
12:30 p.m. I wrap up a phone interview in my home office just in time to walk/jog back to school to pick up kindergartener. Look desperately at kitchen counters as I streak past, hoping to find something to bring along for my lunch. No such luck.
On the school playground, I learn from other moms that free kinder swim lessons have begun at the community membership pool at a city park. I tell Toth that we’re not really prepared to go today but we’ll make it on Friday.
1:50 p.m. Just as his sisters get out of school, Toth decides that he really, really wants to go to kinder swim lessons, which begin in 10 minutes. Walk home, have him change into bathing suit, quickly charge dead phone and shoot an email to the person I am supposed to be interviewing on the phone right now.
2:05 p.m. Toth and I jump on bikes and ride 1.5 miles to the pool, Toth mostly on the sidewalk. He knows we are late and pedals hard.
2:20 p.m. Arrive at the pool just as the “lesson” part of swimming lessons are about to wrap up, and free time begins. Perfect as far as Toth is concerned. (And this is the thing about not having a car. If we had one, I would have “had to” drive because otherwise we’d be late. Without a car, I have to just be OK with being late sometimes, or not going at all. And that is almost always fine.)
3 p.m. Get Toth dried off and pedal home together. We pass Toth’s friends getting into their cars, and one of them marvels that Toth is riding a bike in his swim trunks. Madness!
4 p.m. After finally squeezing in postponed phone interview, connect trailer to bike and ride a few blocks to pick up CSA box.
4:30 p.m. Nutmeg, a friend and Pebbles wash our old battery-operated kids’ car and peel off all the Barbie stickers. (It’s true! We do own a car! And it’s electric.) Nutmeg wants spray paint, so I tell her they can walk a few blocks to the hardware store and buy it themselves. I think this is my girls’ first time going to a store by themselves.
5 p.m. During the course of he project one of the older girls returns to the hardware store twice for more spray paint. Staff tells them they would have to fill out a form except that being little girls they are obviously not buying it for graffiti.
8:30 p.m. Now that the kids are in bed, I realize two things: One, my FitBit says I have not yet reached 10,000 steps (it doesn’t count bike riding). Two, all our library books were due yesterday. Fix both by setting out on foot for library, 1 mile away.
After a hot day it’s a lovely cool evening, and I enjoy walking while listening to podcasts on my phone with headphones. Return my books, manage to slip into Goodwill to browse just before it closes, and enjoy walking down Alameda’s cute downtown street on the way back.
Then it happens. The first thing I notice is that a few tree branches start moving. Then I feel a little mist on my face. I take out my earbuds because if this is really happening, I don’t want to miss any of the experience. I hear some windchimes rattle in the breeze, and smell dampness. It is happening. For the first time in months and months, it’s raining in Alameda.
I grin the rest of the way home, inhaling the smell — what is it, wet pavement? wet air? — and noticing that as the mist develops into a real (light) rain, there are water drops sitting on car windsheilds, dots on the sidewalk, dots on my glasses lenses. There is even a flash of lightning.
When I get home, my husband Erik doesn’t realize it’s happening. The rain is too soft to make a sound on the roof. So I take his hand and touch it to my wet, bare arm, and he says, “Really?” and I say, “Rain!” and we stand on our front porch, marveling at our wet steps and the clouds of misty droplets around the streetlamps.
If I hadn’t walked to the library tonight, I would never have gotten to walk in the rain.