Sunday Morning ~ Something to Chew On
M’kamwa mwa cabe satafunamo. ~ You cannot chew if you have nothing in the mouth.
~ Chewa proverb
November 6, 2022
I’m in shorts on my porch swing on this November morning thinking about what to write about. I’m enjoying the warm air but feel conflicted. I watch the breeze take down the few remaining oak leaves. The light and scene do not suit the temperature. I have no idea which way the wind is blowing, a perfect metaphor for the times. We’ll soon find out. I’m feeling both homebody and antsy for a road trip.
I couldn’t wait to get my drivers license. I took driver’s ed as soon as possible, though it involved asking my father to pay for it, traveling to a different town, finding a ride there, and passing the class. Obtaining a learners permit wasn’t simple, but I was motivated. Though my father balked at the few things I asked for, he paid for drivers ed with little fuss. Relieved, I saw myself more independent, mobile, powerful, grown up. I was dying to drive. I couldn’t wait to get behind that wheel and take our monstrous family vehicle to far away places. The bench seats, both front and back were like living room sofas. We could easily fit four people in the front without seat belts, which weren’t even a thing until I was in high school. Maybe not even then. You opened the car door and everyone who needed a ride got in; number of persons mattered not. Most families had one car and negotiations were required for use. In my experience, the patriarch decided, but it was a good way to hone arbitration skills.
Busses existed, even in small towns, and I recall no shame in using them, but schedules varied depending on population. Within walking distance in my small suburban town, a train provided regular transport into the big city. I recently passed that train station and barely recognized it for the ocean of cars parked in the enormous parking lot. I struggled to remember if there were a parking lot back in the day? I remember my brother and I taking that train home from college, and when no one was there to collect us, we just walked home. It seemed a long way, since the train came into the neighboring town, not our own, but in reality, it’s probably little more than a mile. There may have been a pay phone at the station, but we likely had no dime to call my mother. It was quicker to walk home.
I’ve been thinking about all this having spent a month in a rural state without a car. After my Montreal trip, the water I drove through on the off ramp fried my computer module, which mercifully waited to die until I got home. It was a month waiting for the part. Since we’ve been having a remarkably warm fall, I thought I’d get around just fine via bicycle while I waited, and waited, and waited for the call saying the car was repaired. And, although I live on a most gorgeous island with miles of carriage roads to explore the beauty by bike, the roads that actually take you where you need to go have no shoulder, 50 mile per hour speed limits, and large trucks. In my independent spirit I was determined to feel 20 years old again and use this mode of transportation to medical appointments, grocery shopping, and church. Then reality set in and church was the first to go. Riding ten miles at seven in the morning and ten miles home should not have been a problem. What’s a twenty mile bike ride? Why could I not do that? It was the road. Feeling unsafe and vulnerable took some shine off the spiritual outing. In my college days, I rode a road bike all over Boston, day or night, and traffic was hardly a deterrent. Here, I ride a hybrid I bought twenty years ago when going off the road onto the gravel to avoid a barreling dump truck was the only means of survival. I’ve gone soft. It’s not worth it to me now.
Getting around here without a car is difficult if not impossible. Distances are considerable. It’s nine miles from my house to town. Neighbors were generous with their offers to borrow their cars and a friend took me grocery shopping. It was an inconvenience but I knew it was temporary. I did, however, think of those for whom this is a constant problem. Maternity care in rural areas is completely dependent on reliable transportation. It is impossible to get to health care facilities without a car. Those with few resources can’t even afford the gas to travel for care. I love public transportation and use it exclusively when I travel in Europe. But our car manufacturing industry destroyed our railway infrastructure and while I don’t imagine a high speed train transporting laboring women to the hospital in the middle of the night, I do imagine a facility close enough to get to with a gallon or two of gas. There is so much wrong with our systems. There is so much potential.
I am anxious about the election Tuesday. I’m fed up with the media. I’m fed up with hearing about polls. My writing is interrupted by a person going door to door getting out the vote, something I haven’t signed up for. I tell her I already voted so I could drive people to the polls on election day. We talk about our hopes and fears. I thank her for her efforts. I immediately go to Vote Save America and donate to Secretary of State elections. I need to do SOMETHING! I read this morning that Republicans are flooding the zone with their own poll numbers to make it look like they have the momentum. The media buys it and amplifies the message. Democrats panic. I want to believe we can live in a democratic society. It is possible. Let’s be like Brazil I plead to the air. I think of the tiny tick burrowing into my arm at 3 a.m., the one that sent me flying out of bed, turning on lights, flinging it off me as it it were a rattlesnake. We should be like tiny ticks, burrowing into this system, repeating over and over that banning abortion is exactly the same as forcing an abortion. The only way we’ll protect ourselves is to vote for Democrats who will honor our freedom to make our own health care choices. And some public transportation would be nice, too.
Let’s do this.
Love to all,