Why I’d Rather Take the Subway by Deb Meredith

I lived happily for years in New York and Washington, DC without a car, and the times when I’ve owned one have always felt like a big hassle. So I’m not the type to fall in love with my car. Or maybe I just haven’t owned the right one yet.

When I was sixteen, I learned to drive the various wrecks my parents had. They bought all their cars used, and then we drove them into the ground. The only car in the fleet I could never master was the VW bus (reverse is backwards?), and putting it into gear was always a leap of faith.

My favorite car to drive was a yellow Datsun that I called Spudnut. It was so ugly it was cute, and I named it after a donut shop. Spudnuts was a local donut place in my hometown, and was a big lunch favorite in high school. Owned and run by a large family, the walls were decorated with all their off-spring and off-spring’s offspring, etc. And the donuts were excellent.

Right now I have a car again, and I’m happy to be able to go on trips out of the city. But driving in New York, and constantly moving it from one side of the street to another in order to avoid a ticket, is a pain in the neck. That’s why Lydia McKenzie in Posed for Murder does not drive. The only car she ever gets into is a car service, but she doesn’t have the budget to do it much. She also dislikes the subway (too many people shoved together). So what does she do? She rides a bike.

I gave Lydia a classic Schwinn. No crazy gears, and no fancy stuff. But it gives her the freedom to get around fast on the street. She also doesn’t enjoy following rules (which is a good personality trait in an amateur sleuth), so she rides the wrong way on one-way streets, and generally does what she wants. I would never dare to be so reckless (becoming a parent makes you very aware of your own mortality, I think–and very, very careful), so for now I let Lydia do all the bike riding while I stick to the bus and subway for most of my trips. It’s fast and doesn’t involve parallel parking.

10 Replies to “Why I’d Rather Take the Subway by Deb Meredith”

  1. I grew up in NYC and that’s probably why I didn’t drive until I was in my mid-20’s and living in upstate NY! And when St. John and I lived in Brooklyn, we didn’t own a car – but he did own a motorcycle and that was crazy on the streets of NYC. But you REALLY don’t need a car in NYC (until you want to leave) and that’s a great thing!

  2. As you know, I was recently in NYC for the first time and completely loved the subway. (Remember when you pointed out the lamps above all the subway stations? What a revelation for this hick.) I would happily give up my car — even a stick shift — for such easy mass transit.

    No such luck in Michigan, though. We’re stuck with impractical bus service that doesn’t stop often enough or go enough places.

  3. I know we’re completely spoiled by mass transit in New York. Maybe Obama will make it part of his spending plan for the rest of the country!

    The very cool thing about the subway, for a writer, is you get to see lots of different people on your commute. I find it very inspiring.

  4. The weirdest thing I ever saw on the subway was a man with like a nine foot boa constrictor. He was just casually sitting there with this huge snake. My husband (then boyfriend) was visiting from London and his eyes were about bugging out of his head. But no one in the carriage seemed concerned in the least. Gosh, I miss New York.

  5. I rode a train in Australia once. We were coming back from a play and this drunk got on. It only took a few minutes before the projectile vomiting started. Of course, the drunk got off right away and left the rest of us to deal with his drinks and dinner. Yummy memory!Blaghh.

  6. Marsha–what a horrible experience! I’ve certainly had my share of bad rides on the subway. But I think my worst experience was on the Paris metro. Someone threw tear gas into my subway car just before the door closed. Ugh. When we got to the dinner party we were going to and told our French friends about our experience, they acted like it happened all the time.

  7. Nope, I haven’t lived in NYC, Kristina! But when I’m there, I’m very excellent at navigating the subways.

    I love the name “Spudnut”, Meredith. Too cute. I would love a better transit system in LA, but so far I’m out of luck.

  8. I hate NY and I hate the subways…maybe because I had to use them, and being short, I felt my nose was closer to all the bad smells that the subway system generates. I didn’t mind the SI ferry, but I do not like crowds, so I would rather drive. I guess I was not so anti-NY before 9/11, but now…gee this is not a funny post is it?

  9. I think a lot of people prefer to drive because they feel more in control. But I don’t feel any safer in a car after 9/11 than I do on the subway…

    I had a crowded commute this morning, but–hey–it only lasted 30 minutes and I didn’t have to find a parking space or navigate any traffic. There’s always a trade-off.

Comments are closed.