I haven’t owned a car since 2014, the year when my Subaru Legacy died a smoky death on the side of the road. The loss was traumatic, but it only took a month to realize that not owning a vehicle is awesome.
Even in Los Angeles, one of America’s most car-dependent cities, it’s possible to lead a rich pedestrian lifestyle. Doing my commuting by foot, bus and subway allows me to save thousands of dollars each year. My calves are always ready for beach season. On-demand ride services such as Lyft and Uber are my insurance policy for whenever I need more immediate or stylish transportation.
Until recently, I was happy, proud even, to live in L.A. without a transmission and wheels.
Then I met K.
We found each other on Tinder. (Who actually meets at the gym or farmers markets anymore?) K, aside from catching my eyes, liked many of the same things I enjoy: beer, weightlifting, Cocteau Twins, horror movies and Bernie Sanders. We lived within three miles of each other. Everything about her profile screamed at me, “Make the first move!!!”
Except for four words at the bottom of the page:
“No car? Not interested.”
What I should have done was swipe on. But pedestrian vanity got the better of me. I was beating the system! Surely K would appreciate the perks of my lifestyle. If we went to dinner and established chemistry, I’d foot the whole bill with money saved from not paying for gas or auto insurance. If a second date happened, I’d pick her up in the most swag-tastic car that Lyft offered and we’d be spirited away to our destination — possibly a trail to some scenic outlook where we’d share childhoods memories and kiss as the sun sank into the Pacific.
I sent the initiating message and K replied. We traded several urbane bon mots before agreeing to rendezvous at Iron Triangle Brewery in the Arts District on a Thursday evening. I was ecstatic. But as the date crept closer, my excitement became entangled with ethical doubt.
Should I have disclosed my terrible secret prior to asking K out? Would chemistry and suave gestures make any difference when I finally came clean? Was I a dishonorable person for going through with this?
These questions haunted me as I showered, dressed up and coiffed my hair on date night. After locking up the house, I hopped on the 720 bus and headed east on Wilshire Boulevard toward Iron Triangle. My seatmate, a bespectacled teenager, spent the ride digging into a giant bag of cheddar popcorn, spilling kernels and powdered cheese everywhere. To my relief, K hadn’t arrived at Iron Triangle early enough to see me disembark from the bus. I entered the brewery, procured a small table and waited.
She walked in at 7:30, in heeled boots and a killer leather jacket. For a moment, my guilt dissipated. But as we hugged, I could hear her car keys jangling in her purse.
“The 10 was a mess tonight,” she said, removing her jacket and taking a seat. “I was gonna pull over and text you but then the cars just started flowing again.”
“Been there before,” I chuckled. “When I think Glendale, I think gridlock.”
“But … the 10 goes to Santa Monica.”
K, bless her soul, didn’t appear daunted by this slip. We promptly ordered two beer flights and by the time they arrived, the two of us were swapping embarrassing stories about junior high school dances. She touched my hand while laughing. I returned the gesture. Things were going well — exceedingly well. As we ordered the second round of beer, a second date — hiking — was already being discussed.
But I still hadn’t told K the whole truth.
“Where’d you park?” she asked as we stumbled out of the brewery nearly two hours later.
“Well,” I scanned the area. Nobody was present to witness whatever happened next.
“The thing is … I don’t own a car.”
She gawked at me, as if trying to recall my name.
“Seriously? You don’t have a car?”
“Yup,” I said. “Not for two years. Haven’t looked back.”
“Whoa,” she murmured. “So, do you like, Uber everywhere or something?”
“Sure do,” I exclaimed, feeling a swell of confidence, and then blurted, “Actually, tonight, I took the bus here to meet you!”
“You did what?!”
Just like that, it was over. I had demoted myself from rebel without a car to plebeian impostor. I felt my cheeks turning magenta as K stared in horror and indignation. I suppose I deserved it. I offered to walk her back to her car, but by the time I uttered the words, she was already halfway there. I watched her 2014 Honda Civic disappear into the night and headed for the bus stop, considering my existential predicament.
Sure, there are other fish in the sea. But how many of them walk?
The author is a writer, producer and pedestrian at large who splits his time between Los Angeles and Boston. His website is mileshoward.com