Tuesday, May 17, 2011


I've never owned a car, and although part of me has always wanted to (including trying to convince my parents to let me have my grandfather's hand-me-down 1987 Chevy Cavalier that went from zero to 60...in about an hour), there are many times that I'm glad I don't, and that I don't have to worry about finding parking, or that I'm going to come back to my car and and find that someone has sidewiped it and driven off, or that I'm going to get hit by a driver who's too frakking busy texting that he's not paying attention to the fact that he's behind the wheel of a car.  And I'm glad not to have to pay upwards of $4.50 a gallon these days. 

But since I live in the spread-out metropolis of the Windy City, it's a little unusual for someone of my age not to have ever owned a car, especially since I don't live downtown or within walking distance of a train station.  Still, public transportation works well for me (when it works), as I get to read the newspaper, or check e-mail (or come up with blog posting ideas), and since there's now a smartphone notification system for our bus and train routes, I'm much better at timing how long I have to wait.  And in the meantime, my bike has its own parking spot in the garage, next to the snow blower and the grill and the firebowl and the garden paraphernalia and the outdoor Christmas decorations...and you get the picture.

Still, every so often, we need a car to run some errands, pick up things that can't be delivered (for a reasonable price) or borne on the bus without embarassment (because the only people who need to know the brand of toilet paper I use are me and the check-out person), make a pit stop at the hallowed Trader Joe's, or head some place in the evening that would make it challenging (and/or expensive) to get home by public transit or cab.  So when the need arises, we head to our local Enterprise - as we did this weekend - and tool around town doing all the things that we don't normally have a chance to do without a car.

This weekend's wheels: a red Chevy Cobalt.  Not exactly my favorite car, but couldn't beat the rental price.

Like visit some of our favorite haunts, including Hoanh Long.  We discovered this Vietnamese hole-in-the-wall restaurant a few years when we lived in the neighborhood (sort of).  We were walking back from a lazy Sunday afternoon in the Borders where we had been hogging a cafe table at Borders while driving them into bankruptcy, and found this little place.  Best. Vietnamese. Food. Ever.  If you go - which I highly recommend you do - you should try numbers 1 (seafood egg rolls), 19 (marinated beef with rice noodles and fresh herbs that you roll up with rice paper wrappers and lettuce - messy to eat, but awesomely delicious), and 54 (squid in the house Hoanh Long sauce, whose heat can be tempered to your liking; we normally ask for mild because of my delicate palate). 

Or do our best impression of surbanites by making a stop at Woodfield Mall.  I hadn't been to Woodfield Mall in about ten years, and I can't say that I would miss it if we didn't go back for another ten years - the place is a mad house, and I cannot begin to imagine how crazy it must be at Christmas time.  But the real reason we went to Woodfield was to try out Todai, a Japanese buffet.  Chinese buffets are pretty common (especially in Toronto where I grew up, and where the competition is cutthroat), but it's rarer to find other Asian buffets, especially in the Chicago area, which doesn't have such a large Asian population.  So when I read about Todai, I knew we had to make the trek to Schaumburg.  Overall, Todai was not bad at all.  A pretty good selection of sushi (including salmon and red tuna sashimi, the ubiquitous California roll, and a surprisingly good "Hawaiian" sushi of pineapple, avocado and grilled salmon), hot foods (including shrimp tempura, pork gyoza, and chicken teriyaki), and - by Asian buffet standards - some wonderful dessert squares (mango mousse cake, tiramisu and cheesecake).  If I had one complaint, it was that the green tea ice cream seemed rather bland.  And then I just about lost my lunch when I had to pay nearly $30 for 5 gallons of gas.

So after a weekend of running around town, shopping, attending a birthday party, a food smorgasbord, and the (relative) freedom that comes from having a car, I was happy to drive the rental back to its home, and relinquish the keys.  And while I know we're going to need a car when we have a child, for the meanwhile, I'm happy to remain four wheels lighter.

Or at least until we run out of toilet paper.


Patricia said...

too bad they don't have a car sharing service in Chicago like they do in Montreal. Communauto seems to work well for people who only occasionally need a car, even those with kids. I, of course, with my ever varying activities, need to have my own auto...
My sister and brother-in-law raised a family of three kids in Ottawa without ever buying an auto.

Christopher said...

There are two car-sharing programs in Chicago (i-go and Zipcar), although only i-go has a car close to us. We've investigated both, but neither has seemed like a good deal to us, given that we can often get an online deal for a car rental that's about $45 for a long weekend. Even with the cost of gas, it gives us the freedom to use the car as much as we want for the three days. We end up renting about once every other month or so.

And I remember many adventures in your Golf, even though I know it gave up the ghost a while back.