October 21, 2005

Drive My Car

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Having a car at college is a wonderful thing. It allows endless midnight trips to Wegmans, freedom from scrounging up rides home at every break, and not having to plan your schedule around catching a bus that may or may not leave at 8:09. And in my case, I have free parking. So why not have a car?

That was my thinking when I bought a used VW Bug this summer. It was cute, the price was right, and I had no reason not to have immediate transportation anywhere I wanted to go. I was wrong in so many ways. One thing I did not think about was that if you have a car, you can also get tickets. Seeing as I have a clean record, getting tickets never occurred to me. How was I supposed to predict that Ithaca would turn me into a driving monster, racking up four tickets in the past month? Granted not all of these were moving violations. Cornell also provides no parking whatsoever for people who don’t need to park on campus all the time, and subsequently don’t have an A,B,C,D,E, F, H, Z, Q or Y permit. They feel the right to give parking tickets to anyone and everyone. When I argued against a ticket because there was no sign visible, I was informed, “It is more likely that unless you see a sign that specifically says you may park in a space, you may not legally park there.” Oh, thanks for the heads up. It would have been convenient to know this before I, like any normal person, spent time looking for the sign that restricted parking. Needless to say, having a car is beginning to look less and less convenient.

I also made the silly assumption that my car would always work. When one discovers problems with the car, however, getting around becomes harder. When I have made three trips to Bill Cooke Imports in the span of two weeks, and paid them the tidy sum of $500 dollars to fix my car and get a key “that will only work for my car and no other” (Gee really? Thanks!) I begin to see that having a car at college may be more trouble than it’s worth. The benefits of getting around seemed to diminish with every hundred dollars I shelled out to be able to do it.

In spite of all this, I never assumed that my car would not make it back to Ithaca should I ever leave (which I did for fall break.) When on the way home I noticed that the car just wasn’t running, and that I was still in the middle lane of the Mass Pike, I began to get a little worried. I decided to pull over, and when I did I noticed a burning smell, and turned off the car, cursing the day I brought it into my world. Not wanting to call a tow truck, I eventually got it to drive a whopping 35 miles an hour in the breakdown lane until I arrived at the next gas station, where upon explanation I was informed that it was “definitely the tranny” by two confident donut and convenience store cashiers inside. Super. After three hours of waiting for a substitute car (care of my amazing parents) to get me back to school, my broken bug was driven slowly, very slowly, to the nearest body shop. The next morning I got a call. There was good news! It was not the “tranny,” but my clutch was completely shot. Really super.

And so now, my car is in rehab for a little R&R. The old family car is creaking around up here in Ithaca, waiting for its turn to get some parking tickets and break down. And with my luck, it’s only a matter of days.

Archived article by Becky Wolozin
Sun Staff Writer