I’ve Been Living the Liberal Dream: Life Without a Car (It Sucks)

Posted on Jan 24 2011 - 1:00am by Harrison

On the Liberal scorecard you’d think I’d be loving life.  I live 1 mile from my job, there are plenty of local businesses all around me, I have easy access to bus lines, cable cars, trolleys, and the subway.  The climate is fairly mild and most of the intersection lights count down how much time you have to cross the street.  In short, I can live without a car!

I’ve been doing just that for the past 3 weeks and life sucks.

My Volkswagen Bus was rear-ended whilst parked on the street.  It will be a while until my vehicle is back to pristine condition so I’ve been on my “feets.”  Last year around this time I was also without a car although this was by choice as I was having a sweet 1776cc engine built for my VW.

Take that Bay Area Air Quality Management!

Life sucked then, too.

If I want to do anything I must immediately add 30 minutes to the task.  Need to get to work?  Instead of 5 minutes it’s 30.  Need to get home?  Same thing.  Need to get my hair cut?  30 minutes there and 30 minutes back.  Should I need to go to the grocery store it’s time to grab the backpack and add… 30 minutes each way.

Don’t we have buses in San Francisco?  We do.  They were 50 cents when I moved here, now they’re $2 per ride.  And they still smell, are over-crowded, and often so full they don’t stop to pick up passengers.  Riding a bus is like being in a human germ incubator.  I just know that upstanding citizen next to me didn’t blow his nose into his hand then grab the rail to steady himself as the bus lurches up Haight Street.

All of the charming people I meet on the street want to sell me weed, ask for money or cigarettes or, maybe as when I walked down a darkened lane… mug me.

I can’t easily get to COSTCO, Target, Safeway, or other money saving places.  Should I spend an hour to go buy cat litter and have to carry a 20 pound box home or just go to Walgreens and buy 10 pounds for the same price double this amount would have cost me had I driven someplace else?

I’ll just go to Walgreens it’s only 2 blocks away.

At work, towards the end of the day, I feel like a crackhead looking to score my next high by always asking my co-workers:

Are you leaving?  Can I get a ride?

Some people know why I’m approaching them before I even get close.

I don’t care who gives me a ride home, only that I get a ride home.

Because going to the store is such a tiresome experience, I often order in dinner.  We all know how healthy that is.  Sure, I can walk down the street and enjoy German, Italian, Brazilian, Mexican, Middle Eastern, or ‘merican cuisine but that gets expensive.

Of course, I know people with a car.  The lady in my life would drive me to Safeway or COSTCO but this is simply having a car by other means.  It’s not truly going without a car is it?

In the book The Long Emergency, which is about what happens to modern life when the oil runs out, the author talks about existence becoming extremely local because there won’t be fossil fuels to carry us all over to save $3 on cat food.  Life will also be very expensive, too.

Aside from 6 weeks last year and, possibly, 6 more weeks this year, I’ve only been without a car for 4 years of my life.  The first 2 years I lived in a college dorm and didn’t need a car, the second stint was in Paris where I couldn’t own a car.

Let me tell you, owning a car isn’t overrated.

Not owning a car teaches you that if the word “public” is in it you want to stay far away.


Public transportation.  Public toilets.  Public speaking.  Public health.

Nobody really enjoys any of the four things listed above.

Liberals would have us all believe that the car is evil and those who forgo ownership of an internal combustion engine are saints.  Of course, every real Liberal (like Al Gore or Nancy Pelosi) owns a car (or several).  They just buy Carbon Offset Credits so they can say they’re not destroying the environment.

Owning a car isn’t overrated.

Even with the hassles of parking a car gives you freedom and more spare time, access to cheaper goods, and it’s a great way to observe how everyone driving faster than you is a moron but everybody driving slower than you is stupid.

And this story comes from somebody living in one of the best cities one can live in and not own a car.

Now by this point of the story somebody (maybe you?) might be thinking:

Why doesn’t he get a bike?

I’m glad you asked!

I’ve seen too many bikes get stolen or vandalized.  I’ve seen too many people get hit by cars riding bikes.  A bike can’t get me back from COSTCO with all of my stuff.  I have no place to store a bike in my apartment.  I’m not going to ride a bike in the rain.  My ass hurts when I ride a bike.  I don’t want to roll my pants leg up.  I don’t want to be engaged in conversations about my bike and why it’s not “right” for me or how there’s a better bike or why don’t I get one without brakes and be really cool?  I don’t want to have helmet hair or have my scalp sweet profusely.

And, finally, I don’t want to have someone put cards in my spokes so I get that really cool clicking sound.

I faced the “bike dilemma” 15 years ago.

I solved my problem by getting a car.

Owning a car isn’t overrated but the stories of Liberals as to why we shouldn’t own cars is equally absurd as well.

41 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Steve Dennis January 24, 2011 at 6:01 AM -

    You are living in a liberal utopea, you mean is isn’t all its cracked up to be? Who woulda thunk it? I hope you get your car back soon.

    • Harrison January 24, 2011 at 12:03 PM -

      Sadly, the ads on TV weren’t true! I want my money back.

  2. jd January 24, 2011 at 9:04 AM -

    carbon offset credits are this century’s indulgences.

    good thing we have many martin luthers around.

  3. Dean January 24, 2011 at 1:23 PM -

    Harrison, living in Southern California, the Mecca of the car culture, for all but 4 of my years on this planet, I cannot even imagine what you are going through.

    Public transportation, on those off times I have used it, is a demeaning, demoralizing and dehumanizing undertaking… which is precisely why liberals love it.

    Cars = Freedom.

    I contend that the automobile was the single most important development of the 20th century.

    • Harrison January 24, 2011 at 1:42 PM -

      Perhaps that is closely followed by the drive in movie theater!

      • Dean January 25, 2011 at 9:38 AM -


  4. fleeceme January 24, 2011 at 4:03 PM -

    What an excellent and entertaining read. =)

    I love the line about you feeling like a crackhead, hahaha.
    fleeceme recently posted..The haircut

  5. KP January 24, 2011 at 7:41 PM -

    Remember the freedom we experienced getting our drivers license at age 16?! I was the first guy in my sophomore class to get my license and drove the family station wagon all over Santa Barbara county with eight or nine others in the car. No seat belts. But let me tell you, nothing is greater than the freedom my parents acquired — or the freedom I had when my two daughters could drive. Between school and extra curricular activities I found 2-3 hours a day once they could drive. I have a full sized 4dr Toyota Tundra and drive 12k a year. I consider that as close to having “no car” as I am willing to get at this point.

    On the bike stuff — I ride a couple hundred miles a week (albeit on rural roads in east county San Diego). Rather than roll up a pant leg, consider some skin tight, spandex, padded bike shorts for additional comfort and STYLE in The City! Helmet head is an occupational hazard but a good idea.

    • Harrison January 24, 2011 at 9:58 PM -

      If I lived in a rural area I’d ride my bike but in the dense urban jungle… no thanks. No sure how I’d look in spandex!

    • Dean January 25, 2011 at 9:37 AM -

      KP, please tell me you’re not one of those cyclists that roll into Alpine Brewery… and order waters. It kills me.

      I don’t yet have children but I cannot wait to spawn and rear 2 or 3 designated drivers later in life.

      • KP January 26, 2011 at 6:08 PM -

        Dean! Ha ha … I try to stay out of breweries in spandex. There’s a biker bar out on S2 in the Anzo Borrego desert I have ed a couple times because I needed calories. But getting home was still another 3hrs away so beer was not an option :-)

  6. Matt January 24, 2011 at 9:37 PM -

    And to think, the lefties would like all of our lives to suck just as much. Wait until gas goes up some more, and more people get the “nudge” not to drive.

    • Harrison January 24, 2011 at 9:59 PM -

      Pretty much. Of course, they’ll still have their cars.

  7. Ted February 17, 2011 at 2:19 PM -

    What a strange rant.

    Funny how conservatives complain about liberal whiners.

    I could summarize this post in eight words: I’m addicted to my car. Wah! Wah! Wah!

    Remember, you’re the one who compared yourself to a crackhead.

    You’ve reproduced some old research, and confirmed that indeed cars are faster than walking. This surprised you?

    It may also surprise you to learn that people who give up their cars do so knowing this fact. And many go through an adjustment period, and ultimately find that their quality of life has improved. Others can’t adjust.

    You’ll survive. Give your car a big kiss when it is returned to you. But when you see those folks on public transportation, on bikes, and on foot by choice, be glad that they aren’t in cars clogging the streets. Be glad they’re made of more resilient stuff than you.

    And don’t complain that the bus lines, cable cars, trolleys, and the subway are “public” unless you are also ready to complain about the public subsidies for the gas you put in your VW–and yank that silly “Obama Gas Watch” from this Web site.

    • Harrison February 17, 2011 at 2:30 PM -

      Ted, “I’m addicted to my car. Wah! Wah! Wah!” is actually 9 words, not 8.

      Thanks for your comments but remember, I’m adjusting to life as Lefties in San Francisco would have me live it (with all of the failures that go along with it).

      And Obama’s gas sign stays because if it was good enough for Bush, it’s good enough for Barack.

  8. Mark February 17, 2011 at 2:49 PM -

    I live in Corvallis, OR… Where buses are free and have bicycle racks. I ride my bike 11 miles to work in the morning and take the bus home each afternoon. When I need to go shopping I take a rucksack, or mount my panniers. I haven’t owned a car in years and am quite happy without one! Sorry, to me… bicycles=freedom. Automobiles=slavery, and dependency!!!

    • Harrison February 17, 2011 at 3:17 PM -

      It’s not “free” and this is part of the reason why Oregon has a 10.3% unemployment rate and your state has a $61 billion deficit for FY 2009-2011.

      • Mark February 17, 2011 at 3:57 PM -

        Actually, the entire Oregon budget is $61 billion dollars, with an approx current deficit of $1 billion. However, in the next 2 year budget cycle that may go as high as $3.8 billion unless cuts are made. Local buses used to $.75, but were recently reduced to free, by adding a monthly surcharge on some city services. I will admit that Corvallis is an oddity, in that it is ranked 9th in the nation for bicycle commuting. This is probably because of a combination of the number of OSU students, and a local population that relishes being considered “green”. Corvallis has an unemployment rate of 5.4%, vs. the Oregon rate of 10.4%, and the national average of 5.8%. I find Corvallis overall to be an awesome place to live!!!

        • Harrison February 17, 2011 at 4:04 PM -

          Sorry I wrote the wrong thing. The deficit for FY 09-11 is $3.6 billion. Regarding your city’s unemployment rate that’s great news. I have relatives in Portland and they tell me finding a job there is horrible.

  9. Mark February 17, 2011 at 4:33 PM -

    I’m sorry to hear that. Portland, while a very fun and vibrant place, is a major urban area with major urban problems. Programs that are practical here in Corvallis, would have little effect in Portland I’m afraid! If you would like a pretty good laugh, go to the Wiki article on Corvallis and scroll down to “Rankings and Recognition”. We don’t really have any crime, 12.7 percent of our employment is scientists, and almost 9% of the population has their doctorate. Like I said… It is good for a laugh! Seriously though, I came here for a visit several years ago, and couldn’t bring myself to leave!!!

  10. Karen February 17, 2011 at 7:15 PM -

    Well, lucky for you the VW will be returned to you soon and the trauma of walking and sharing BART with the San Fran low life will be all but an ugly, smelly memory! I realize (or just hope) your post was written in an attempt to be humorous, but I have to agree with Ted; you’re a bit of a whiner. I’m sure that you are aware that for many, including professionals such as you and of all political stripes, the price of living in a bone crushingly expensive city like San Francisco is giving up the car and relying on walking, biking, and public transit. Some people make the best of it; others find the silver lining and really love it. Occasionally, I read a blog written by a California woman, married, both spouses severely downsized professionally and economically, kids to raise. They’ve lost their home, their cars, most of their material possessions, and of course friends. Now, the whole family gets around in exactly the manner that you turn your nose up to. Strangely, this woman pushes on, makes the best of things and doesn’t seem to worry too much about picking up cooties getting on her little white hands while riding the bus. On the other hand, your post just presents you as a spoiled snob with not enough to think about. Truly, nobody cares if you own a bike, ride a bus or have a 12 month multipass. Nobody is trying to force you out of your car. If San Fran is too liberal (whatever that means) for you, Orange County is right down the road.

    • Harrison February 17, 2011 at 7:27 PM -

      I never said anybody was trying to force me out of my car, simply that San Francisco is Liberaltopia but, in fact, the public transportation here has very serious flaws in it and I was reflecting upon what I had learned trying to live life as Liberals here tell me I should: without a car.

      Try standing in the rain for 30 minutes while 4 buses pass you by because they’re full and, when you do get on one, it’s so humid with exhalation and germs that you start sweating.

      The message you take away from it… be it I’m a snob, I’m a victim, I’m hapless, a whiner… that’s up to you.

      Enough people have posted their comments to illustrate it all depends upon your perspective.

      But the one fact remains: not owning a car makes you pay more to buy things because you have to go for convenience not price.

      BTW my cost of living is very low because that’s how I’ve structured my life here.

      And suggesting I move because there are a lot of Liberals here is no different than saying were I a woman I shouldn’t go into a locker room because I might get raped.

  11. Ken Harris February 18, 2011 at 1:19 PM -

    “not owning a car makes you pay more to buy things because you have to go for convenience not price.”

    There are many ways to overcome this, but it doesn’t seem to me that you have really tried. Get a folding bike and a burley travoy. With those two things you will have the ability to get 95% of what you want from where ever it may be. And both will fold down and be easily stow-able in an apartment of any size. Let go of your hang-ups about liberal utopia. Even buying a folder and the travoy full-price would be cheaper than two or three months of a car payment.

    It also seems that you could bike to your destination during the time that you were waiting for a bus to stop. (And a folder easily rides the bus with you…)

    • Harrison February 18, 2011 at 1:31 PM -

      I appreciate your comments. I don’t know if you live in San Francisco or not but it is a dangerous city for pedestrians and bikers. When I used to take the bus downtown to work I personally saw 4 people on bikes hit by cars. My friend was hit by a car and has a nice scar on his forehead from that. I’ve seen car drivers make mistakes and bike riders make mistakes that cause accidents. I’m not interested in this happening to me. Also, I live several stories up with a tiny elevator and a small apartment with no room for a bike. I have no car payments thus no expenses aside from gasoline or insurance (both of which cost me very little per year).

      I did the math when I first moved to San Francisco and never looked back.

      I’m not against biking or bikers who follow the rules of the road, either.

  12. Ned February 20, 2011 at 4:14 AM -

    So you say the car = freedom. When was the last time a pedestrian or bicyclist did laps around a parking look looking for a spot or had to stop 5-10 minutes to spend $30-$60 buying gas, paid insurance, annual taxes, or engine maintenance. Yes, with a car you can drive across town to get the “Cheapest” bag of litter, but how much gas did you spend, and just how cheap is it when you factor in all the costs associated with getting you there. Racks, baskets, panniers, even trailers can be mounted on a bike and you can carry just as much, if not more than you can fit in a car. Yea, it takes longer but you can skip your daily workout, you’re doing it while you run errands. If you want to argue that you’ve seen 4 (oooh, 4) bicyclists get hit, how many accidents have you seen involving nothing but cars? Accidents happen, don’t be afraid to change your life just because something might happen.

    If you really hate living without a car this much, maybe you should consider renting one while your car gets fixed, if someone hit you then you should consider telling their insurance company to get you one. If you’re using yours, maybe you should consider getting rental added to your policy if you hate using your own two feet this much.

    Yes, public transportation is smelly, inconvenient, full, and just plain undesirable. Guess where the first budget cuts are, it’s not anything involving your precious car. Instead of whining online, try going to the city and letting them know the state of their transportation. Try to get it changed, don’t just throw your hands up in the air and run away from the problem, that’s how it got as bad as it is.

    Oh, and maybe you should consider an umbrella if you’re waiting for a bus for half and hour in the rain.

    • Harrison February 20, 2011 at 9:12 AM -

      Ned, I appreciate your comments. I have a question for you: If you were hit by a car would you rather be on a bike or inside a car? Which do you think protects you more? I was driving home one day and someone ran a right light and hit my car. I walked away. Had I been on a bike I would have been dead.

      You forget that drivers pay their own way regarding roads via the gasoline tax. You also ignore why public transportation loses money… it’s because of Big Union collective bargaining agreements or routes nobody uses.

      A story I did from 2010 showed that the San Francisco BART announced they would be cutting 37 jobs thereby saving $5.4 million. That works out to $149,946.00 per job. The average salary in the U.S. was $50,233.00.

      And out of those 37 jobs, only 8 people ended up losing their positions (the union opposed even that).

      And remember… the point was to live life without a car because in San Francisco I am constantly told how evil they are. Renting one would defeat the purpose of this experiment, wouldn’t it?

      • Ned February 20, 2011 at 10:51 AM -

        Everyone focuses on the “what if you get hit” scenario. If drivers were simply more alert, bicyclists more visible, and everyone was more courteous then 99.9% of accidents would be eliminated. Yes, that’s not the state of things but nothing will change unless each person changes, one at a time.

        Why’d he run the light? Texting while driving, drunk, careless, speeding, or inexperienced? All of those can be addressed with either more training, tougher laws, or simply caring more about your fellow man.

        Yes, drivers pay taxes when they buy gas, but gas tax isn’t required to go into the roads. It goes into the state’s coffers to use where they please. For all we know cigarettes fund the majority of roads. As for the overpaid DOT workers, that’s easy. Standardize state worker pay, based on your “grade” and years of service, not to exceed $x.xx amount. Make it more a civil servant job than a way to get stinking rich.

        I don’t think cars are evil, I think GIANT suv’s for soccer mom’s driving her 1 child to school is massively excessive. I also think it’s dumb that everyone needs a quadcab, extended bed, super deluxe truck. I’ve known hundreds of people that own trucks and I can count on 2 hands how many use them as trucks. Drive responsibly.

        It sounds like you’re the perfect distance from work for commuting to work by bike. As for further distances, yea a car is needed. Bikes and walking aren’t for everyone (imagine 100 years ago and say that). I know people (myself included) that drive to the mailbox, 1/8th of a mile away instead of walking or biking. We (as a society) need to stop with the mentality that driving is the only way to do anything.

        • Harrison February 20, 2011 at 11:19 AM -

          I don’t know why he ran the light. I was knocked unconcious and woke up 15 minutes later before I was taken to the hospital. But had I been on a bike I’d have been killed. Yes, you can address these things and maybe they will improve, maybe not but today don’t we have to live in the world as it is?

          Just because drivers pay gasoline tax which is supposed to be spent on roads but might not isn’t really my problem. If the state wants to misallocate resources it does not mitigate the fact that drivers are paying their own way. It is public transportation which is heavily subsidized and loses money virtually everywhere it is found (because it’s run by the government).

          We are seeing in Wisconsin what happens when government goes after Big Union.

          I chose where I live and where I work specifically because if I became carless or didn’t want to be forced to use my car I would not face huge problems. Even when I had my car I only drove to work half the time.

          The rate for pedestrian fatalities in SF is 70% higher than the national average. I would assume bikers are in a similar group.

          I’ll stick to my car (when I get it back).

      • Jeff July 14, 2011 at 2:49 PM -

        Sorry, fuel taxes don’t come anywhere close to paying for the nation’s total public road and parking infrastructure. You’re just wrong on that. My taxes pay for a lot more of the public infrastructure that is devoted to your car than your taxes pay for what little public infrastructure exists for my bike.

        • Harrison July 14, 2011 at 7:36 PM -

          Yes, gas taxes don’t cover 100% of highway and street costs (Congress hasn’t raised the tax to cover the shortfall) which makes it all the more puzzling why the Obama administration was giving away over $100 billion to states that didn’t want it to pay for public transportation that would lose money and couldn’t be used for anything else.

          And the bike lanes installed on San Francisco’s Market Street (among other places) were paid with tax dollars. But even in San Francisco, only about 6% of trips are on two wheels.

  13. joee May 15, 2011 at 5:34 PM -

    i could not agree with you more. try coming down to southern california.. you cannot walk a single block without feeling like an outkast. ive been hassling without a car for about three months now. i had a beautiful 07 galant which i loved so much until i lost my job and the bank reclaimed it. these past few months have been by far the worst..

  14. Crickey7 July 14, 2011 at 7:18 PM -

    Umm. Maybe liberal are smart enough to get a Zipcar membership?

    Seriously, this is the most tired pastiche of generalizations about liberals I’ve seen in years. If this is the opposite team, I may not even warm up for the game.

    • Harrison July 14, 2011 at 7:32 PM -

      As I said earlier, the point was to live life without a car. Getting a Zipcar would have, uh, defeated that.

      They may be “generalizations” but as I’ve lived in San Francisco since 1995 they are also my personal observations.

  15. oboe July 15, 2011 at 6:49 AM -


    Public transportation. Public toilets. Public speaking. Public health.

    This could well be the dumbest thing I’ve read all year. Thanks for the chuckle.


    • Harrison July 15, 2011 at 10:23 AM -

      I agree… this could well be the dumbest thing I’ve read all year.

      Thanks for making it happen!

  16. Rush March 4, 2012 at 2:26 PM -

    So let me get this right. Your inability to adopt this “liberal” ideal is basically due to your being a pussy? I don’t know if I would have put that on the net.

    • Harrison March 4, 2012 at 3:08 PM -

      No but your inability to understand why you’re wrong has to do with you being an idiot and thanks for broadcasting that fact worldwide!

      • Ted Johnson March 4, 2012 at 4:07 PM -


        Have you started letting a nine-year-old reply to comments for you on your blog?

        You really don’t have to respond to every comment if you got noting to say besides, “Oh yeah? Your stupider.”

        • Harrison March 4, 2012 at 10:24 PM -

          I strive, in my replies, to be but a mirror reflecting their own own souls (or intelligence).

          And, for the record, Rush told me he thought I was a pussy for not wanting to take advantage of owning an internal combustion engine. I merely related to him that not only was he incorrect in his postulation but that such erroneous conclusions surely marked him as a man of dubious intelligence from which he had removed all doubt by opening his mouth.