By Emmy Serviss / Boston
The last time I owned a car, it was 2010.
I was living in Portland, Ore. at the time and had just traded in my 1995 Saturn for a new (ish) 2009 Toyota Corolla. My brother had named my Saturn "Wheelio Estevez," and that car served me well for four years in Los Angeles, and another two years in Portland. But eventually the wear and tear became too expensive to maintain, and I had to bid Wheely a fond farewell.
There was no way to know that my ex would total my new car, less than six months later.
I wasn't with my ex when the accident occurred, so I'll never know what REALLY happened. My best guess is that he was on the highway speeding, (because he told me that he drove faster when I wasn’t in the car with him) and he either hit a puddle and skidded or couldn't stop in time to avoid traffic. Ultimately, he was the middle car in a three-car pileup.
My ex and I were already in the process of splitting up, so this did not help at all. Our amicable split turned sour as my ex cost me thousands of dollars with regards to paying the difference left on the loan and a rental car for the last month I was in Oregon. (Pro-tip: always add Gap Insurance to your policy.)
As bummed as I was that I didn't have a car anymore, I was moving to Boston, where the public transportation was pretty good compared to the other cities where I had lived. I wouldn't be able to go on long drives down the winding canyons to clear my head, like I did in Los Angeles. And I wouldn't be able to take a spontaneous day trip to Cannon Beach or a visit to the Goonies house in Astoria, like I did in Portland.
But, saving money on gas, insurance, parking, and car repairs...that was a good consolation prize, right?
So I gave back the rental car and moved to Boston. I lived here for 10 years without a car, and it was mostly easy. Sometimes it was a headache, since the last two apartments I've lived in haven't had laundry in the building. And some days it was frustrating to try and commute from Somerville to Roslindale in a timely manner. But overall, I was able to make do.
And then 2020 and the Pandemic happened.
At first it didn't matter, because no one was going anywhere anyway. The only commuting I was doing was back and forth from my apartment to my ex's apartment every couple of weeks. (a different ex –the Portland ex I haven't spoken to in at least five years and that's how I prefer to keep it) But spending $40 on an Uber a couple times every few weeks wasn't a huge problem.
The problem arose, however, in 2021 when Covid started becoming less of a concern and mask mandates loosened up. People started using the T and buses again, but every time I thought I was ready to start using public transportation, a new variant emerged. I was working from home, so the amount of commuting was still minimal. But the Ubers got more and more expensive, and as our performances at The Rozzie Square Theater started ramping back up again, the number of trips from Somerville to Roslindale increased. I was SO happy to be performing with ComedySportz and SUZZY again, but quickly discovered that travel to and from the theater were now much trickier than in the Before Times.
I got rides from friends whenever possible, but before long, the $40 spent every few weeks was turning into $40 for a one-way trip. I finally sat down and totaled up the amount that I was spending on Ubers to and from the theater each month. It was...a lot. I was spending so much money on Ubers that it made me start to wonder if it made more sense financially to just get a car again.
I hemmed and hawed for a few months and started "looking" at cars online. Finally, at the end of May 2022, I bought a car. My brother named her "Alloy McWheel."
Originally, I was looking to buy another Corolla, but when the car I was looking at was no longer available, I was shown a 2010 Lexus Hybrid. I never thought I was fancy enough to own a Lexus, but since the car was over 10 years old, I was pleasantly surprised to find it within my price range.
Part of me wasn’t sure if I should buy a car so quickly. After all, wasn’t it prudent to shop around a little before committing to a big purchase? But at the same time, hybrid cars were exceptionally hard to come by. This car was actually so new to the lot that they didn’t even have the registration yet. I had a thought in the back of my head, that if I left the lot without the car, someone else would scoop it up immediately.
I trusted my gut, and I bought the car.
I knew that owning a car again would be an adjustment, after not having one for over a decade. For example, I learned the hard way that I need to actually pay attention to street cleaning signs now. But instead of spending $50 on Ubers two to three times a week to get to Roslindale, I am now spending about $50 a month on gas. Even though gas prices are high right now, so far it seems I only have to fill up my gas tank once a month! Hybrids really are a good investment! The rest of the money that I'm saving on Ubers, goes toward my car payments.
Having a car again makes getting to and from the theater easier, which I expected. But having a car again has also greatly improved my mental health, which I did NOT expect.
I didn't realize how much I missed being able to jump in my car at a moment's notice, and not have to rely on someone else being on time. I didn't realize how much I missed the freedom of being able to take a spontaneous day trip. And I didn't realize how much I missed singing in my car. I've never been much of a shower singer, and since I've always had roommates in Boston, I didn't like to sing around the apartment, for fear of being annoying.
It wasn't until I started driving again and belting out to my favorite show tunes in the car, that I realized how much I missed it. Within one month of having a car again, I felt lighter – dare I say happier?
I fully acknowledge that when winter rolls around and I have to deal with snow tires and frozen windshield wipers and fighting with Bostonians over space savers, I may be singing a different tune.
But I'll be singing that tune from inside my car.
Which has seat warmers.
♫ I've been searchin' my soul tonight, I know there's so much more to life, Now I know I can shine a light, To find my way back home ♫
Emmy Serviss is a Boston-based writer, actor and video editor. Once it is safe to return to live theater, you can find her performing with ComedySportz Boston and the sketch group SUZZY. When not on the stage, Emmy enjoys indulging in her new pandemic hobbies, laughing way too loudly and counting the days until Halloween.