A Step Toward Normalcy

(High Point, NC) — There’s one thing we adults generally take for granted. Okay, there’s more than one. But this is the only I’m thinking about right now. That’s the freedom we derive from readily available transportation. And for the past couple of months, I’ve been without that.

It’s been difficult. Life since November has been difficult enough: There was the unexpected implosion of my marriage. A return to Pennsylvania and one last shot at broadcasting – which didn’t work out. Then, on the way back to North Carolina to resume school bus delivery and writing, my beloved 2002 PT Cruiser suffered a terminal illness. I sold it for $200. Since then, I’ve been living in my sister’s rec room, borrowing her car when it was available, driving school buses across the country, and generally hating my life.

I’m not around town enough to get involved in normal things like church activities, community theater, and other stuff I love. Dating has been out of the question, because, well I live in my sister’s rec room and I have had no car. For the same reason, I haven’t been able to get into a counseling regimen, which is something from which I could very much benefit.

But today, I took a baby step. Actually, it’s more than just a baby step, it’s a big, big step: I bought a car. When I got here, my goal was to buy a “beater” car, just to get around. I thought maybe a 15-year-old car… maybe $3000… and even then, I thought, because of my credit history, I’d have to get my sister’s help as a co-signer. It all sounded unpleasant and, frankly depressing.

A couple of months ago, though, because I no longer have anyone to pick me up at the airport and drive me home, I had to find transportation from the Charlotte Airport to the Amtrak station, so I could take a train home. You can fly into Greensboro/High Point, but it’s generally much more expensive than flying into Charlotte. And then, when I got back to High Point, I had to find a way from the train station back to my sister’s rec room. Not a lot of joy in that.

And that’s when I discovered Uber. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a ride-sharing system which employs private drivers, using their own cars. It’s completely smartphone app-based. You establish an account, based on a debit card, a credit card, or PayPal. When you need a ride in a city served by Uber, you simply go to the app, and request a car. Generally, within just a few minutes, a car shows up. You already know the name of the driver, and what he or she is driving. And they know your name as well. You can call or text the driver to give exact instructions. You watch on the GPS-based map where your driver is, and exactly when he or she is arriving.

It’s a brilliant concept… and as you might expect, traditional cab drivers absolutely hate it.  I love it. I’ve spoken with a good many drivers, most of whom are making a good bit of money. They set their own schedules, drive when they want to, and find it to be lucrative.

Uber requires drivers to have a car that’s no older than 2006, a nice car with no damage. Drivers go through a background check, and since no money changes hands, it’s much safer than driving a traditional cab. Not only that, but since Uber has all its riders’ personal information, one would have to be pretty stupid to try to rob an Uber driver.

In any case, it dawned on me that if I could somehow get a late-model car that met Uber’s criteria, I could use my downtime from shuttling school buses to drive for Uber. And if all I made from it was enough to cover car payments and insurance, that would be fine.

So, miraculously, considering my less-than-perfect credit, I was approved. The car I bought today (a 2010 Honda Fit) was named by Consumer Reports in 2010 to be one of the two “Best Value” cars of the year. It’s probably the best car I have ever bought. And I did the research – I’m paying a fair price. No accidents on its record, and a nice, clean CarFax report.

New wheels: better than the old wheels
New wheels: better than the old wheels

Anyway, this is a long-winded way to say that it looks as though, after wallowing in depression and despair for the past five months, I have finally taken the first step toward living like a grown-up again. Yes, I’m still living in my sister’s rec room with the cats, but now the light at the end of the tunnel does not seem to be an approaching train.  There’s something about one door closing and other opening….

There are a number of people who have helped in ways that frankly astound me. I will not mention any more than that here; I have already sent my sincere thanks personally. But there are more who have offered encouragement, love and moral support on this awful road… and I offer my sincere and eternal gratitude to you.

I have a long way to go… but finally, I am feeling some real hope.

Thank you so very much…

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