Not Actually About Cars
Now that my oldest is licensed, I don’t get to drive my car very often, anymore. That’s fine—after all, given that my office is at home, the bulk of my driving was shuffling the kids to and fro, anyway—and I am definitely not a “car person” by any means, but sometimes I miss my trusty little Corolla. We are fortunate enough to have an extra car so it all works out; my husband takes his car to work, I’ve been letting the kids take my car to school (and the ensuing rehearsals/activities/appointments, as needed), and then we have a pickup truck I can drive if I need to go somewhere.
So, in order for the next bit to make sense, you have to understand that my husband is a Car Guy. He loves cars. Loves them. My standard way of dealing with a car is to find one I like for not too much money and then drive it until the wheels fall off. His standard way of dealing with a car is to find one he likes, drive it for a while, then sell it and buy another one he likes better. Many car-type things matter to him which are absolute Greek to me. We have a whole year before my oldest leaves for college, and somehow we are already talking about whether she’ll need a car and if so, what sort of car, etc. I assumed we might assist her in buying a (used) car, but my husband thinks my car has been so reliable (and is the right size and such) that we should “sell” her that and get a different car for me. It’s a reasonable plan, but it means I have to figure out what I want next and what I’m willing to pay, which seems like a lot of effort when my Corolla is such a good and boring, no-muss/no-fuss car. (And we talk about me just driving the pickup and not bothering with another car, but needless to say the truck doesn’t get great mileage.)
This is how I ended up behind the wheel of a Nissan Leaf with my husband explaining to me all of the reasons why an all-electric car is a fabulous choice for me. (A friend asked to borrow our truck to move some things, and swapped us the Leaf for a day.) I’ll admit: it’s a pretty sweet ride, and the idea of not having to buy gas is very appealing. But I kept coming up with questions, and then excuses.
“I just don’t think I can do it,” I said, finally. “What if I need to go further than the 80 miles it gives me, or whatever? What if there’s an emergency? What if I need to go to the airport??” He had reasonable-sounding rebuttals to all of these—we have another car, 99% of the time I’m just staying right in-town—but I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that such a relatively short tether was a recipe for disaster. “I’d rather get a hybrid,” I told him. “I’d stay electric in town, but I wouldn’t be stuck if I needed to go farther.” In the back of my mind as I what-if-ed was one unshakeable red flag: the college my daughter wants to attend is just about 80 miles away. What if she’s there and she calls and needs me right away and my stupid electric car runs out of charge 5 miles from campus?
He chuckled. “You have range anxiety,” he said. In response to my raised eyebrows, he assured me, “That’s totally a real thing. People worry they’ll get stuck somewhere, and that’s what you’re doing. It’s very unlikely you would, but I understand why it bothers you.” He knew what I was thinking. And while he’s right that we could probably make it work between all of the vehicles in play in our household, it feels too risky to me. I’m much more likely, next spring, to find myself a used Prius Plug-In. I’d run it pure electric most of the time, I’m sure. But just in case, I’d be covered.
I keep thinking about range anxiety, though. I feel like it’s a pretty good metaphor for parenting teens. When my daughter is out with the car and I know she’s in transit (not when she’s at school during the day, but when I know she’s on her way to the next thing, or whatever), I’ll often pop open our family locator app just to see where she is and about how fast she’s moving. I ask her to text me when she arrives places (particularly if she’s headed somewhere far or unfamiliar) because it gives me a little peace of mind, but I can also check on her this way. If her location keeps moving when she’s en route, then I know she’s not crashed and bleeding on the side of the road. (I know how ridiculous this is, once I type it out like that. But that’s really what I think! How did we live before smartphones and location services??) Last weekend, for the first time, we adults were out of the house (out of town, actually) when she drove somewhere, and it occurred to me that if anything happened, we were a little too far away to get there quickly. She was fine, of course. I need to figure out how to unclench a little.
At the same time, though, I often feel suffocated by the kids inside the house. That’s a different kind of range anxiety—it’s the why must everyone congregate in my office while I’m trying to work or I just want you to go upstairs, why are you still here insisting it’s time to flop down on my lap for a cuddle kind. While I’m trying to smooth over any irritation sparked by the phenomenon I like to refer to as Velcro Teens, I try to remind myself that I’m not Goldilocks, and if I spend all my time either irritated by their extreme proximity to me or fretting that they’re too far away, I’m going to miss what little time is left of their childhood. Range anxiety might be natural, but that doesn’t mean I can’t try to overcome it a little.
Yesterday I didn’t check the location app while the kids were out. And this morning I stopped what I was doing to spend a little time with them before school. But I’m still not getting an electric car.