With nowhere to go, Covid has revived this simple pleasure and kept a lot of people happy and sane.
I’m suddenly fourteen again.
In order to escape the confines of my big, chaotic family, I sneak the keys to the car and sidle out the door before anyone notices.
With a heavy yank, the driver’s side door shuts withan Omph sigh of relief, and the outside world disappears. Seated in my tiny capsule ready for orbit, I twist the radio dial to my favorite station and happily drift away. This is my great escape.
The last four months of this new age Covid living have forced most of us to return to a time of simpler things, be it baking bread, playing board games, reviving family dinners, or taking walks. At the same time, the total lack of privacy, the bouncing back and forth between just a few rooms, living with a roommate(s), partner, children 24/7 is just plain contrary to the laws of nature. A lot of short fuses have been lit, eggshells crushed, and barbs volleyed.
In November I moved to New York City, found a sublease with a roommate, but left my car parked an hour away thinking I would never really need it. Although she and I get along and are both introverts, after four months of working from home and being imprisoned together, I started hating her. Everything she did, and didn’t do, annoyed me. And she never went out!
I know the feeling was mutual. This and the underlying anxiety of getting sick was quietly beating us both up. I wondered what were people doing to combat built up hostility over seemingly nothing?
And then it hit me.
They escape to their cars.
I suddenly started noticing one, or sometimes two, people just sitting in parked cars listening to music, especially at night. This seemingly innocuous practice would come up in conversations more and more about ways to stay sane.
Parent friends in therapy confided the car was the perfect place to have a session. He/she could have a good cry or howl at the moon without their prying-minds-want-to-know children listening.
Another friend, living with her adult, twenty-something, daughter, revealed she is ordered out of the apartment on a regular basis to allow her daughter some much wanted alone time. This mom is happy to comply and retreats to her car where she can listen to the oldies, NPR, or talk radio for a couple of hours.
I’ve learned second hand that Date nights of long ago have found a revival in the family wagon, if even for a mere 30 minutes.
And remember the joys of parking? Imagine taking your sweetheart to a primo spot on the empty streets of Times Square.
So after months of living in the now sleepy city that never sleeps, I pine for my 2005 Subaru and the simple pleasures it will afford me. I leave for a vacation in Maine soon and relish the thought of sitting behind the wheel feeling free once again.
The immediate future isn’t looking all that bright, but I’ll find the silver lining. This time when returning, I’ll keep my car parked out front. When the need arises, like it often did so many years ago, I’ll have my own private getaway—
and it will be the cat’s pajamas.
I found your blog via a link on a NYT article in which you were featured (“Renters”). You are such an inspiration to me! I am about 20 years your junior and dream of returning to NYC someday after my child grows up and moves on. I lived there much too briefly in my 30s. Life took me elsewhere and has me staying still for now. Anyway, I hope you continue writing in the blog and sharing your art.
Thanks so much for writing me this comment- it’s really quite thrilling to hear back from readers. You have plenty of time for adventures to come. Funny how I’ve become so much more bold in my 60s! I’ll be posting another piece shortly!