Going car-free takes planning. I’ve said it before. I’m sure I’ll say it again.
But this week brought about an interesting lesson for me. It brought promise. And then it brought me to my knees.
Let me backtrack a moment. I know I mentioned last week that I didn’t get the job I interviewed for on the first day of the contest. I had already begun to brace myself for that possibility so when the news arrived, it wasn’t as though I was caught off guard.
However, what DID catch me off guard is when they called me on Monday, to tell me about another position. In fact, they didn’t call to ask me to apply or come in for an interview. They simply wanted me to take the job. So I rode my bike to the metro like I’ve done so many times in the past few weeks, and I took a ride into Rosslyn so I could discuss the details with the owners.
On my way into the office, I received a response from The Smithsonian Channel in regards to a position I had recently inquired about. They asked if I would like to come in for an interview as well.
Suddenly my mind was reeling. One job offer and an interview for another job, my DREAM job, in the same week?
“What are you up to Life”, I asked.
“Oh nothing,” Life giggled.
I stepped inside the office for the first position, and after discussing everything with the owners, found myself loving the position they were offering me. There were no negatives save for the possibility of a job at the Smithsonian Channel off in the distance.
I took the return trip home and spent the time biking to consider everything that was happening. After nearly a year of searching for a full time position, it seemed as if things were turning around.
I walked into my house and called my girlfriend, Dana, to tell her all about the good news. Seconds after we hung up, my phone rang again. This time, not Dana. It was Christy Goodman from the Washington Post, following up on a suggestion I had given to her about covering the Car Free Diet Skeptics for a story in the Post. It was a go.
Flash forward in the week.
I go in for the interview at the Smithsonian Channel. As always, I ride my bike to the metro. I ride the metro into DC. I walk half a mile to the building, documenting my entire trip with the Flip Cam Arlington’s graciously given to both myself and Kyle.
The interview goes well, though not fantastic. But that doesn’t bring me down. I had just been sitting in an office at the Smithsonian Channel because they had, at the very least, an inkling of interest in me. Or, in other words, I just sat in an office being interviewed for my dream job. It was the kind of job that made me go to school for film in the first place. It was the kind of job that lets someone like myself be someone like myself. As I walked the half mile back to the metro, I reminded myself that this was only the beginning. Maybe it would only mean that I had a baby toe in the door of my future, but it was something, and not nothing.
I felt like skipping. But men don’t skip. I can prove it, because I turned off the camera while I skipped so there’s no proof.
I rode the metro home, thinking to myself how fantastic the week had been and how much better I’d started to get at going car-free. I began to wonder why anyone needs a car. Life was at a high for me, and I hadn’t used a car for a second of it.
But isn’t that how life works? It’s an emotional roller coaster, and when you reach the top of the hill, I suppose there’s no where left to go but down sometimes.
On Friday, I got a phone call from my mom. My grandfather who had gone to the hospital earlier in the week for a “more than minor but less than severe” issue with his kidney, received more information. It wasn’t his kidney that had been the problem; he had an aneurysm in his aorta. I’m not a medical expert, but I’ve seen Grays Anatomy. And Dr. Derek Shepard is always very clear: aneurysms are no joke and need to be treated immediately.
Suddenly everything was moving backwards. I had to drive with my girlfriend to the hospital, but even that didn’t seem fast enough. I knew the severity of the condition. If I didn’t see him before he was operated on, I might never see him again. There is no such thing as moving too fast when a loved one is in trouble. But moving too slow does exist. Not a bike, not a bus, not waiting for the metro or train will do.
In fact, a car isn’t even fast enough. Perhaps light may be an example speed for travel under those circumstances. But I don’t have the capability. And I reached the hospital after he’d already gone into the operating room.
I sat with my family as the doctor delivered us more bad news. It wasn’t one aneurysm, it was three; and two had ruptured. Due to his age, open surgery wasn’t an option. That meant the surgery would need to be done by entering from a different location, without any actual visualization of the aneurysms other than a computer screen as the doctor maneuvered around inside my Grandpop’s body. And he explained that the survival rate for a procedure like this was 20% or less.
It took my breath away. Those were supposed to be the odds of Kyle winning this competition, not my grandpop’s chances of surviving. I look up to my grandpop. We share the same middle name, Owen. It was passed onto me and he is one of the only people in my life who will refer to me by it.
So I spent the day in the hospital. My grandmom was there, along with their five children (including my mom) and a large number of THEIR children. It was a big group to say the least. And as we sat in the waiting room, watching the minutes tick by, the conversation of the car-free campaign came up.
They’d seen my videos. They’d read the blogs. It was just idle chatter really, something to help fill the silence. But it did do just that. Help pass the time. I made a mental note to include it in my many reasons why I am grateful for this competition.
Six hours passed, and the doctor returned to say that the operation was a relative success. He was very up front. Though he’d removed the aneurysms, the percentage of survival had not increased as of yet. The days following such a complicated procedure, especially for someone in their 80s, were as much of a danger as the operation itself.
So now we wait and I look back at the week which began with such promise and has ended with trepidation. And I ask myself, how does someone do it? Going car-free has so many fantastic qualities, and I highly recommend it still. But what about the moments, like I ran into this week, when being without a car can take critical hours, minutes, and seconds away from you?
In response to myself, I would answer that planning ahead for such moments is the only possible answer. I’ve become much better at planning for a bus in an hour or planning how I’ll travel the following day. But I’d given no thought to emergency situations where I would need a plan of action. I still believe there is a way to address the problem, but the time to do so is not while you’re in the moment of crisis.
So I leave this post with only this recommendation: if you plan on going car-free, or you are already living that lifestyle, do yourself a favor and create an emergency plan. It’s obviously not something you can create perfectly, but give yourself some sort of idea about how you will get to where you will need to get to. Maybe you have a relative nearby. Maybe you use zip car. Or maybe there is some other option which will work for you. But you NEED to give it some thought. If you’ve never feared for the life of someone you love, then you may just have to trust me on this one.