Well, I'm not quite that drunk, because I have just stepped out from behind the wheel of my maiden voyage in a ZipCar.
The whole experience was so exhilarating, I'm already scheming for my next Zip-Date: I want a gleaming convertible in San Francisco, and I will not be deterred!
ZipCar is a "car-sharing" operation where you sign up for a membership and gain access to a fleet of autos parked all around your town— or any town they operate in, for that matter.
Within minutes, days, or weeks notice, you reserve your date with whatever vehicle you choose, be it Tacoma Truck, Prius, or MiniCooper.
You show up at one of the Zippy parking spots with your magic membership card, and wave it like a wand in front of the windshield. It opens up and you drive away!
The car is new. You don't pay for gas, insurance, or anything to do with the car's upkeep. The parking spot is always waiting for you. There is no maddening car rental counter to suffer through; it's all DIY. You save beaucoup bucks by not operating your own vehicle, and obviously, your "carbon footprint" becomes much more dainty.
Okay, that's the Greenish explanation. But I am here to tell you of the psychological effect!
It all started when a certain unlicensed, uninsured someone, who shall remain nameless, totaled our old Toyota van in the driveway.
The Previa wasn't put into "Park" at the conclusion of its illegal journey— and so it drifted down the driveway, headless, until it was stopped by our gnarled orange tree rather than careening out into traffic. The door was badly bashed, and the cost of even minimal repairs exceeded the value of the car. We had to let her go.
Now here's the thing. Our home has a massive solar array— I could light up a small planet. If I had an electric car, I would just plug in the bastard and we would never pay for a drop of fuel again.
But those type of cars aren't going to be commercially available, at a price I can afford, for another year or two. I've never read the "Auto" section the news before in my life, but now I drop anything for updates on the Chevy Volt, the plugin Prius, or the VW Diesel-Hybrid. "Yoo Hoo, Mr. Auto Mogul, I am READY for you!"
We have one other car we share in our household. Much to our relief, relying on one pony has worked out pretty well. We all started biking more— a lot more. I can now pedal up the big hill to my house and daydream instead of crying and gasping for air. I lost weight. The plummet in our gas bill... well, you can imagine... was astounding. It was fun to drop the insurance and say adieu to all the crap of a second car.
How very noble and wholesome.
But every once in a while, we hit a snag. One of us has to go out of town for a few days, and it's tough to leave the other one car-less. I live in a semi-rural town with abysmal public transportation. What else is new in America? There is no such thing, in my village, as hailing a cab. To get to a train to San Francisco, I have to take a bus that runs on what's politely called a "limited schedule." The 40-minute trip to the San Jose train station can take three hours.
Then I read in the local paper that ZipCar has an outpost in our town, thanks to a collaboration with the UC Santa Cruz. In fact, one of the things that sold me on the deal, is that if I reserve a local ZipCar, I can park in any of the 'A'-Lot spaces on campus, which is such a rare thrill that I feel like reserving a few Zip hours to park all over school and sneer at the meter maids who bankrupted me at this same campus when I was an undergrad.
You can reserve ZipCar dates over the phone, but the geeky thrills are on their Web site, or your mobile browser. You feel like you're shopping for shoes at Zappos. You tell it what time and day you want to begin your trip, and it shows how many, and which kind, of cars are available, with a map of locations. I checked a whole bunch of times, from "right this minute" to weeks in advance, and there was always a few choices close by. Always.
They charge you by the hour, which is an novel way to look at driving costs. Zip publishes numerous cost comparisons— as this is their main selling point— and you always come out ahead, way ahead, by sharing rather than shouldering the burden of single-owner maintenance.
Plus, no matter how many times the ZipCar flacks re-do their cost-savings examples, the price of gas goes up another dime by the time they post to their site. No wonder they're signing up new members like there's no tomorrow.
For my first reservation, I picked out the car by color— Tango Red!— and got all dressed up to go meet my beau.
It was a brand new car. A Honda Element. With roof racks. I'm going to put my canoe on it next time.
Do you know how often I drive new cars? Never. I called up some friends in the Valley who didn't know what I was babbling about. "Do you want me to pick you up in my NEW TANGO RED and go for a joy ride?"
I got into the driver's seat and cackled at the full gas tank. There is even a gas credit card in the sun-visor, in case I go hog wild. I can fill up the tank at any service station on Zipcar's tab.
It was a little unfamiliar to check the mirrors and set the seat before I got underway. I'm so sheltered I've never even driven a Honda before. The most shocking aspect, truthfully, is that I couldn't trash the car and leave all my snot rags and coffee cups behind me. Cleaning out the vehicle before I tucked it back into its stable was the most mindful I've ever been in the auto-care department.
Yes, there are rules, lots of little Golden Auxiliaries. You cannot invite your big hairy mutt to share the front seat. You can't stay out late without telling anyone and screw the next driver out of their reservation. You can't smoke hash. I realize that any of these limitations could be the last straw!
But I am still in the Euphoria Stage. I love to look at the fleets in dozens of other cities, and imagine showing up in London, or Vancouver, and reserving my mount.
I walked home from my Zippy Parking Spot at the end of my three-hour tour. I live a few blocks away, a five minute walk, and I wondered if that aspect would exasperate me. But the walk home was actually delightful, part of the whole dating atmosphere. We stopped for chocolate cake at the Nickelodeon. The smell of jasmine and ginger flowers along Lincoln St. were especially fragrant.
I said, "I feel so smug, I think I might explode." I kicked a eucalyptus nut in my path and watched it bounce up ahead of me like a skipping stone. Ha! Life is good!
Zipcar did not pay me to write this; although they should, after this tongue bath! But believe me, as I continue my grand car-sharing experiment, I will tell ALL, including any disillusionments or shocks. I'm sure you have a million questions, as I did, and their web site anticipates all of them, so go check it out. As a new member, they encourage me to hand out $25 driving credits to my friends, so please enjoy!