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My Year of Buying Nothing

That time I came clean about fuel consumption

By Lee Simpson

The Observer has put very few constraints on what I write. My prose gets a buff and shine but has rarely merited major body work. I am grateful for that. There is only one policy with which I quibble: it doesn’t encourage authors to submit responses to comments that get posted on ucobserver.org. I understand the reasoning: I get my soliloquy. You, dear reader, deserve the last word. 

I have a fiendishly clever rejoinder, however. I’m answering a recent comment here, not to put him or her in his or her place; simply to set the record straight. The comment was about putting fuel in my car. It’s clearly not an edible oil product, so consumption of it is outside the rules of my Year of Buying Nothing. 

Besides, I don’t have a car. I have never had a car or a licence for that matter. To be clear, there’s an automobile in our household. But I’m that rarity — a lifelong non-driver. I would love to claim this as a moral stance and say that this was a prescient, environmentally-conscious position. Nope. Here is the sorry truth: I was in the process of obtaining a driver’s licence at the age of 17 when I had an accident. It was an accident in a car borrowed from my friend’s grandmother no less. And I had no permission to drive said car.

The borrower took the blame and, in agreement for covering up, exacted a promise from me not to attempt driving ever again. Shaken and cornered, I committed to this, of course, and didn’t fess up for a quarter of a century!

Honestly, it was no hardship, though. I lived in towns with good public transport. I loved to walk. I had family and friends who kept me on the road. The only times I ever longed to be a driver was when I saw my girlfriends take off, blasting The Animals on their car stereos and singing away, free as birds. I, on the other hand, got a transistor and walked far from others. 

Today, we live in the country, so I’m more dependent on drivers around me. As the commenter mentioned, I have a congregation at the moment and need to see the housebound. My husband is always gracious, though. It’s his contribution to mission. And when walking won’t do, folks are remarkably accommodating about giving me a lift. In a small town, someone is always going your way. Plus, I keep an emergency fund for taxis and have used it twice this year. 

We have all read the report on climate change. If our grandchildren’s grandchildren are to live on planet earth, we have to relinquish fossil fuels by the end of the century. The two-plus car household has only been the norm for 30 years. So as a step in the right direction, could we consider returning to that shared automobile until the electric car is perfected and affordable? 

Unfair for me to ask that, you say? Well, you don’t get if you don’t ask! And all of us are going to have to get nervy about asking this very question. 


Rev. Lee Simpson is a writer in Lunenburg, N.S. New posts of YBN will appear every other Friday. You can also check out a short documentary about Lee at http://www.ucobserver.org/video/2014/04/ybn/.
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