The Slice: How making a choice I thought was for the benefit of my community, was actually even more beneficial to me
The Challenge: Getting around in Los Angeles without a car for a week
You’d never believe me, but…
What if I told you that that you don’t have to download yet another social app to have a friendly conversation with a stranger.
NOR do you have to go online to find the new “undiscovered” spots in your town
AND that there is a more interesting and productive way to get those annoying last 3,000 steps into your day without having to hop on the treadmill.
What if I told you that the secret to achieving all of the above is as simple as getting out of your car more often.
Yep. I am telling you from first hand experience, that if you take alternate transportation more often, I promise you will not only meet new people, you will see more of your neighborhood, and you will definitely add more steps toward that healthy “10k a day” goal.
Rocket science, right?
Easy as 1, 2, 3…
If this concept seems so simple, why is it that those of us that have an option between driving and alternative forms of transit, still always choose to drive? Or more simply, why do we refuse to take any alternate form of transportation (including our own two feet)!
It’s no secret that despite the 9 billion dollars in taxes put towards improving public transportation in Los Angeles, each year increasingly less people are using it. We’ve all read numerous articles like this one, and this one about the public transportation issues in LA.
That’s not the point of this blog post.
I spy hypocrisy
The issue is larger than increasingly low public transportation usage. Rather, it comes down to an obsession with efficiency at the expense of slowing down to enjoy simple organic pleasures such as being outside, or talking to a stranger.
Case in point, I drive to the Starbucks half a mile from me because I am “far too busy” to take the extra 30 minutes out of my day that it would take to walk there.
Still later on in the day, I somehow always find time to use those 30 minutes sitting alone in my apartment scrolling through social media, or watching TV.
Reflecting on this inconsistency of values, I decided this was the perfect opportunity for a YDA challenge.
My initial challenge to myself was to not use my car for an entire week. This quickly shifted to only using my car when absolutely necessary (hey, I’m only human, and this is supposed to be about small changes.) Here are a few lessons I learned.
Exercise gives you endorphins, endorphins make you happy…
I’ll admit thinking about the ease of hoping in my car versus getting out my bike, or walking somewhere I knew I could drive in half the time was at times frustrating this week. However, after riding or walking somewhere, I was alway happy when I got there.
While unlocking my bike at a doctors appt, I engaged in a friendly conversation with a man unlocking his bike next to me. Cheesy as it may sound, I couldn’t help smiling at the thought that this would never have happened had I had driven that morning.
Overall bonuses of walking and biking included less money and frustration spent on parking, more time outside in LA sunshine, and increased levels of exercise.
Sometimes driving is the slower option…
Driving from Santa Monica to USC can take 20 minutes, or it can 90 minutes. The train always takes 40 minutes plus a 5 minute bike ride from my apartment to the station. While I use about $10 of my gas tank driving to downtown in traffic, the train always costs $1.75. While driving, my only options to pass the time are listening to the radio, or catching up on phone calls. On the train, I not only caught up on reading for class, I also edited a paper. There is no question I will now be taking the train more often.
The bus is almost always late…
Downside of this is obviously that if you are in a rush, taking the bus is likely not your best option. Upside is there is usually always someone at the bus stop waiting with you to commiserate with.
For me, the highlight of this challenge came from
teaching an adorable and inquisitive older woman how to text message. The five minutes we waited for the bus together easily went by as I showed this woman the beauties of a smart phone.
Side note: The recent passage of Measure M should alleviate some of LA county’s late transportation issues
I won’t lie to you, after this week there will definitely still be times where I feel I am far too busy NOT to drive short distances. However, what I will take away from this challenge is the opportunity it afforded me to push myself to allocate my time differently and interact with members of my community that I ordinarily would not have. This challenge got me outside of my comfort zone and gave me a better understanding of the wider range of people I don’t normally communicate with in my community. I highly suggest giving it a try!
Kathleen Bryson is YDA’s community contributor. She loves long walks, coffee, and spontaneous conversations with strangers.