Inconveniences

BusStop

Do you know what part of you is the heaviest? Know how to find out? Stay tuned.

For a variety of reasons — cost being primary among them — I am doing the bus-and-bike thing out in Portland. For the time being it’s without the bike, but even if I had one I wouldn’t be riding it in this weather. This has some attractive advantages, and with the robust public transit system out here it’s genuinely a viable option.

However, with a car-free existence, one must put up with certain inconveniences. Want to go do a large grocery shopping trip? Hope you have strong arms. Whatever you buy you have to haul back to your residence on foot. Trust me, you do this only about twice before you look for alternatives. There are many available, including grocery delivery, which is a wonderful discovery that I recommend highly! But some inconveniences are not so easily overcome.

Again, for a variety of reasons, I am living a furniture-minimal existence as well. I have the necessities, and until recently I had to make do with substitutions for the things I needed but didn’t have. I acquire what I can when the price is right, mostly trolling CraigsList for free or low-cost items that will fill my needs.

When I first arrived, I bought an air mattress to sleep on. Now, when I hear “air mattress,” I think of those industrial rubber things from my childhood that smelled like the inside of a 1971 Volvo, where the minute you changed position in your sleeping bag you slid off the thing. But these days there are a lot better choices: mine was an 18″ thick queen-size, with a textured fabric top so you don’t slide off onto the floor. Very comfortable. Not, however, any more puncture proof than the old ones.

Anatomy buffs will tell you that the heaviest part of you is your head. Well, not if you’re an overweight, middle-aged male. For that category of  Homo sapiens, the heaviest part of you is located in a zone defined by a 12″ radius from your bellybutton. And, I can prove it!

Gravity is a cruel mistress. When conspiring with a leaky air mattress, she watches you from her perch deep inside the earth’s mantle and laughs, and laughs, and laughs. You only find out that you’re the victim of her patient prank when you wake up with the heaviest part of you resting gently on the ground beneath the air mattress which, until recently, was on your side.

The position you end up in is somewhat of an elongated check-mark: your ass, the back side of the heaviest part of you, on the floor; your head raised about 6-8″ from that spot; and your feet well up in the air, toes meekly pointing at the ceiling above your head and wondering why the rest of you is all the way down there. Extricating yourself from this predicament is also a challenge, and is best performed using a maneuver that requires you to compromise just a little dignity on your way out. But hey, this is just between you and Gravity: nobody else needs to know.

So. When air mattress #1 pulled this joke on me, I was able to return it for a replacement. Air mattress #2 lasted half the time, but by this point I had a line on an actual bed that would cost me nothing. So until the proper arrangements could be made I suffered through on some couch cushions, putting up with the aching hips with only minimal grousing.

Now, you see I said “proper arrangements.” This is one of those inconveniences that is not so easily overcome. If I had our SUV from back home, I jump in the car, drive to where the bed is, load it, drive home, unload it. Short and sweet. Without a car, the process is ever so slightly more complicated.

Walk to the bus stop, take the bus, take another bus, walk to the place where your rental car is, drive to pick up the bed, load it, drive home, unload it, drive back to drop off the rental car, walk to the bus stop, take the bus, take another bus, walk home. On the day when I did this, I calculated the time difference between the two methods. The I-have-a-car method, 90 minutes.

The I-don’t-have-a-car method, FIVE HOURS.

As I said, with a car-free existence one must put up with certain inconveniences. But at least I am now immune from Gravity’s mischievous antics.

As an aside, as another cost-saving strategy I have signed up for, and used, what’s called peer-to-peer car sharing services. You use their site to find a car near you that a private owner is making available for use. When you find what you’re looking for, you request to reserve it for a specific time & day. If the owner agrees, you pay the agreed-upon hourly rate for the time you have reserved. The cost includes insurance coverage for both driver and car, and usually over 100+ miles are included. You just replace whatever gas you use.

These are not available everywhere, mostly select major cities. The two here in Portland are RelayRides.com and GetAround.com, and I have had a good experience with both. With the bed adventure, I rented a Ford F-150 pickup for 3 hours for a cost of $25, and replaced $10 worth of gas. Try to get a truck that big from Hertz, Enterprise, or U-Haul: when all the associated charges are tallied you’ll pay 3-5 times that much. For those times when you need a certain type of car for a short period of time, it just might be worth checking out.

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