Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Week 1: Kate Gives Thanks

Kate has never owned a car. She never even learned to drive. On moving to Philadelphia to attend Temple University, she found she didn't need a car, that Philly's public transportation was decent enough that she could get around without needing a car; and besides, her boyfriends usually had one.

When she found that her boyfriend of the last five years was cheating on her, she threw him out--well, the relationship had been falling apart for the past year, with her in grad school and him not even holding down a job. Change was needed.
A car, however, was still not needed. Even without a boyfriend.

Public transportation is Kate's friend. SEPTA--that institution both dreaded and necessary for Philadelphians--was enough to get her from her apartment in University City, to her job at the EPA in Center City, to school at Drexel after work, and back home again. This particular rout is one of the few running on trolleys.

Kate loved the trolleys. Running above ground and below, avoiding the jerking terror of a bus, she happily paid her two dollars a ride.

And then they started talking rate hikes. Again.

"What're you doing Friday?" she asked Mary.

"I dunno, probably watching a movie with Dennis. Why?"

"Wanna come down and hang out?"

Mary, unfortunately, didn't live around the corner like she used to when they both lived in Fairmount; instead, the two girls had gone to different ends of the city, Kate to University City, with its students, anarchists, and Ethiopian immigrants, and Mary to Mount Airy, with its liberals, Unitarians, and strong community organizations.

For being in the same city, they didn't see each other as often as they'd like.

Mary sighed. "Yeah, but can you take the train up here? I don't wanna drive down."
"Why not?"

"Dude--have you see the gas prices?"

"Not really--why?"

"Four dollars a gallon. I'm putting more than $200 a month into my car. Just in gas."

"Wow," Kate said flatly.

"Easy for you to say--you don't have to deal with any of this."

"So are you coming down?"

"Are you coming up?"

A pause.

"Yeah, I'll come up, if you'll drive me home--I don't like taking the train that late at night."

"Well hell, we might as well come down if we're going to drive there and back anyway."

Kate smiled. "Cool. We'll go over to Dahlak's and get a drink? I'll chip in for gas, too."

"You don't have to... Hell, yes you do." Mary gave a caustic laugh and hung up.

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