Writing Exercise: Electric Cars and their Considerable Drawbacks

Every once in a while, a writer should just pick a random topic and write about it. Not to produce an outcome, like all writers like to do, but to exercise their writing muscles, so to speak. Much like an artist should experiment with different media, so a writer should experiment with different styles. If you pursued a Master of Fine Arts (something I admit I have contemplated), or even if you just took an everyday Creative Writing class, you’d be doing exactly that.

The following topic  popped into my head the other day (okay, so it didn’t just pop into my head, I was forced to contemplate it because I was caught in precisely the scenario I was writing about – I do my best writing in my head when stuck in the car with no way to get away from the thoughts in my head), and I used it to experiment with a sort of stream-of-consciousness writing style a la William Faulkner. Or was it Tennessee Williams? I think it was Faulkner.

The Considerable Drawbacks of an Electric Car

So when it was time for your kids to be old enough to drive, and when you and your spouse, in long agonized discussions, had determined that getting them a car to drive to and from work and in general partake in the tedious yet essential job, heretofore in the sole domain of Mom, of chauffeuring other family member to and from their activities, you engaged in even longer and more agonized discussions on which car to get them and finally decided to get them an electric one.At first it felt so good. It felt so good to know that your checkbook would be a fraction less strained, owing to the fact that less gas would from now on be consumed, when everyone knows that gasoline is expensive. Whereas no one knows how much electricity costs. Were you paying more or less now that you had an electric car? If your utility bill went up, as it must have, by how much? In fact, didn’t you shoot yourself in the foot, because there was now no way to determine how much of the cost was used up by the boys going on their joy rides, whereas if they had a car running on gasoline, they could be made responsible to pay for their own gas out of their earnings from the jobs they claimed they needed the car for in the first place.

At least you could still feel good about saving the environment. Zero emissions, you couldn’t argue with that. Except then doubts started to creep in: What were the emissions of the probably coal-fired power plants producing the electricity you so elegantly fed from the outlet in the garage into the front-end of the car every night?

Speaking about that part of the deal, the part that had to do with charging the goddamn car. If this had been a gasoline-powered car, no one would care. Or at least you wouldn’t care if your kids forgot to charge it and were stranded on their way to school, because nothing works so wondrously in the world of parenting as a natural consequence, which, you had to admit, being stranded on the way to school was one of the best ones you could come up with. Just think of the embarrassment factor on top of the inconvenience.

But the problem was, it wasn’t your kids who were going to be stranded, it was you. Because now that you had the electric car, someone had better frikkin’ use it every time it wasn’t already being used by someone else (you had decided to operate under the assumption that the electricity charging it was indeed cheaper than gas, even though you never figured out a way to measure that.) So when it came time to take your daughter to volleyball practice, and you’d already been halfway to your minivan, which by the way was parked halfway across the neighbor’s yard because you had to yield your former garage spot to the car that needed a power outlet, you suddenly remembered that you should really be using the electric car and so you turned around on your heel and headed for the garage, where you discovered that there was no key in the car. By this time you were silently cursing, but you were determined on this course and so went back inside to where the key should be on the charging station where such things are left by responsible people. Of course there was no key, and so you yelled for your boys, in hopes that one of them would answer and come rushing with the key. Unfortunately, the boys were doing what boys do after school which was playing video games in the basement with their headphones on so that they couldn’t hear a thing, so you had to actually go into the basement and yank the headphones off their head and ignore all their protestations that they were in the middle of a life-or-death game and stare them down to make sure they went that very instant to retrieve the missing key from the pile of clothes littering their room. You knew they wanted to tell you that they’d rather get it later when this particular episode of hunting down Russian villains was over in, oh, another hour and that they would lose their current high score and wouldn’t that be catastrophic, and so you were prepared with the stare of death on your face meaning you’ll never ever cook for them again, and they understood that and produced the missing key. With it in hand you rushed back to the car where you realized that your daughter was nowhere to be seen, because she didn’t get the change of plans and was patiently waiting across the neighbor’s yard where your car was parked. By the time you went and fetched her you were really running late, and didn’t stop to check the display to see how much charge was left, and so it wasn’t until five minutes out that you were made aware, by a ding that was meant to sound soothing but sounded nothing of the sort, that your battery was running low and to please find a charging station immediately. You proceeded to turn off all unessential power suckers, such as the A/C and radio, and spent the rest of the way in sweaty silence, gently rubbing your knee which you had jammed into the steering column earlier when adjusting the seat from your teenagers’ gangly frames to your own shorter legs, except you should have waited with the adjusting until on a flat stretch instead of going down your driveway, where once you released the lever for the seat it went careening forward with you on it at an alarming speed, which made you hit the brake as a reflex, which then had your body slamming all the way forward until you sat perched with your face over the steering wheel mere inches from the windshield like a 100-year old lady in a purple hat. Why the hell an electric car, of all cars, didn’t use electricity to adjust the seat settings like every other car in the year 2013, you had no idea and it was a miracle you didn’t also have to roll down the windows manually. All the way there and back you were a nervous wreck, trying to conclude whether the car would just start slowing down gradually when the charge was exhausted, or whether it would run out of juice suddenly and come to an abrupt stop right there on the road, and so you tried to distract yourself with longing thoughts of your own car, where the air was set to the perfect temperature, where you could be listening to the latest novel you had checked out as an audio book from the library instead of wasting time by not multi-tasking, not even flossing your teeth or plucking your eyebrows because the floss and tweezers were in the glove compartment of your car, not this one.

The life of a middle-aged suburban mother. It really is a tough one.

It did indeed turn out a little differently than my normal writing, but even so I’ll probably use it to produce an outcome anyway. Or I should say I already did. I used it for a blog post.

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