Car in context. Card reader on R/H corner of windscreen.

Car in context. Card reader on R/H corner of windscreen.

It was 2:57pm on Friday afternoon and I was standing in the cold next to a big red ‘Stadtmobil’ car. We have to drive occasionally, so we’re part of a car share in Stuttgart, and have any one of a couple of hundred vehicles in Stuttgart and region. The vehicles are strategically spread in car-parks around the city (and it says a lot about the crime rate when cars can be left in the open overnight with no security camera in sight) and we can book them online. I’d booked this one -hopefully- from 3pm and I was waiting for this time to come so the on board computer would let me in. At 2:58 I got fed up, and waved my members card over the sensor on the windscreen. It was the right car: the doors opened.

Onboard computer with key.

Onboard computer with key.

Once in, I entered my pin number on the tiny onboard computer, and it allowed me to take the key out so I could start the engine, raise the seat high enough to see over the wheel and start maneuvering out of a very small parking space and drive to our apartment.

An organisation I work with had organised a weekend away for many of their young (14+) people and in their wisdom had organised it on top of a hill in the middle of nowhere with minimal public transport, so people have no choice of ways to get there: it’s car or nothing. This sends the subtle but important message to tomorrows youth that you aren’t truly mobile unless you have a car and can drive. I’m working on the venue for next year…

Anyway, we made it home without becoming a statistic, parked after an interesting 9-point turn sufficiently complex to attract a small audience, and collected the family. The boys were excited, but clearly not at all used to travelling by car in a way that never occurred to me. For them transportation means bike, is bus, tram or train: they are used to big gangways, doors wide enough for a stroller, and big windows. They are not used shuffling about to get to their seat, folding their legs up, and then being strapped down like they are on a Disneyland ride.

We didn’t take the Autobahn as I had no desire to play chicken with speeding taxi drivers, (I’ve never understood why people will happily drive at over 200km/h on an Autobahn and then say cycling is ‘dangerous’) and instead followed the Landesstrasse, guiltily driving through villages, past once prosperous shops now killed off by the traffic, until we reached Geislingen an der Steige (Lit: Geislingen on the Hill) turned off the main road and reached the reason we were driving, the long, steep, winding hill up to the retreat centre.

I can deal with narrow roads and hills: they stay put. All I had to worry about was corners, rockfalls and dropoffs, which beats speeding cars any day. We arrived safely at the top, stiff, in need of a loo (Another disadvantage) and thankful we only have to do this once or twice a year, but resigned to the fact that this was the only possible way to get there.

Then, just as we parked, a bus pulled up alongside us.

Advertisements