The pleasure of a "car break": sitting alone in your car on some street or lot, enjoying private time
"Car breaks": Sorry I couldn't t come up with a better term to describe one of the favorite ways my co-workers and I like to spend our lunch hours. Basically, as we are all starting to admit to one another, we like to take our home-prepared lunch, or one we take-out from a restaurant or deli. Then we drive to a spot somewhere in Walnut Creek--a street, a parking lot--and sit alone in our cars, eat, listen to the radio, or read.
It's not as sad and pathetic as it sounds. Maybe you, too, like to take car breaks
True confession about a recent car break: Just yesterday, I was having the hardest time keeping my eyes open as I sat at my computer and tried to work. Not enough sleep the night before, or the room was unusually warm. Finally, I said, “I’m getting out of here.” I took some work with me—as well as the new Vanity Fair. I drove about a half mile from my office, and pulled into the very large and mostly empty lot of a downtown Walnut Creek Episcopal church. I found a remote location, far from the street, near a fence and in the shade of trees. I rolled down my window a little to let in some fresh air. And, there I sat and read my work. Pretty soon, though, I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I tipped my head back against the neck rest and fell into a quick cat nap.
I did notice, before dozing off, that another gentleman was sitting in a white car about 10 spaces away. He was reading some papers. He seemed to have the same "car break" idea. But he didn't stay long after I arrived. Perhaps he felt embarassed to be seen by someone else sitting alone in his car.
I remember at a former job, a pregnant co-worker, who was having a really tough time with first-trimester morning sickness, would retreat to her car in the office parking lot several times during the day. She'd roll down her window, let in the air and hope the nausea would pass. Sometimes, she, too would fall asleep.
Locally, I’ve taken car breaks in the parking lots of Civic Park and Walden Park. I’ve parked in neighborhoods, but neighborhood car breaks can be tricky. If you choose a location with any kind of neighborhood watch program, someone at home that day might see you just sitting there in your car, think it’s suspicious and call the police.
I imagine it’s probably harder for men to take car breaks. People seeing a man sitting alone in a car might assume he’s up to no good. He’s casing out a house for a burglary or waiting for a secret rendezvous with his drug dealer or someone not his girlfriend or wife. Maybe that's why the man in the white car, when I spotted him, left rather quickly. He worried that I would think he's up to no good.
Some of my best car break experiences took place when I was in graduate school at Mills College. I’d have several hours between classes, so I’d drive up into some neighborhood in Piedmont or the Oakland hills, and park my car along a gleafy street, lined with big old trees and graceful old houses. I'd sit alone in the driver's seat and read a literature text for class or write in my notebook—ideas for a paper I needed to finish or for the great novel I still need to finish. Car breaks in the Oakland hills were especially lovely in the fall when the leaves on those big old trees were turning. Car breaks when it was raining outside could also be especially wonderful.
I know some of you would ask, "Why, if given a chance to get out the cubicle land of my office, would I want to sequester myself in the confines of my car? If it's a lovely, sunny day, why don’t I get out to one of Walnut Creek's lovely parks and get some fresh air? Why don't I sit on the grass, in the shade of a tree?"
Some explanation for my love of car breaks might lie in the whole cultural history of Americans' love affair with their cars. There might be some expanation in my inherently anti-social nature.
All I can say is that my car—10 years old and kind of beat up—provides me with something of what Virginia Woolf described in her essay about how we all, women especially, need a "room of one’s own.”
My car--my mobile office, my mobile retreat--offers me privacy—to read , listen to the music I want to listen to, to generally be alone with my own thoughts. These days, I can't enjoy that kind of privacy at work, or in the office lunch room. I can't enjoy that at a restaurant, or in a public park. I can't even enjoy it at home very often, small as it is and crowded with the activities of my family. I don't have a "room of one's own" at home. So, I guess have to settle for a "car of one's own."
Do you car break? Why do you do it? And, where do you do it? My co-workers and I are looking for new spots for their lunch time getaways.