Most students at Yale have come to delude themselves into thinking that braving the Elm City by foot or on Schwinn is a perfectly acceptable, sufficient form of transportation. But as rare as such an occurrence may be, when a fellow Yalie rolls by in any form of automotive glory — even a dilapidated Dodge Neon would do — one can’t help but feel a wee bit jealous.
Because deep down in every Yalie, a primitive, go-Grease-Lightning desire to slip behind the wheel of a car and roar beyond the New Haven city limits stirs uneasily. But while the car-less majority tend to envision life with a car as much more glamorous than their pedestrian lifestyle, people with cars on-campus reveal that there are two sides to the same coin.
First and foremost, the process of bringing a car to campus can be quite trying, especially considering that the cars Yalies bring to campus are generally long-time companions they have driven for years.
“I’ve been riding Bessie on and off for the past three years,” Brock Forsblom ’07 said, referring to his ’97 Buick LeSabre. “It’s been great. My grandfather used to ride Bessie, but then he moved to a retirement home, so then I got to ride Bessie.”
Forsblom said he drove Bessie all the way from Ohio before the start of spring semester last year. Faced with a gruelingly long commute, he kept himself sane with books on tape.
“Pennsylvania is long,” he said.
Though students without cars may fantasize about wild weekend road trips, most Yale car owners actually had surprisingly mundane reasons for bringing their cars to school, such as running everyday errands and even going to class.
“When I’m extremely lazy, I’ll drive to class up on Science Hill,” Annemarie Baltay ’05, who lives in Saybrook College, said. “I tried to drive to class at WLH, which is really dumb because it’s so close, but it’s just really hard to find parking.”
Many said their main incentive for bringing a car to campus was that it makes dealing with club activities much easier.
“At first, because I was on the polo team, I thought I needed it. I thought it would be more convenient if I drove myself to the barn,” TJ Lim ’05 said. “But then when I got the car, I decided to quit the polo team.”
Some, who are more dedicated to their extracurricular activities, use their cars exclusively for work and not at all for play.
“I don’t really drive my car ever except in conjunction with the Spizzwinks(?),” Forsblom said. “Honestly, I’ve used my car for recreational activities once — I went to see ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.'”
But car owners do admit that being able to drive has changed their perspective on living in New Haven.
Baltay said driving has made her realize how dim-witted Yalies can be.
“It’s interesting because Yale students are totally ignorant when crossing the street,” she said. “You hear that buzz, and I watch people walk into moving traffic. You notice that when you’re driving your car, you’re like ‘Jeez, these kids are idiots.’ But then I do the same thing when I’m walking.”
Driving also enables car owners to branch out into surrounding parts of Connecticut more easily.
“Well, I don’t hate living in Connecticut anymore,” said Anne Pinedo ’05, who brought her Hyundai Elantra to Yale just this year. “New Haven last year seemed to be extremely limiting. I couldn’t go anywhere.”
Forsblom agreed and said now that he has a car, he is no longer confined to the “limited resources” that New Haven has to offer.
“Instead of having to go to Nu Haven Video, I can go to the Penthouse Boutique off of Interstate 95,” Forsblom said. “It’s the Saks Fifth Avenue of adult superstores.”
Lim agreed that driving expands social — and other — possibilities.
“Driving has given me options when it comes to partying elsewhere,” Lim said. “I can just take off when I want and go home when I want, and I don’t have to be hassled by the train schedule.”
Car owners are not the only ones who profit from being able to drive — their friends reap the benefits as well.
“Brock’s car is the only reason I’m friends with him,” Robin Swartout ’07 said of Forsblom. “I get the best of both worlds — I don’t have to pay for the car but I get to use it.”
Forsblom admitted that he does sometimes feel abused.
“People always want to borrow my car, and I’m a nice guy so I end up saying yes even though I don’t really want them to,” he said. “Yes, I feel exploited.”
Owning a car at Yale is not necessarily a bed of roses, Yalies say. Several students had a few horror stories to share about both sides of the law.
Rob Inglis ’07 said several cars parked on Edgewood Avenue behind Pierson, including his own, were broken into last weekend. The thieves smashed the triangular window in the rear of his car, apparently looking to steal the stereo.
Inglis said he found the robbery annoying because his car did not contain anything of value — only a cheap plastic tape deck that did not work, and which the thieves did not deign to take.
“They didn’t take anything out of my glove compartment — they opened it up and leafed through it but all I had in it was an owner’s manual, registration and a book of Carl Sandburg poems,” Inglis said. “And I was sort of offended that they didn’t take the Carl Sandburg poems.”
Amy Wojnarwsky ’07, who had her car in New Haven while she worked at Yale over the summer, said she also felt victimized as a car owner, but not by any sort of criminals.
“Cops suck,” she said. “Within the last twenty four hours that I had my car, I got three tickets and nearly got my car towed twice.”
She said cops looked the other way when cars ran red lights and made illegal left turns in the middle the summer, but as the school year neared, they began issuing tickets on a more regular basis.
Indeed, Wojnarwsky ended up having her parents come to New Haven to retrieve her car at the end of the summer. She said while having a car in New Haven was fun, she does not necessarily miss it because there are more interesting ways to travel.
“I really like taking the bus,” she said. “It’s so interesting with all the people you get to see and meet — that used to be my thing for entertainment.”
Although Yalies find having cars to be convenient, car owners agreed that bringing a car to campus is not a decision to rush into.
“I wouldn’t go so far as to say that everyone needs a car in New Haven,” Lim said. “Some people don’t like to go out.”