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Having a little car sit (Image: Tina Tiller)
Having a little car sit (Image: Tina Tiller)

SocietyJanuary 14, 2024

Here in my car, I can do what I want

Having a little car sit (Image: Tina Tiller)
Having a little car sit (Image: Tina Tiller)

Summer reissue: There are two kinds of people in the world. People who know what is meant when someone says ‘car sit’ and people who don’t.

First published on August 6, 2023.

There are people who look out of their window and wonder why their significant other has not come through the front door when they have very clearly been home for a full 15 minutes. And then there are people for whom those 15 minutes can feel like the only time they get to themselves and that their car is a tiny sanctuary.

I am a regular practitioner of a meditative and highly rewarding activity I like to call “having a little car sit”. It’s right there on the tin but it involves nothing more than sitting in your car, doing absolutely nothing and going absolutely nowhere. You are technically sitting in your car whenever you’re driving it or travelling in one as a passenger but these are not car sits. The criteria for a car sit requires that the car not be moving and ideally, it should happen in the in-between times, the space between leaving somewhere and arriving elsewhere. 

You can do it anywhere but the home car sit at the end of the work day is the creme de la creme of car sits. You could be sitting on your own inside your house, comfortable on the couch, but instead you are actively choosing to enjoy liminal space and the absolute nothingness of your own carport. 

While the carport car sit is my favourite, I occasionally slip a car sit in before leaving work to head home. I often do it with one leg up on the dash. It’s a genuinely odd shape for your body to have in public. I don’t even think I can describe it as comfortable. Sometimes I put the seat back. At any point, a stranger, or worse still, a colleague could walk past and discover that I’m a massive weirdo who sits in her car on her own, approaching something close to a catatonic state.

As a car sitter, I believe I can spot other car sitters. I can tell the difference between someone just sitting in their car and someone having a little car sit. There’s a glaze that comes over the eyes and sometimes a focus on the middle distance. Some people have a little car sit and a little scroll on their phones. I prefer to look at nothing except the plastic bobblehead angel that is stuck to the dashboard of my car, her little painted-on eyes meeting mine as I revel in deliberately opting to remain stationary for a bit, shunning the pursuit of perpetual motion for 15 blissful minutes.

Occasionally I’ll try to consciously rearrange my face a bit when I’m having a car sit so that if anyone were to walk past they would just assume I’m deep in thought. So deep, in fact, that I obviously cannot drive anywhere until I am finished thinking my incredible thought. Most of the time when I do catch myself mid-mental drift, I’ve just spent a full five minutes observing that the car angel’s eyes look like tiny bugs. 

The thing is, as much as I love a car sit, I also really hate cars and resent having to own one.  Every car I have owned has been a hand-me-down. I take pride in having owned a lot of shit cars. I would happily bike to work or use public transport to go everywhere but due to the fact that Auckland has a housing market, I live on the North Shore and work is two bus rides away. I try pretty hard to take the public transport available to me, but unfortunately, there are some days in my life that cannot accommodate a luxurious two and half hour bus commute.

A bus commute might sound like an ideal replacement for the car sit, but commutes involve going somewhere, to do something, and are frequently accompanied by a sense of anticipation or dread. I love a public transport commute but am usually attempting to optimise that time, preparing for where I am going or tidying up on what’s just been left behind. The car sit is an active suspension of doing any of that. It’s a gap of my own making.

Somehow, sitting in the thing I hate, not going anywhere, provides respite from the reality of having to actually drive it places in order to successfully exist as a functional adult in Auckland. In my head, converting this necessary evil into my own private isolation tank feels subversive. 

Ascribing meaning to the car sit is probably the product of too much car sitting. Car sit in your own carport enough and you run out of things to look at and naturally begin to think about really stupid things like writing about sitting in your car. 

But that’s the thing about the car sit. It’s incredibly low stakes. As I’ve gotten older the time I have to think about things of no consequence seems to have diminished. Most of my waking life is spent thinking about things that are generally consequential and will, at some stage, result in having to do something. During a car sit I get to do nothing. There in my car, I can do what I want.

Keep going!