Car trouble: How symbol of freedom became a ball and chain

Christian Science Monitor
Eoin O'Carroll

For Jennifer Ramsey and her fellow residents of Tucker County in West Virginia, a car isn’t a status symbol, but a life-support system.

“Around here,” she says, “no car means no job. No food.”

Ms. Ramsey says that with no public transit in the county, if you don’t have a functioning car, “you have to get really creative and you have to be really humble.”

“It’s common to see people going to the grocery store on their riding mower or motorized scooters,” she says. “It’s a completely practical solution to getting around where you can’t own a vehicle due to finances or disability.”

Ms. Ramsey, a single mother, understands full well the perils of being stuck without a car in a place that depends on them. Her silver 2012 Mazda 5 has recently emerged from two years of legal limbo following her divorce. In the meantime, she lost her carpenters’ union job working on cooling towers, unable to make the 90-minute commute. “It’s actually put on most job applications around here,” she says. “‘Do you own a reliable vehicle?’”