I’ve been bitten by the bug. Call me car-crazy, an automobile aficionado, or just ready for a new ride, but I’m tired of my tires and I’ve got the urge to upgrade.
It’s car season, apparently.
Really, I don’t know what brought this on. (Neither does my wife, but she wishes it would go away.) And in the grand scheme of things, it’s not very logical. After all, I drive a 7-year-old paid-off and practical car – one that borders on 40 mpg on long trips, saving me from gas prices and Al Gore – that can best be described as “sufficiently average.” Honest.
Did you know there are new cars that don’t require keys? You don’t even need to take the key fob out of your pocket (or purse) to open the car, start it, or drive it. It’s like Dukes of Hazzard without the ridiculous jumps or bad acting. And the doors generally work.
Oh, the appeal of a new car. “I could always use extra horsepower or an iPod jack,” I tell myself. The fall months bring new model-year cars and tons of good deals on this year’s “old” models. The advertising blitz goes off like clockwork every year. There’s even a guy knocking on the glass from inside of my TV telling me to buy now.
Marketing or not, I’m into it. I’ve admitted before that I enjoy cars, but lately it’s gone into overdrive. I’m doing research, scheduling test drives, and disappointing hopeful salesmen at least once a week. My rationale: I need to know about the new cars so, when I really need one, I’ll know exactly which to drive.
My wife doesn’t buy it either.
So, I’ve gone to my friends for moral support. And generally speaking, they fall into one of three camps.
Camp 1: Stay Practical
This group of people are very level-headed and never see extra charges on their bank statements. Their thinking: get a car that will support a future family and function as a friend-hauler now. Reliability, gas mileage, comfort, and value – for the long haul. Frugal and functional, but only if you need something else.
Camp 2: You’re Still Young
This group of people believe that a car should make you smile every time you drive it. Some in this camp want to live vicariously through you when you buy a new car. Their thinking: get a car that you will enjoy every day because you’re young, without kids, and employed. You can easily sell a car in nine months, they say, and there will be plenty of time for sedans and vans later. Fun, extra options, and a sense of spontaneity – for as long as you possibly can.
Camp 3: Go For Status
This group says the car should tell other people about you, like a watch or your best pair of shoes. Their thinking: get a car that makes a good impression, sets you apart, and leaves no room for thoughts of immaturity. Pay for the class and forget the options, and life will work out for the better.
Chances are, you sit in one of these camps and easily rant about another. I know I do. My wife, who doesn’t camp, is pretty sure that I don’t need a newer car right now, and she’s probably right. We had a good conversation the other day:
“I think you should fast cars,” she said.
“I like fast cars,” I quipped.
“No, I think you should fast from cars. Take a break from them. Think about what kind of decision this is for a little while.“
“Oh.” I knew she was right.
Fast cars. I sure like them, but I need the verb form more than the noun. I need to stop being consumed by what I consume and remember the bigger picture. Just owning a car makes me one of the wealthiest people on the planet – a humbling thought when lots of folks just need water.
Ironically, Fast Cars is also a rare song by U2 – it was included on certain versions of the How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb record. The song depicts our frantic speed of life, our isolation, and our craving for information. These ideas resonate with me like an upgraded exhaust system, and I think I’m going to take a hiatus from car research to think about them, among other things.
How long? 30 days or 1,000 miles, which ever comes first.