“How are we going to be able to do this when I give up the car in the spring?”
I look over at my boyfriend, who is sitting behind the wheel. We have just spent the day doing couple-y errands, including a run to Canadian Tire and a leisurely 2pm lunch. Outside, the rain is falling in a steady drizzle. I rub my hands together; I’m trying to imagine how different it would be if we were walking against the wind, which is currently launching a vicious assault on my Mazda.
He shrugs. “There are other ways. We’ll make it work. You’ll make it work.” The certainty in his voice quiets my inner neuroses. It is all going to be okay.
To car, or not to car, that is the question. Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous insurance, or take arms against a sea of rising fuel costs, and by opposing end them: to drive, to park no more. Thus Conscience does make Cowards of us all.
Yes, I just rewrote Hamlet … the Prince of Denmark is, after all, famous for his angst and inner conflict.
This week, my head has played host to a full-on financial/psychological/emotional warzone. Coming to terms with the fact that my car is no longer working in my favour has been physically painful, with some side effects including nausea and nightmares. But it many respects it feels like learning to walk again. On Saturday, I loaned my car to my boyfriend for the day, so that he could go to Costco and I could get a sense of what planning a party was like, sans auto. I walked to the Loblaws Supercentre (8 minutes), and carried home approximately 50lbs worth of groceries: one fully loaded backpack, two overflowing reusable grocery bags, and a plastic bag with a pie. I felt every pound on the walk back. But something else I felt was a new independence; a separation from my reliance on four wheels.
So why does it hurt so much to think about letting it go?
Mostly, because it’s been a symbol of pride and accomplishment for me. It was the one stable thing I had when I was couchsurfing for six weeks, an escape hatch out of the city, and my unofficial moving truck. I am able to visit my family whenever I want. Not only that, but it’s prestigious. Here I am, 24 years old, with a fully paid-off Mazda. I can only think of one other twenty-something friend in the city with a car to her name.
Hence the psychological battle. Logistically, it makes an infinite amount of sense for me to go car free. Not only will I save a ton of money, but based on my job and lifestyle, it is not necessary. If anything, the mobility encourages consumerism, enabling me to easily drive to stores to pick up items that I would have considered twice had I needed to plan the trip via TTC.
But I love that little car. I’ll cry the day I let it go, even knowing it’s the right thing to do. It’ll be a two tonne weight off of my shoulders, but I’ll miss the burden.
The Coworker’s Reaction
“There’s nothing good on television right now. It is so annoying.” My coworker/semi-boss is sitting at a computer screen, printing off MLS listings.
“Mm,” I say.
“Oh yeah, I forgot that you don’t have cable!” He snaps his gum. “God, I don’t know how you do it. I need cable to decompress when I get home. What do you even do when you go home?”
“Mostly write,” I say, smiling. “Or train at the gym. Or read, play piano, clean, attend my half marathon group, visit friends, surf the web…” I trail off, deciding to test the waters. “Actually,” I venture, “I think you’re going to think I’m even more crazy than you already do. I’m considering selling my car.”
I think I broke him.
Alright, I’m messing with him a little. He’s a great guy, but let me help you visualize him. His sunglasses are Prada. His wool coat is Hugo Boss, or “Hugo” as he calls it (apparently they’re on first name terms). He drives a BMW, and shows up at the office every morning with a Venti Latté. He oozes luxury real estate, which is good, because that is his business. We get along very well, but sometimes his presence results in me issuing anti-materialistic proclamations, to help neutralize the atmosphere.
“Dude…” he stammers. “What?”
I detail everything, but he’s not listening. His eyes are still bugging out of his head. I’m kind of enjoying the shock factor.
“Do you want my honest opinion?” He says, shaking his head. “I think you have to have a car to work here. Even though the errands might be rare, they’re important. What, do you think you’re just going to bike along the Bridle Path to get the boss his feature sheets?”
Um, yeah, that was the plan. But I’m not enjoying it anymore. I’m starting to panic a little. What if I am handcuffed to my car as long as I work for my boss?
“Besides,” he continues, “don’t you want a car?”
I look him straight in the eye. “No.”
Clean up, aisle three. Someone bring some Clorox wipes to help scrape his brains off the walls.
The Boss’s Son
“Can I ask you a question?”
It’s Friday afternoon. I’m at my desk, and my boss’s son, who is slowly taking over the family business, is sitting at the desk adjacent to mine. He is bent over one of the four offers he’s been involved with this week, with that squishy expression he gets whenever he’s feeling overwhelmed. I decide to forge ahead and ask the question to get it off my chest.
“Sure,” he says, his eyes still glued to the offers. “What’s up?”
I hedge, not knowing how to begin. “Well,” I start, “I wanted to talk to your dad about it, but since he’s away, I figured I’d run it by you first.”
I have his full attention now. “What is it?”
I sigh, and proceed to explain my desire to sell my car in the spring. I discuss my proximity to the office, my preference to cycle, my dislike of driving on city roads, my anxiety about the onslaught of expenses. I specifically state that I’m not making a backwards attempt at a raise, that in fact I am quite happy with my salary; but I’m alarmed at how much has to be diverted into car related expenses, nearly one out of every four paycheques. I confess that I want to purchase a property in the next 3-4 years, and that the money I save could be used as a juicy down payment. Finally, I admit that I just don’t want a car as long as I live in Toronto, it has been taking a toll on my emotions.
He’s quiet. I sit patiently. His expression shifts.
“Cars are expensive. I completely understand. Let me talk to my dad. But please don’t worry about it, we will figure it out. You don’t have to be saddled with living beyond your means just because we want you to run errands.”
The pit of fear in my stomach dissolves. “Thank you,” I gush, and I mean it. The option is now there. I don’t have to have a car if I don’t want to. The ball is in my court.
I’d also like to point out that when I sell my car, it is not a “defeat.” I am not inadequate for willingly giving up a vehicle that I fought hard to keep. My circumstances have changed, and I am making an intelligent decision. My car is now a liability – it costs approximately $6,000/year to run. That money could be invested in assets, which will get me closer to achieving my financial goals than if I were a car owner.
There’s also this great site that measures how many planets it would take if everyone lived your lifestyle. I would need 3.54 earths, and I”m pretty good. Another sobering reminder of why we should all reconsider our habits.
I’m ready to make the change.