I love my car. Well, actually, it’s not mine and I hardly ever drive it, but I do love it.
Let me explain. I share the car with the other member of my household, who is still working full time and has a less flexible schedule than I do in retirement. It makes sense for me to work around his schedule rather than the other way around.
Remember the law of supply and demand? As the availability of something gets smaller, the demand (value) increases. Maybe that explains why I love my car. It’s a scarce commodity, and living in a community where 30 percent of the population does not own a car, I feel privileged to have the driving option.
Similarly, the law of diminishing returns predicts that the more we drive, the less we will enjoy it. I never reach that point.
I have other ways of getting around. I am fortunate to live in a neighborhood where I can walk to food stores, drug stores, liquor stores, clothing and shoe stores, hair salons and a variety of restaurants and coffee shops.
I walk to these places and along the way I greet neighbors, friends and acquaintances; something I would not be able to do while driving.
When walking would take too long or would be too tiring, I ride a bike to places that are within a reasonable distance. For me, the limit is a 30- to 40-minute ride – a few miles. I ride to a tai chi class in North Buffalo. I ride downtown for a variety of things: the public library, post office, meetings, lunch or coffee dates, a farmers’ market and my favorite dollar store. I feel my muscles, joints and lungs working. I feel healthy and happy.
When it is too cold, wet or dark for walking and biking, I use public transportation. The bus and train get me almost everywhere in Buffalo that I need to go. It’s economical; the senior fare is reasonable and I don’t have to fill my gas tank. It’s also easier, since I don’t have to stress about finding a parking spot once I get there.
The best thing about it is the way that transit opens up other worlds for me. I observe family interactions, always fascinating. I hear conversations about sports, politics and personal lives. I have heard phone conversations, sometimes intended to be more private, with doctor’s offices and probation officers.
The car is my last resort and it is very useful when all else fails. At night and on the weekend, when transit is less frequent, or when I will need to bring home something heavy, I drive. As much as I support buying locally, I can save money by shopping at large chain stores outside of my neighborhood. This includes going to a supermarket for a larger amount of groceries or to a suburban mall for a larger selection and lower prices on clothes. I also drive to evening concerts, classes and meetings.
So why do I love my car, if it’s my choice of last resort? Maybe it’s like rooting for the underdog in a sports event or adopting the runt of the litter – the car is my least preferred alternative, so I give it compensatory love and attention. Or maybe I’m trying to avoid cognitive dissonance; since I use it, I must love it.
Whatever the reason, I truly love my car. It’s a luxury, not a necessity.