Thursday, July 5, 2007

Is this really such a big deal?

So I'm thinking of buying a car.

I am, I confess, rather alarmed at this prospect.

Not only because I haven't driven in five years, or because I don't know how to buy a car (never having done it before)--these are scary factors, yes, but a) I'm going to have to drive to my new town anyway, and b) Boyfriend has promised to go with me to do all the car-checking-out stuff. (He's not particularly mechanically inclined, but he did buy a used car once, and he's also a generally calming person.) I'm also alarmed because not having a car has been sort of my thing for the better part of the last decade, and I kind of identify as a carless person. I didn't set out to develop a sense of self that had anything to do with car ownership, but as time went on I was increasingly glad that I didn't have the hassle of a car, of paying for insurance and gas, or of trying to park in extremely parking-unfriendly (but almost car-requiring) GradCity. And I really liked the fact that I was leaving a smaller environmental "footprint," as they're calling it these days. I don't contribute to traffic and I'm being slightly less detrimental to air quality and suchlike.

So why buy a car? Well, I will be living in the middle of a field, and while I'm only going to be about 2 blocks from my office and pretty close to a grocery store (I assume), it might be nice to get out of town now and again. For example, I'm not sure that there's a yoga studio in my town; I will in fact be surprised if there is one, particularly a good one. I'll also need to drive to the airport, and maybe to Big City to the North now and again.

And also a friend of mine is selling his car, which makes me feel less mistrustful.

I'm nervous, though. Is this a terrible decision? Or will it mark my entry into some kind of Land of the Grown-Ups? (Never mind that I did have a car--well, a family car--from the age of 20 until about 23. That was just a trial run; this will be adulthood for real.) (And really, at what age will I stop thinking of myself as somehow not quite an adult? My mother has frequently remarked that she still feels about the same as she felt at fourteen or sixteen or something. Perhaps I'm pursuing an illusory state of being. Of course, since I'm only jokingly pursuing it, I don't think that it matters; I'm as grown-up as I need to be, and really quite responsible. I swear!)

And mixed with the fear is a little bit of excitement.... Won't it be kind of nice to buy the groceries I actually want, instead of thinking about how much they weigh? The latter system--which I've used for so long now that it's second nature--results in pretty healthy purchasing; I can't buy ice cream if I'm going to buy pasta sauce and yogurt, and the latter are more practical, so the ice cream gets the axe. Vegetables are light and easy to transport. Etc. Not having a car also means not going to the mall (the only clothes-shopping venue in GradCity, more or less) and therefore spending less money on my wardrobe and other frivolous things. There are a million benefits to not having a car.

But of course, I've been living in an actual city, even if it is a rather modest one. FieldTown has a population of about 5,000 (and it really is in the middle of a field--it's very pretty, but isolated). While I'm sure that I could manage without a car--and a part of my hesitation in buying one is this kind of Spartan sensibility that I only adhere to at certain times but that causes me a great deal of anxiety and guilt at others--it might just be okay for me to have one.

Do other people go through this much anxiety and nonsense? About anything??


Hilaire said...

I am also a committed non-car-owner. But then, I live in a big city, and even when I've lived in small cities for a while, there has at least been transit. I know I would be thinking exactly the way you're thinking, in your situation. In fact, I'll bet I'd have already decided to get a car.

That said, I guess I'd ask myself whether renting a car sometimes would be more economical than actually owning one. This is more of a thing where I live - car insurance is many times more expensive in Canada than it is in the US, making it very expensive to keep a car. But if you're committed to the not-owning identity, then maybe renting once every 3-4 weeks would be good. I don't know?

Sisyphus said...

Yes, about everything. And about being environmental and car-owning.

I admit I have a car --- at my first MA program the (crappy) public transit was really unsafe to be on alone. But I do look forward to miraculously getting a job somewhere I could get rid of the car and be all environmental and such.

Is there a rental car place close to your area? Price out how much it would cost to rent a car occasionally and then frequently, and then compare that to the total car-owning costs (don't forget insurance and unforeseen repair jobs).

If it's cheaper to have a car, go ahead and get one. You know you can always sell it again if you move to some Magic Public Transportation Land.

Oh, and I still don't feel grown up. I'm not sure I want to. I feel smarter and older than my students, but not all boring and responsible. I have entered ... dunh dunh dunh ... the InBetween Zone!