Buying Time

We are in the middle of car shopping right now. My wife and I find this to be a rather stressful event. We simultaneously experience a bit of hope and despair; imagining that we will find just the right car to meet our needs and even our wants, but then realizing that such a car is out of our price range. And then there is that human desire – I think – to set the self apart from the rest. Most of us want to make some mark in the world that says you end there and I begin here. We do this variously: with fashion, lifestyles, taste in art, etc. For better or worse this bit in life plagues and prods us, albeit in different modes. Some people are utterly utilitarian when it comes to cars and use other means to say who they are. While my wife and I do not define ourselves by our automobiles, we also surmise that our car says something of whom we are. That being said, I generally strive to spend as little time as possible in my car. To get to work I either bum a ride with my wife in the morning, and make my way home by walking or taking the bus, or cycling both ways (this new for me). Still, a new car …

I remember remarking when we bought our last car that we had the choice of a smaller or bigger bubble, a van, or a matchbox-like car. Things have changed a bit since then with, for example, crossovers slowly crossing out vans. The options, oddly, are both multiple and severely limited. There are more players in the game than in years past, yet they are all beholden to aerodynamic designs that push their products in the same direction. It seems that, aesthetically, differentiating automobiles is restricted to small details that sometimes seem trivial, or moot. Of course, this “problem” of finding a car that says “me!” is one that most people in the world cannot afford. Yet it makes me think of how this wish, like so many in our world, is manufactured. Plenty of air, byte and video time is invested by marketers desiring to shape my desire. Subtle and not so subtle messages aim to make me take my vehicle very seriously. This effort is not unique to the car world. We see this story played out with cell phones, with hand bags, with anything you can imagine.

I wish I could say that my transformation by the renewing of my mind – rather than conformation to the world – means absolute freedom from market forces. Alas, it seems that we are bound to commercialization, and this is not about to end. Yet this need not mean resignation. In buying cars, and so much more, we can try to buy ethically. We can endeavor to see our desires shaped by love of the planet (looking for a car both economically and ecologically sound), and attention to community (using a car in a way that serves the common good), and ethical trade (honest dealing in selling our vehicle). If what we most love, if what we most value is something divine, we will divine the need to bring choice to that throne where cherubim and seraphim remind us that this car – like all things we “own” – is not ours. It is ours to use for a time. The kind of care we take in buying, owning and selling a car might alert even others to this incontrovertible fact: how we see our “stuff” says more about us than we might first imagine.

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5 thoughts on “Buying Time

  1. shoreacres says:

    I been blessed with an attitude toward cars that’s neither strictly utilitarian nor much influenced by “fashion.” A Toyota sedan in a color I like, with a convenient drink holder, powerful AC, and a good sound system is all I require. Since that sort of car is usually fairly mileage-friendly, there’s not much more to think about. I have moved from 4 on the floor to automatic, but that’s my only real shift. (Oh — pun not intended!) Of course, Toyota’s last so long I’ve not had many, and would have had fewer if two of them hadn’t been murdered. But my last one had about 385,000 when I sold it, so I got my money’s worth.

    I wish you all the best. It can be a frustrating experience, especially dealing with those salespeople, but I’m sure you’ll be pleased with whatever comes into your life.

    • agjorgenson says:

      Nice pun, even if unintended! 385 K! That is very impressive. We had an assistant to the Bishop in Alberta who put on 450 K on his Nissan in the 90s and he was the poster-boy at the dealership. As for the salespeople, I have been pleasantly surprised. They all comment that the internet has completely changed the car deal. People pretty much know what cars are worth from coast to coast, and so there is not nearly as much high-pricing. So far, as well, they have not been pressuring us, which is also pleasant. I guess they have figured out that the cars sell themselves, or not.

  2. Wise closing reflection and perspective. And whatever we lose is not ours to lose.

    So you have your car now?

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