The more I read, research, and write about cars, the more I desperately want to buy one. I want to splurge and participate in the thrill of personal purchase so I don't feel I'm missing out on the decadent joys of capitalism. I want to throw away my money, be flippant with my buying choices, randomly return unwanted items I bought out of inertia, and complain that I have nothing to wear. I want a convertible and a coupe and a roadster and a four-door sedan and an extended cab truck and a hybrid with Active Fuel Management and Rainsense wipers and automatic temperature controls that runs on an ECOTEC engine that, as a colleague recently quipped, "converts gasoline into world peace" (see dealer for details). But truth is, I don't need another car. I can't even afford a car right now. But I want a car, and I want it now.
I remember when I was in high school and I was a socialist that I pretended--hypocritically--to loathe all things material. I wanted social justice and was planning to unite with the workers of the world. I wanted peace, love, and rock and roll, and visualized spending the rest of my days surfing away an endless summer--I'm embarrassed by it now, as I didn't even know how to surf then and I still don't know how. But I was adamant about my so-called values and morals, disdaining all who pursued material pleasures and vying instead for the simple things in life.
As soon as my college years hit and I began to make a life for myself in the Northeastern Unites States, I nuked away my "values" faster than a Coca Cola fizzles out and turns flat. No more peace, love, or social justice. Ppfff. Forget that! My life became a wasteland of excess, posturing and one-upping, always ready to serve up some 'tude to anyone not up to par. I was completely enveloped by my surroundings and found myself slowly turning plastic. I distinctly remember a conversation I had with friend of mine from NYU that resonates to this day as a cautionary tale. We were in Battery Park, overlooking the sultry waters of New York Bay on a crisp, cold night, when she said, as we both admired her soft new leather jacket: "You know, back home I used to not care about clothes that much. Now I can't help but want the latest fashions." I nodded empathically and played it up with a distinct "totally." A wardrobe malfunction for us was not having just the right thing to wear. Who had we become? We were prisoners of our environment and didn't even know it--or if we did, we didn't care.
And today, I really really want a shiny new car. But now I know that even though I may want it, that doesn't mean I'm going to get it, and even if I could buy it, I probably wouldn't indulge simply because I can. Now I know a little better, and in between the empty insta-gratification of no-holds-barred capitalism and the sounds-nice, sharing-means-caring, unreal hippie ideal, there's a spot where I have begun to feel right at home.