Ecocentricity Blog: Come on Down!

Mar 13, 2018 9:30 AM ET
Summary: 

I want to ask the exact same question of all of us, whether a gameshow contestant or just a normal person – why do so many people want a car?

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For anyone reading out there, and I’m serious about this, I want to know if you have the same childhood memory. I mean, I can’t be the only one. So please, sound off in the comments if this rings a bell or two.

Remember sick days during middle school? Legit sick days that is, not the Ferris Bueller variety. Those days when your parents told you to stay in bed and that it was okay to watch as much television as you wanted. You’d crawl back under the covers, get another couple hours of sleep, and then wake up with a cough and a strong desire to do nothing but veg.

Then click - television goes on and you start browsing. Click…..soap opera…..click…..endless repeat of infomercials…..click…..more soap operas…..click…..The Price is Right.

Jackpot.

It’s the only time I ever watched the show. Bob Barker and his skinny microphone graced the television on weekday mornings exclusively, and my summers were way too busy to involve any TPIR. Those sick days were gloriously filled with minigames and $1 bids. So am I right? Anyone else have that memory?

I’m pretty sure that every show had the same moment. The rules of the minigame are described to the contestant (which I’m sure they already know by heart), and then it’s time for the big reveal – what prize they could win. They hold their breath, cross their fingers, and hope they are the contestant that hears, “A NEW CAR!”

I find that moment odd. Why do so many people want a car? You have zero input on what make, model and color it will be. You have to pay taxes on the fair market value of it, and the show doesn’t give you any money to allay those taxes. You might not even need a car, so then you have to go to the effort of selling it just to get something valuable. I’d prefer the straight cash, homey.

All of that was my elaborate intro to ask the exact same question of all of us, whether a gameshow contestant or just a normal person – why do so many people want a car?

Don’t get me wrong, I can make the case for it (plus, my wife and I are owners of a car, so apologies for being somewhat hypocritical). Owning a car grants freedom. An automobile lets a person go where they want, whenever they want. For many people, driving is pleasurable. Cars can also be a meaningful status symbol (that one doesn’t matter to me at all, but I get that it does for some).

Now here is the laundry list of reasons not to own a car – car taxes, car insurance, fuel costs, maintenance costs, the time it takes to get your car serviced, the hassle of dealing with parking, the space it takes up in your garage, how hot or cold your car can get if you don’t have a garage, speeding tickets, the movies/books/work you can’t watch/read/do while your hands are on the wheel, and the fear that Ferris Bueller will steal your car for a gleeful day of joyriding.

When it comes down to it, most of us really just want that freedom of mobility that cars provide. And in this modern world, we can get that freedom through alternative means, from public transit to biking to ridesharing. In other words, many of us don’t care about the car itself, but rather the service that it provides. That’s an idea I plan to explore in greater depth next week. Cheers!

Valerie Bennett
Ray C. Anderson Foundation
+1 (770) 317-5858