Saturday, July 19, 2014

Choices choices

A camping trip with the family.
What is “practical” in considering a car?  I've been thinking about this a lot in the past months (well, okay I am always thinking about it).

I grew up the youngest in a family of six. We had wagons, a van, and I got my driver’s permit using a Chevy Chevette.  My father, I believe, was a practical car selector.  What was needed to do the job, economically.  Most often the job seemed to be defined as getting from point A to point B, without spending too much money on the cost.  Yet, I saw the “Job” defined differently over the years.  The auto industry has also defined the “Job” differently over time.

Purchase price is one practical consideration.  Others include elements we think of today as total cost of ownership (resale value/depreciation, insurance, fuel and maintenance expenses).  Related to maintenance are repair costs and over all reliability.  

My first car, a Honda Civic CRX, was not so obviously practical.  I could have spent less for basic transportation.  I was, after all, a poor college student.  But I defined the job differently from my father.  While I recognized the value of getting from point A to point B, I wanted to smile when I came up to my car.  I wanted to smile when I drove it, and yes, I wanted to smile at the gas pump.  “Practical” for me included “creativity and art” and on balance of cost was part of the value.  Its hard to get tickets in a Chevy Chevette (except I grew up in the era of 55 mph limits).  Sigh.  I digress.  

“Practical” does suggest affordability.  I could have paid cash for the first car, but it was practical to establish credit.  So I took a one year loan and paid it off in less than six months.  I worked in University and was able to pay for all my own expenses.  I chose the car because it made me smile and I could afford it.  I later learned just how traditionally reliable Hondas are and saved tons of money and had a car NOT in the repair shop.  Very practical, indeed.  (NOTE: Past success is not a guarantee of future performance.)  I also learned that enjoying the inside of the car is more vital than the outside (especially if you love to drive).

I was working for my dad when I got that first Honda.  We commuted in it daily and he would do errands at lunch.  The errands got longer after I had the car and I (ahem) discovered lots of extra miles during the day.  He was out enjoying the car.  Enjoyment is practical.  Its just we all define it through personal experience.
My father and that first Honda of mine.
Buying a car is public, how we choose the car tends to be more private.  Who we are, everything about our “self” influences our choice.  We can question, and I have, why on earth a person would by a certain car (like, as an example, a Chevette).  But that is actually a negative judgement and not so helpful.  Rather, learning the thought process of a person is important to understand the selection they have made.  
California Coast and my 2nd Honda.
Some time after I got my first car I got a call from my mother.  “Your father and I are looking to get a new car, what suggestions to you have for us?”  I asked lots of questions, from budget to how the saw themselves using it over several years.  I gave my first suggestion and asked for a couple of days before getting more suggestions.  When I called back they had purchased the first one.  Not only that but they replaced it years later for the update of the same model.  Assisting them wasn’t about the choice I would make for myself given the budget, but considering them first - their needs and wants.  

Perhaps I have wisdom and knowledge and experience in the matter, but it means nothing without compassion, empathy, dare I say - love for the one I am seeking to understand.  Yet as I learn about the other, I may just find flaws in my own thought processes and wisdom will, quite possibly, ask me to think different in the future.

My Trooper in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park