In looking at the “things” in my life with an eye to Minimalism, I find that I have a real attachment to my car. Not *this* car specifically. The attachment is to being a car owner. Having grown up in the Midwest, firmly within the car culture; I find that my definitions of adulthood are tied to car ownership more than to any other *thing*. I mean … I have a hard time seeing myself as an adult without the responsibility of self-locomotion having been attended to. I find it is very easy to assign these attitudes to others as well. I try not to judge myself or others harshly. It is not always an easy assignment.
I point out the Midwest upbringing, because I find I do not have these prejudices when dealing with folks who live with good mass transit options. My friend Wendy flew from her home in Manhattan to our wedding on the Mexican border, only to learn that her Driver’s License had been expired for three years when she tried picking up the rental car she had reserved. Wendy’s non-driving existence in no way registers as irresponsibility for me. She’d managed to make life choices that put her in a place where owning a car is possibly the *less* responsible choice.
That’s really where the judgment springs from I think. It’s a responsibility issue that I have managed to attach to a *thing*. We are at all times making judgments. They help us function in our world. Words like “judicious” and “judgment” do not have as much baggage as “prejudice” … but we do quite a bit of pre-judging as well as we make our way through the world. Sometimes these early guesses about someone’s personality and motivations are the keystones in self-preservation.
I know I’ve got it tied to responsibility; because I find I am different about folks who are intending to get a car, or working towards it. I think part of the issue is that I have a hard time envisioning a “fair exchange” between the person who owns that car, and the person borrowing. This because when there *is* a fair exchange, I find I have none of these titles overlaid onto the participants. Or extenuating circumstances … we all know about those, the partner needs the vehicle, and for some random reason is working somewhere else. Someone’s car is in the shop … but I circle back to the fact that I still see those individuals as “car owners” and thus they have the “responsible adult” title floating over their heads in my interactions with them.
But there are fair exchanges. I know a man who has been a street performer in New York City’s Central Park for decades. If we were working in a similar part of the country, I’d make a point of offering him a ride if heading to town, because the entertainment value of an afternoon with Mitch was worth far more that the accumulated expenses of wear & tear on my auto, insurance, fuel, maintenance … Far. More.
But in the Minimalism conversation, where we are looking at the things we own, and deciding whether they may in fact own us … automobile ownership can be a big consideration. If my career were one where I could live someplace small, I’d happily shop locally and bicycle for my groceries. But it’s not. I have chosen to live in the nomadic business community of festival professionals. I happily live in 4 different little spaces annually. I might be able to own a smaller car. (We’ll see after this season of minimalizing my belongings.) But the truth is that my nondescript minivan does all of the things I need a vehicle to do. It’s not sexy, but it’s functional and well maintained.
That last paragraph implies that no one in my work-world is carless. This would NOT be true. There are several people who manage to travel from festival to festival hitching rides, or buying bus or plane tickets. But then some festivals last 2 months. Most festivals are far enough from a town to have made a large land purchase easily affordable by the owners. In other words, most festivals are not in pedestrian friendly locations. My employees who fit this carless category have thus far been smart enough not to ask me for a ride. I happen to LOVE working. So I do it a lot. When I do make a run into town for supplies, it is usually just that. No touring around, no multiple stops. There are exceptions, which are social outings with my friends that may include some shopping, but my friends are responsible people.
In glancing back at what I’ve typed this morning, I see the word carless and I’m afraid I’ve mistyped my opinion of careless in a spot or two. I haven’t. But I know that this is the underlying opinion I have of people who haven’t accepted responsibility for their own mobility.
I won’t be giving up my car in my working towards minimalism. But I may try and temper my assumptions about other people who are somehow making a fair exchange with their friends who own cars, and managing their locomotion through the world by bartering something of value for the ride.
Banksy’s “Hitchhiker to Anywhere”