Thursday, August 1, 2013

And then there was one (car) . . .

Two little vehicles, sitting in the sun,
One lost its battery, and then there was one.

There are all sorts of good reasons for planning to own fewer cars.  The Miser Mom reason has to do with overall frugality, both on behalf of our finances (but of course) and on behalf of the planet.  The frugality side of the argument is so well-known, it's beyond cliche.   I say no more.

My husband's rationale for a reduced-car future is actually a kind of macho independence.  He's at the stage where all his friends are having to wrestle the car keys from their parents' hands, stirring up great clouds of angst and consternation on all sides.  The loss of independence that comes with loss of driving privileges is a huge blow for these aging relatives, and so it's not surprising that the No-Driving Discussion creates all sorts of reasons for fights and ill-will.  In his own peculiar reverse-psychology way, my husband wants to head off that eventual battle by becoming automobile independent long before our kids have to force that lifestyle upon us.

The rationale for keeping both cars are less straightforward.  Certainly we have a lot more instantaneous flexibility by keeping more than one automobile.  The question is whether we actually need that flexibility, or whether instead we should go all Aristotle on each other and train ourselves into a new kind of Vehicle Virtue by mere dint of learning new habits.  At any rate, we've been mulling over how to get down from two cars to one.

In some sense, it should be easy:  I walk two blocks to work; he commutes insanely long distances but usually goes by train.  The main two obstacles that have kept both cars in circulation have been (a) travel and (b) children.  That is, there are about a dozen times each year we both have out-of-town commitments, or one of us is out-of-town but the other one has to take our kids to their various appointments.

With the arrival of the SPDM, we've made a huge dent in obstacle (b).  The boys and I have spent the summer happily zooming around to drum practice, doctors' and dentist appointments, even to yard sales, entirely under pedal power.  Huzzah!

With the children securely on board (or, I suppose I should say, off-board), it was the perfect time for Life to give us the One-Car-Pop-Quiz.

The Prius battery died about 3 weeks ago.   A Prius battery is a famously pricey thing.  It's also apparently quite a rare thing -- our mechanic had to order it from far away (Tokyo?), and keeps revising the estimated date of arrival upward.  We've been without that car for basically the whole month of July.

And rather than fretting, we've been able to use this as a time to experiment.  Can we do this?  Is one car a reasonable number for our family of [currently] five people, leading the kind of lifestyle we think we'd actually be happy to lead?

I'd say, this summer has been a qualified success.  We've been blessed with good riding weather (no rainy dentist appointment days), and our travel schedules seem to have meshed well.    So we can do the one-car thing pretty easily when all the stars align.  In fact, most days this past month, my husbands' car sat in the driveway unused -- we were more often a zero-car family than a one-car family.

It helps a LOT that we've done thought experiments about this in our heads and in our discussions for a few years now;  we already had sharing-plans worked out in theory that were fairly easy to put into practice.  This included
  • walking to places nearby;
  • biking to places a bit further;
  • taking trains to distant places;
  • renting a van for a big family trip (both big family and big trip);
  • using the car only when the options above seemed impractical.

My Guy will be heading out (with his car) for Army training for three months.  I think I'll be happy to get my old, beat-up Prius back during that time.  But, as much as possible, I'm going to try to see if I can go without driving it at all.

One little vehicle, sitting in the sun;
Miser Mom bought a bike, and then there were none.  

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