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Rant about automobiles.

Wednesday, 27 January, 2010

I wish to state plainly that I now resent being forced to participate in automotive culture.

Before, I just thought eliminating all other practical options was just sort of silly and annoying. As I delve into the blatant ugliness of buying an automobile in this environment …

Someone who lives in the middle of the damn city, requires an automobile to be a full participant in society. You know, like, to buy food and stuff. I’m not even a full participant of society and I cannot convey my sorry ass to my workplace in any reasonable amount of time without some kind of private conveyance or profound expense. Even with Texas’ punitive auto-insurance regime, traffic cameras and net of traffic patrols which may be the envy of allegedly retired Stasi officers, the private automobile remains the most viable alternative for getting out of your ZIP code. Civic planning, as any rational person would recognize it, does not exist here.

I’ve run the numbers again on a 42-year-old male living in a rental with an allegedly safe car not prone to comprehensive-and-collision coverage. Specifically, a 1991 Volvo 740 wagon with manual transmission and 160 kilomiles. Driving an 11 mile commute and covering 12 kilomiles per year.

  • South Austin, Texas (78704), $520/year
  • Georgetown, Texas (78626), $440/year
  • The Highlands, Louisville, Kentucky (40204), $108/year
  • Pleasure Ridge Park, Louisville, Kentucky (40258), $92/year
  • Hollywood, Los Angeles, California (90028), $660/year
  • Manhattan, New York City, New York (10101), $1150/year

and don’t get me started on the on-street parking regime that keeps people in Downtown there, and people outside Downtown away at all costs … not that there is anything Downtown you can’t get in the ‘burbs anymore … unless you want to pick up a thirty-year-old who doesn’t yet know she can’t pass for a co-ed at a bar.

But that is addressed by a draft entry that I’ve been unable to finish for seven months.

Of course, I’m making about double what I could make doing this same job, if it is even done anymore, back in the sticks. In theory, Austin is worth it. This does not remove the sting of shelling out all that cabbage. Fuel is no longer cheaper here than in other parts of the country. Finding a trustworthy shop to tend to your car can be a challenge. I’m prone to select a Japanese-branded car because I know of two shops, including Otis’ mender who became an Asian specialist after I was a regular customer, who competently and comprehensively tend to them. One of the best Fulksvahgin shops between the Mississippi and the Rockies is right down the street … and yes I know not to buy a post-2004 VW,  anything with the 1.8T and am investigating the other tenets of used-VW selection.

If you want to know why I am investigating Lincoln Town Cars and Mercury Grand Marquises, it’s because they’re purchased new by people with a garage who are older, gentler, more prone to maintenance and the cars are as complicated as a Conestoga Wagon. The astounding depreciation after as few as eight years puts them in my price range. I really want a proper transmission, and would prefer a smaller car. BTW, these vehicles tend to 30 MPG in the real world at a steady 65 MPH. They also tend to get purchased by punk-ass chumps at 8-10 years and acquire “rims” and faux ventiports.

In my heart I want to say “F ’em ” and get the classic Volvo of my heart’s desiring.

The reputations of Toyota and Honda are such that Corollas and Civics are priced like Lincolns and Cadillacs of similar vintage. Invariably, the smaller cars have compellingly more miles. Camrys and Accords are less expensive than their smaller siblings. Manual transmissions are rare. Hence the joke “Texas Security System”. We get reports of people being “carjacked” with the assailants abandoning their booty because none of them can operate the third pedal.

As for the other selections on my list, they are all infamously underrated vehicles which tend to be owned and operated by older, mellower people. I’ve changed my view from “No GM, period.” to “Maybe if it has the Buick 3.8.” As to size, I really don’t care. I drive maybe 140 miles per week. I drive to work and for shopping. I make

Austin's Oasis, Zilker Park

Zilker Park

a point to do all my weekly shopping in one trip to the ‘burbs. We have plenty of tattoo parlors and boutiques of various kinds, but nothing practical.

Wait. We still have a hardware store and a dry cleaners. Convenience stores are still tolerated. Walgreens opened a new store in the neighborhood; I wonder who got fired for permitting it.

As you might imagine we have many, many businesses dedicated to automobile repair and service.

I digress. I don’t drive that much and don’t use a lot of fuel. Dropping from the 25-ish mpg of my present grocery getter to 20-to-25 with something else would not be much of a hardship. A larger, newer American car would actually be more efficient.

But I want a third pedal. I really want that. I want to have some kind of experience while motoring.

My next rant may be about how I don’t have much actual money and can’t seem to find a finance regime for an amount of money I am willing to part with cheaper than just putting my next car on a credit card.

Everybody has cars here. Does everybody just put up with all this? I’m not exactly shocked.

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