Vroom! Roar! That’s not the sound of my truck. That’s the sound of the Porsche 911 that leapt up the highway as I took the right turn into the office parking lot. My guess is that the driver of the probably $150,000 car was frustrated for miles, stuck behind my lumbering pickup. Ah, the glory and curse of the island’s two-lane roads. That sports car’s throaty roar made me wonder about the driver and what they really wanted. I realized, they probably didn’t know, either.
Within seconds, the 911 could be hitting 60 mph from a stop. From their headstart behind the truck, they could’ve broken the speed limit in under a second. Ten seconds later, they must have eased the acceleration because there were other cars on the road. Even a car doing 10 mph over the limit would act like a road block to a car with a top speed of almost 200 mph. Over $150,000 for a few seconds of thrills and a quick imposition of normalcy. That’s expensive entertainment.
Just at random, let’s look at a Kia Rio, a car I’d never heard of until I did the search while typing. Cost, ~ $15,000. Top speed ~ 120 mph. Time to 60 mph, ~ 8.5 seconds. So slow compared to the Porsche. At least on the island it can only break the speed limit (55 mph) by more than 100%, takes a few more seconds to do so, (less time than it takes to type this sentence, especially with a few backspaces included), and is probably much better at hauling groceries, finding parking, getting past speed bumps, and oh yeah, not putting the driver into debt if a fender gets bent.
And, the Kia Rio can feel equally frustrated following my truck that has a tough time getting up to the speed limit. More than two tons of truck powered by the smallest V-8 available and aged for 18 years makes a great speed limiting device on the island’s roads. And it isn’t the only one. As someone’s bumper sticker proclaims, “This ain’t the mainland. Relax. Slow down.” Relax and slow down may feel like an affront to people who feel the need for speed, but other people will pay thousands of dollars to attend a resort that lets them do that. The island also sees people who spend hundreds of thousands of dollars buying houses so they can relax, slow down, and enjoy the quiet.
The basic outline of those paragraphs flashed through my head in the minute or so after I got out of the truck. There’s no blame against the driver. Their choice, however, made me realize how powerful advertising is.
The driver was sold on the image and performance of a vehicle that is designed to break the law, and delivered with reminders not to break the law. They spent extra for that. They didn’t just spend a little bit extra. They spent enough extra to cover some family’s living expenses for three years. The driver was sold a luxurious dream many are proud of being part of.
Even if the driver got to enjoy a few seconds of thrills every day, and didn’t get caught enjoying the thrills too much, I find it fascinating in a Spock sort of way that they don’t balance that against helping others for years. Seconds of forbidden luxury versus years of selflessly benefiting an entire family. Entire industries rely on never making those comparisons.
The opposite probably goes too far, too. Everyone having exactly the same things may turn life dull and static. With no social mobility there may be too few incentives for too many. I suspect the answer is between the two, and that our immature society has yet to find the right balance between stability and control (an inside joke and insight for my aerospace friends.) Mountains have great stability, but they don’t do much, and when they do move it’s bad. Great control is marvelous, but always having to be in control is tiring, and a moment’s distraction can mean disaster.
Finding that balance is something frugal folk endeavour to do frequently. Tiny houses, but with great details. Home gardens, filled with heirloom varieties. Working just enough to play a lot. Those are balancing acts I continue to strive towards in many ways. Working towards balance in life is probably my busiest hobby. There isn’t a store for that. There aren’t ads for that. Yet, entire philosophies have the same goal.
A friend continues to ask me a question I frequently ask myself; “What would be different if I had a million dollars?” (He ups it to $5M, but I don’t need to go there.) I won’t bore you with the long list. Top would be getting healthier in a variety of ways (medical, physical, mental, spiritual, etc.) As for a house, it is refreshing that after almost a year as a broker I have yet to find a nicer house than my simple 868 square foot beach-less beach cottage, that’s actually bigger than I need; though a larger yard would be nice. Being re-retired is high up there, and I have a long way to go.
With a million, I’d basically be there and could return to my personal version of philanthropy; something that I discussed with representatives of the Ford and Rockfeller Foundations. They envied the power of a person who will help others without worrying about tax consequences. Other friends proved to me the value and joy in quietly helping someone. No publicity. No strings attached. See a need. Provide the resources. Trust them to know how best to use it. Know it will go wrong occasionally; but it’s more likely to go right and go right in powerful ways. That’s a joy.
As for having a million and having a truck, well, I think someone else could use the truck better. Personally, I think I’d need and enjoy an all-electric Jeep Wrangler. There are mountains to climb, nature to enjoy, and peaceful places to visit. The irony is that it would probably also kick butt on and off the road. Balance, balance. Got to have some fun, eh?