The Breaking of a Car Guy

An addiction is defined as an activity that a person engages in for pleasurable results, but continues until it becomes compulsive, interfering with everyday responsibilities or concerns.



I have been drawn in by cars since I was a kid, which makes the compulsion seem all the more natural and harmless. Now, as I approach retirement age, I can either look back on all I have indulged in with wistful memories or with a realization that I may have wasted away a huge amount of time and resources better spent elsewhere.



Granted, we all have our hobbies, and nothing we do for pleasure in this life comes for free, but looking back can become tainted when the road forward is not so long. As I come closer to retirement and ultimately a fixed income, I realize my resources to play in this arena are blowing away into thin air. The nature of this country doesn’t help, as our government regards the sick and elderly with the disdain of a burden on the economy. A fine thanks for all your years of labor. But this is not a political forum.



When I retired from my industrial job, I tried to set myself up with a pair of vehicles I felt would last, and they probably would have, but my finicky nature and impulsive shopping habits are my own demons. I justify them with semi-concrete theories of getting my money’s worth or being satisfied with something that costs so much. But that is the problem with an addiction…there is no such thing as satisfaction…is it?



Anyone who has worked in sales or in retail knows there is always the difference between cost, wholesale, and retail price. Any business lives or dies on making their profit between those three figures. The demon of buying and selling cars always lands squarely on the fact that you finance a retail price, the cars falls in value the longer you own it, and it gets sold somewhere between cost and wholesale. Not always, but most of the time.



When people like me fall into the rut of trading and financing the next vehicle, the balance can perpetuate, especially if your credit is good. This often becomes a non-factor if the owner simply keeps the vehicle until its paid for, but any attempt to break the cycle early comes with a punishing cost.



I have seen others in worse situations to be sure, and when I watch people spend who-knows-how-much on lawn beautification, house decorations, or fishing and hunting equipment, I always consoled myself that my habit wasn’t any worse. None of which changes the fact that someday you must pay the piper.



I recently decided to purchase and care for a garage queen car and sell off the current Taurus on my own since trading down to an older vehicle is taboo in the auto finance world. Heaven forbid you do something cheaper overall. The amount of money you are in debt for is not nearly as important to lending institutions as the value of what they can take back from you if need be. This is why they are always more than happy to sell anyone a new car. It doesn’t matter if you can actually afford it, just make sure the debt holds them hostage.



I begin to wonder if the loss of thrill of driving my convertible didn’t go a bit deeper. My “Kugabird” Escape gets me back and forth to work in comfort, has nice features, sounds good, looks great when its clean, so what else is there? I could wax on rhapsodic about so many other angles of heart, soul, and dreams, but it all becomes moot when the money must be factored in. Its a very depressing place to end a lifetime of passion and effort.



When you lay bare all the things you may have ignored for the sake of a hobby, you begin to see the vicious cycle you’ve been living. I used to look at elderly men standing next to a car they lavishly cared for, modified, restored, and thought how satisfying that must feel. But now I wonder, how much have they sacrificed for that dream. No dream comes without a price, and only the person looking out knows if it was worth it or not.



I am at an ugly crossroads where I must sacrifice to get myself out of the negative situation I’m in with the Taurus. It isn’t insurmountable, but the act alone is incredibly depressing and irritating. The Grand Prix sits in my driveway, and what just a few days ago looked like the vision of a long term project of passion and memories now looks like another expense waiting to happen. Where does the line fall between hobby and addiction.



I recall years ago, in my early teens, my father bought an old Buick. This was a car he loved from his youth, and was happy to find such a well-cared for example. He wanted to caress it back to driving shape so he could enjoy it again, but ill health struck him down and I remember the day he sadly told my Mom to sell it off for whatever she could get. I had seen him depressed over many things in my years, but this time he looked broken-hearted. I cant help but wonder if a similar fate is waiting for me in the not-so-distant future.



Like me, he was surrounded by people that did not share his vision, and that absolutely is not a degrading statement. I have never understood the passion for golf, or a hundred other pastimes that are not my own, but when you watch someone invest such time and effort into something you don’t share, it cannot help but be both befuddling and discouraging. When it becomes befuddling and discouraging for yourself, you have to wonder if you have finally hit the wall.



Is this how it ends? I suppose it ends differently for each one of us. The day comes when we cannot do what we once did, and unfortunately, that time comes for all of us. How we live with the aftermath is an individual journey. I always dreamed one day I might hit a lottery ticket and I could indulge my own level of car insanity with no downside to anyone else, but like so many other things, most dreams never come true.



The athlete hangs up his cleats, the businessman cleans out his desk, the police or firefighter takes off his badge, but sooner or later, by choice or action, life forces us to change. No matter if this is read as a lament or a realization, the road ahead just doesn’t look the same anymore.

T. August Green

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