Mission Impossible VI: Car Share Protocol

Christmas tree is up, finally.   It turned into a rather dramatic affair, as do most otherwise mundane outings, now that we have to utilize a car sharing service for running errands.  When we still owned a car, the when and where and how long of going places and getting things done was completely within our control and at our discretion.  We didn’t hurry unless we were actually in a rush.

Now that we pay by the hour to use a car, we are always in a rush.

Hourly car sharing is a frustrating see-saw of signing up for too much time or too little. If you are conservative with your estimate you waste money paying for hours you don’t use; if you arrange for too little time, you end up pulling over on the side of the road frantically trying to extend your reservation to avoid being slapped with outrageous fees.

We allotted an hour and a half to stop at the grocery store for mayo, Best Buy to pick up a pre-ordered phone, and Home Depot to grab a Douglas fir.  In retrospect this was beyond optimistic – it was bordering on delusional.

In a perfect world, this would have taken us no more than the 90 minutes we planned on.  In a perfect world, the phone would have been ready and waiting at Best Buy instead of lost somewhere in inventory.  In a perfect world, Home Depot employees would have shown just a little bit of hustle on the job.  In a perfect world, the Russian lover would be able to truss a tree to the roof of an SUV in three minutes without needing to have a ten minute quarrel with me about how my help wasn’t helping.  In a perfect world, at least some of the traffic lights on the way home would have been green.

When you are loaning a car at an hourly rate, the bumps in the road reach into your pocket.  Inconveniences – long lines, slow staff, snarled traffic – are not just annoyances stealing your time; they can become robbers taking your money.  And you can’t plan for all the obstacles – you can only go as fast as possible.  Now that we’re car sharing, every grocery trip turns into Supermarket Sweep and every drive feels like a game of Grand Theft Auto.  Running errands involves actual running.

In the end, we’re kind of maybe saving a little bit of money by car sharing instead of car owning.  It has also introduced more efficiency and more panic into our efforts as the sheer adrenaline of trying to beat the clock with every shopping trip gives new purpose to those routine outings.  I won’t go so far as to call it fun…but it certainly is engaging.

One day you’re in, the next day you’re in a garage sale

Our Christmas present to ourselves, if you want to call it that, was a flat screen TV. But it was just that a really good sale happened around Christmas and we decided at the price advertised, we were more than happy to spend the money. On getting a flat screen, finally.

Up until now, we were hanging on to the Russian lover’s ancient 21 inch box of a television. It worked just fine and there never seemed to be a good time to buy a TV. To be the people that went out and blew hundreds of dollars on a television? Ugh. How pedestrian. We’d rather spend hundreds of dollars on champagne and pretend we aren’t rushing home to catch a new episode of Real Housewives.

In this country there seems to be an inverse relationship between a person’s wealth and the size of their television. Not always, mind you — sometimes a guy in a red Ferrari is just a guy in a red Ferrari and not a guy obfuscating his lack of endowment. Plenty of the materially endowed have grandiose televisions. But is there anyone on government assistance not watching their cousin’s appearance on Maury via a 60 inch plasma? I didn’t think so.

Anyway, I’m used to having yesterday’s technology. That’s what happens when you live with a true techie. The shoemaker’s children go barefoot, and the internet guru’s girlfriends are bereft of gadgetry. But everything we do have? It works. And you wouldn’t believe our internet connectivity. Download speed? Right now I’m watching the YouTube video you haven’t even made yet.

The thing is, techies know that technology is more fickle than fashion, and you’re better off dusting off a pair of parachute pants than buying the latest “it” device. The device will A. not work or B. break or C. you will leave it in the back of the cab and be out a paycheck. And, if the device is awesome, then next week there will be ten kinds of that device, all for 1/2 the price and double the awesomeness.

When it comes to fashion, some people jump on a decade’s excesses and others wait to see what will emerge and become a staple, at least, if not a classic. Technology is no less expensive and no less dynamic, so it doesn’t hurt to hang back a little and watch. You, there, with the HD DVD player? You know I’m right.

I bring you tidings of great rambling

We spent Christmas day the way it’s meant to be spent — in Chinatown with the Jews and Asians. The Virgin Mary had a baby boy and we had Peking duck.

We stuffed ourselves and people-watched; the rest of the city was an eerie ghost town of newspaper tumbleweeds and too-available street parking. In Chinatown there were comforting signs of life-as-usual.
Without the normal hordes of humans and traffic, center city Philadelphia looks like it’s set in the post-zombie apocalypse. Which is to say this place is already such a shit hole that a violent pandemic and total breakdown of civilization could hardly scar the landscape any further but only leave it emptier. And by “violent pandemic and total breakdown of civilization” I’m referring to a zombie apocalypse, not summertime in Philadelphia…but eh, well, you see where I’m going with this. The city is so filthy and run-down and joyless already that the distracting throngs of living moving beings are the only thing keeping people from realizing how bad it is.

I’m not entirely sure what’s worse — slow-motion decay or catastrophic destruction. I guess in terms of the outcome, it’s an easy answer. Nations and people seem to bounce back from wars with the same ferocity they fight them. But when the enemy is entropy, cultural erosion, diminishing prosperity…people don’t seem to know what or how to fight. Government accelerates the demise in the name of staunching it, contriving enemies with the same cynical transparency of someone drawing editorial cartoons.

There’s a theory that the only thing that can bring about world peace is an enemy that the entire world could get behind. In a word, Aliens. A galactic bloodbath is the only way to ensure that we’re too otherwise occupied to skirmish over our differences, that we’re more invested in being united than in dividing ourselves.

If you want Peace On Earth, then you’ve got to Take It To The Skies.