Saturday, February 6, 2010

A Spark of Intuition Always Keeps You Second Guessing

We beg, we pray But everything still happens anyway C’mon now something’s teasing Your conscience can’t decide She kept your will from caving But left you paranoid You feel the the constant straining She reappears divine You know this You know this You know this But I’m just so tired of waking up all alone --Our Lady Peace, “Potato Girl” My mother is not a font of sympathy. She sees whining as a sign of weakness. “Life’s not fair,” she’d always tell me when I thought the world wasn’t going my way. “Boo hoo, I’m going to go out in to the garden and eat worms,” would be the next thing. Her answer to all of life’s problems is a swift kick in the ass and a reminder that it could be worse. When things aren’t going well the last place I want to go is home. Sometimes all you need is tea and sympathy and I’ll be lucky to get tea. I’ve developed a tendency to handle problems in solitude. It’s why my first inclination is to write. The blank page offers promise. The blank page offers resolution. Failing that it offers catharsis. Either way, it creates an interesting dynamic. When things go bad I retreat from the world. Then, when my family finds out about it after the fact they say, “Why didn’t you come to us for help?” The answer is simple: because it wouldn’t have helped. I suppose it doesn’t help that I’m generally somewhat secretive by nature, but when you’ve had enough stuff thrown back in your face then the desire to try again is pretty low. Especially when everyone hints, or flat-out tells you that it’s your fault that they don’t know anything. The whole, “You never make it better, you only make it worse,” angle runs in to a brick wall. And, really, when the options are, “Say nothing and have everyone be mad at me for a while,” or, “Say something and not get any help, then have everyone get mad at you for not jumping for joy at their ever so useful ass kicking,” well, I’ll take the former, thanks. I have deep-seated issues, I suppose. It’s a wonder I’m not addicted to anything. Meanwhile, and this is something I’ll probably get in a lot of trouble for saying, I’ve learned over the past few months that I don’t trust women. Well, women who may or may not end up as some sort of romantic partner. Women as co-workers are fine. Women as completely platonic friends are good, too. It’s the part where they’re potentially-more-than-friends that I start to get skittish. And don’t even get me started on the women who are probably interested in that whole range of things beyond. It’s why I tend to fall for women who are somehow inaccessible. See, the thing is that I have terrible taste in women. I also have a bad habit of feeling it’s my job to be the guy who can commit and the guy who can come through. So I pretty much end up with manipulative, selfish, unpleasant girlfriends who would really rather not say that we’re officially dating, remind me that we’re not, but then keep me just close enough to believe something will happen. Y’know, bitches. The great thing about inaccessible women is that they’ll never get close enough to prove they’re just another entry in my spreadsheet of bad ideas relating to women. Of course I have a really small sample size, so I can’t say with 100% certainty that this is anything other than statistical bad luck. But, in all honesty, I don’t know that I really want to find out. Which brings me to the 2010 Hyundai Genesis. No. Really. This makes perfect sense. Bear with me. In an ideal world I’m about 98% certain I’d be driving a 2010 Hyundai Genesis right now. I do not live in an ideal world (or, if I do, I sure as shit don’t live in my ideal world). As such, I do not drive one and although I can afford one I cannot justify the purchase. So I live in a world of compromise. Let’s give those compromises names. Call them, say, the 2010 Hyundai Sonata Limited, the 2010 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 2.0T, and the 2004 Chevy Cavalier. The Hyundai Sonata Limited is the practical choice. The Hyundai Genesis Coupe is the wildly impractical but fun choice. The Chevy Cavalier is the safe choice. So in a world where what you drive says something about who you are, the question is, “What do these things mean? And what does it say about you if you make one choice or another if all choices are equal?”* Or, in a larger sense, why move to Dallas? Why figure out that your relationship has been, for all intents and purposes, doomed from the start, then try to make it work for another fifteen months? See, any big decision comes down to a simple question: What do you want? That question, in turn, comes out of a series of other questions. Who are you? Where are you going? Where have you been? What sacrifices are you comfortable making? Most importantly: are you willing to make a decision based on what you want? That last question is the hardest. At least it is for me. Some people never consider anything else. The thing is, if I buy a car most of the people in my life will tell me I did something stupid. Those people are, in some order, my mother, my sister, my brother-in-law, my grandmother, my father, and one of my friends. “Why would you buy a new car?” they’ll ask. “You had a perfectly fine car without any payments. Don’t you want to buy a house? That’s so irresponsible.” I can hear it, as clear as I can hear the Mike Doughty playing through my computer speakers. I can hear it even though all those people are a thousand miles away from me right now. This realization hit in an odd way. I was talking to one of my new co-workers yesterday about the topic of buying cars. After calling my Cavalier a “broke girl’s car”** she said something to the effect of, “You just moved to a new place. You want to get out, get a new car, get a girlfriend.”*** My response was, “Do I?” I mean, not to the idea of getting out and getting a new car. It’s that last part. I’ve also been told that the Genesis Sedan is a “chick magnet.” Let’s put aside the, “Do I really want a girlfriend?” question for the moment. Do I really want a girlfriend who would willingly hop in to my Genesis but not give me the time of day if I was driving a 2004 Cavalier? No. No I don’t. Especially since I could have a hell of a lot more fun with a girlfriend if I wasn’t making massive car payments every month. I mean, seriously, what’s the point of getting a car just to get girls if you can’t, y’know, afford to do anything with them? And, really, the next guy with a nice car who can afford to take her to cool places will probably cause me to get dumped, anyway. If you’re dealing with people who are that superficial is there any other outcome? So the question is, “What do you want?” But, in good Babylon 5 fashion, that question must be asked in tandem with another question: “Who are you?” This is where we get to the issue of faith. Not in a god or the divine, but in, well, life. See, there was a time when I got laid off with a $300/month car payment. There was a time when that car broke down and I ended up heading off to college with a brand-new $370/month car payment hanging over my head. There was a time when I thought my job would keep me around for a while and I could safely look to the future. There was also a time when my job was sent down to Dallas with almost no warning. I am, at the moment, financially secure. By the end of the month I will have absolutely no debt save my college loan repayments. When that happens I will have fixed monthly costs equal to almost exactly one of my bi-monthly paychecks. I am, in short, financially secure. But I also reflexively look back over my shoulder an awful lot. The weird thing is that the question here is one of commitment. Or, more accurately, faith. Do I believe that I can make car payments for the next five years? Do I want a car more than I’m worried about my financial security? Am I always going to be the guy who worries more what others say about his decisions than what he has to say? Am I really the guy who always makes the safe choice? Of course, on the other side, would I just be buying a car for the sake of buying a car? ------------------------ *In this scenario every choice is, fundamentally, equal. The price on the trim level of Sonata I’d buy is about $1200 more than the price on the trim level of the Genesis Coupe, but the Sonata comes with a $2500 rebate at the moment. Meanwhile, both cars would require an insurance payment of exactly $213 more/6 mo than I’m currently paying. I, of course, own the 2004 Cavalier outright, which is what makes it the safe choice. The cost of gas for the Sonata v. the Cavalier would probably be about equal, while the Genesis Coupe would cost a bit more. The choice basically comes down to keep what I have for, essentially, free, or get something shiny and new and fun at the cost of a couple grand right now and somewhere in the neighborhood of $410/month for the next five years. **Ouch. ***Paraphrased.


Anonymous said...

I'm sure random advice from the Internet probably won't help much...

But my advice is to buy the Genesis. You will have that car for 10 years and it will make you happy all that time. You will only have to deal with the opprobrium of others for a month or two before they forget and accept it as the new normal.

Fundamentally, it comes down to whether somebody is a subject or an object. A subject has an internal drive and acts on it. An object is someone who is driven by others. We are all a mixture of the two, but I think that the more we act as a subject rather than an object, the more fulfilled we are in the long run.

Fake Al Gore said...

Unwanted advice:

1) If you buy the Genesis, get it on a three year loan if you can afford it. You'll be thankful the payments are done in three years, and you won't pay as much in interest. Also, shop around for your loan instead of getting one from the dealer's preferred lender. You can probably get an insane deal.

2) Consider upgrading your old car. It sounds like it meets your needs, so think about putting a good sound system in it, getting it detailed, and fixing anything you can find wrong with it (bumper comes to mind). None of that will break your bank, and it may let you build up some extra retirement monies before buying a new car.

In the interim, make "payments" into a savings account. Estimate what your monthly payment would be on the Genesis and deposit that. If you aren't really missing the money after about six months, you now have a KILLER down payment along with the knowledge that the risky choice isn't really all that risky.

Michael Mock said...

Well, if you decide to unwisely buy a new car... don't be my sister-in-law. Yes, that's actually my advice.

It's not that she's unlucky, or anything like that. She actually has a stable job that pays rather well (military). But she and her husband also have a tendency to buy things that they can't really afford, and then... just not mention them. So we'll find out that they bought a new truck, or a new trailer, or a new *house* six months after the fact. And then, when someone delicately raises the point that they have about a bajillion dollars in credit card debt, they tend to talk about how they got the Best Deal Ever on the their new expense, or how they really needed it, or how it's going to make life ever so much easier. They make excuses, in other words.

Don't do that.

I actually really like Fake Al Gore's advice. But, if you decide to just go buy the car, don't make excuses about it. When your mother, sister, brother-in-law, father, and friend tell you that it was a stupid thing to do, just point out that A) you can afford it, and B) this is what you wanted to do. It may not be the best of all possible financial choices, but it's hardly a slippery slope to poverty and moral ruination, either.

Everyone should be irresponsible some of the time (providing, of course, that nobody gets hurt). If this is how you want to do it, own you irresponsibility.

And smile.

Advice is offered in the hope that it will help or at least amuse. There is no expectation, real or implied, that you need to follow this advice or even take it seriously. Advisor disclaims all responsibility for the results of following this advice. Your mileage may vary. Offer not good in California. Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball.

Janet said...

All respect for B5, but the best decisions I've made were not so much "what do you want?" and even less "who are you?" My best answers were always for the question, "what will make you happy?" Perhaps this is because that third question is a blending of the first two?

Geds said...

So this might be a good time to take a step back and point something out: this entire thing is an intellectual exercise. I mean, it's an intellectual exercise that may well result in me purchasing a car, but there's a larger issue that the car purchase has allowed me to consider.

It basically goes like this. There are four personality options, each represented by an automobile.

1. Genesis Sedan: I want everything, damn the costs.

2. Genesis Coupe: I want to have fun, damn the consequences.

3. Sonata: I want to make the responsible decision.

4. Cavalier: I want to make the safe decision and maintain the status quo.

Take it as a given that I can afford to make any of these decisions, mostly because I can. Also take it as a given that choosing the Genesis Sedan will cost enough compared to the other three options to be noticeable and continuing to drive the Cavalier is, well, boring. But also take it as a given that each option is fundamentally equal from the basic transportation standpoint: all will get me from Point A to Point B and all will offer benefits and drawbacks that make them worth considering. There are a couple of other cars that could be on the list, basically the Honda Accord and the Subaru Legacy 2.5i. They're not because for the purpose of the exercise they fit the same niche as the Sonata. I'd kind of like a Corvette Z06 but I can't afford one. I could also purchase, say, a just-off-lease Ford Fusion for comparatively cheap, but that leads to the question of, "Why bother?" I don't need to purchase a car now, so if it feels like I'm buying a car just for the sake of buying a car I might as well save my money.

So in this situation the option I pick is indicative of who I am. As such, I'm not so much soliciting advice on what car to purchase as working through a much larger series of questions. Do I go all-out to get what I really want or do I stay safe and try to still be happy with what I have? Do I compromise by going for fun or compromise by going for value?

Moreover, if I can't bring myself to take out a car loan when I'm doing well for myself what does that mean in the future when it's a question of, "Should I get married?" or, "Should I buy a house?" And if I can't make any decisions without having to take in to account the disapproving reactions of people who have fuck-all to do with how I live my life what does that say about my ability to operate as an independent agent? My mommy can't make decisions for me, after all. And if I can pay my bills and make decision that I'm happy with then does it really matter what anyone else says?

Also, the bit that Michael Mock brought up about lying about it: that's a good point, too. If I can't make a choice that's important to me without having to lie about it or hide it, then something is wrong.

So, yeah. I'll make whatever decision I want. It's the intellectual exercise that matters.

And let's just say that I like the Genesis Sedan, but I can't say that I like it $13,000 more than the Sonata. In the end, a car is just a car. I'd like a little more room and I really miss my old power sliding moon roof, but beyond that...meh.