Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Driving Downtown in My Toaster Oven

I took ownership of my brand-new Prius during the third week of April 2005, so its ten-year anniversary is nigh.  It’s been a remarkably good car, probably the best car buying decision of my life, although spending several years behind the wheel of a 1965 Mustang gets honorable mention.

The Prius has needed few repairs and none that were catastrophic.  Only once did it fail to start and a single dead battery in a decade is barely worth mentioning.

When I’d had the car about two years, I conveyed a group of friends to a ballgame.  During the drive, I mentioned my intention to drive the Prius for fifteen years, perhaps leaving myself only one car away from the end of my driving days.  The others scoffed, arguing that no one keeps a car for fifteen years.  But, with the ten-year anniversary nearly upon us and the Prius running as dependably as the day I first took possession, I’m guessing the scoffing has ceased.

All of which led me to be offended when Leah Garchik, a Herb Caen-lite columnist in the San Francisco Chronicle, reported a comment overhead by one of her correspondents in an Oakland parking garage, “Owning a Prius isn’t like owning a real car.  It’s more like owning an appliance.”

What?!  How could someone demean my dependable Prius that way?  How dare they compare my car to a mere household appliance?

But then I fell to thinking.  Isn’t it right for an urbanist to think of a car as a convenience?  The goal of a meaningful daily life shouldn’t be to style one’s way between Point A and Point B.  It should be to get to Point B in the most reasonable and appropriate manner, whether on foot, by bicycle, in a car, or on a city bus, so that the friends, good food, or other adventures at Point B can be enjoyed.  A car shouldn’t be life, but an effective tool to take pleasure in life.  Or, in other words, an appliance.

And indeed, my Prius has been a remarkably good appliance, outlasting a couple of toasters and a least a dozen vacuum cleaners.  (Three large dogs who continually shed aren’t good for vacuum cleaners.)

None of this is meant to demean my friends who adore their cars.  I remember one friend in particular who built a separate garage to house his collection of Rolls Royces, Bentleys, and Corvettes.  But I enjoyed their friendship because I liked them as people, not because of their vehicles.  And never once did I think that my life wouldn’t be complete until I owned a Rolls Royce.

Instead, I’ll happily drive on in my Prius, the best darned appliance I’ve ever owned.

With a regular three-times-a-week publishing schedule, it’s inevitable that my blog post days occasionally fall on holidays.  Or on my birthday.  This year, for the first time since 2013, it’ll be the latter, with the day of my next post falling on my 62nd birthday.  Two years ago, as I reached the milestone of 60 years, I offered my thoughts about who I was and how my identity fit into this blog.  In my next post, I’ll look back to that post and offer a couple of updates.

As always, your questions or comments will be appreciated.  Please comment below or email me.  And thanks for reading. - Dave Alden (

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