Gradually the dust and confusion of a new semester is settling into a roughly organized form of overlapping classes, meals, homework, and employment. Each of those items is a big deal when juggled between countless obligations and desires. It seems like I’m immersed in a life of applied economics. The problem as taught in economics class is how to match unlimited appetite with limited resources. The pace of life on a campus is getting crazier every year—an approach now favored by educators is to throw massive scheduling and time-management problems at students in the form of unlimited liberal courses and pursuits. Some of this pressure is due to time constraints imposed by high tuition, some from students’ compulsion to participate in an impossible amount of extra-curricular activities to fast-forward the process of résumé building. Still others must take courses in all disciplines in order to boost the word-count on their diploma or to decide which field they like best. The result is a small city of incredibly efficient people working together on a campus. They swarm past my window all day and all night long, heading to class, to meetings, to interviews. The street-turned-pedway outside my window is never quiet, always active with yuppie leather tramps on their way to an appointment somewhere in one of a few hundred institutional buildings clustered together on a few square miles of real estate. The expectation is that students leave campus prepared to solve/negate any problem that might arise in the journey of life and career. But I digress.
Scooby is the name I have given to my next car. Since I have given Microsoft Outlook a controlling stake in my life it has declared October the month to find another car; this is because in November I am supposed to sell Honda-car. Due perhaps to my change-loving nature, or perhaps because of the two-week reminder Outlook popped up the other day, I have been scouring classifieds and Craiglist for new wheels. I’ve had a successful dialogue with one such seller in Phoenix today; from the looks of things I may be heading for the valley in a day or two. My predicament is not uncommon; I don’t like car shopping and I’m convinced that I am going to get the worst end of the deal. The way I dealt with this in the past was by buying new cars from dealers. I knew I was getting ripped off, but I also knew I was getting a car that was on my side maintenance-wise. The idea of having a car that rebels against me and might stop beside the road is certainly not encouraging, but neither is the idea of paying $5 a mile in depreciation and insurance on a car I drive only 2,000 miles a year.
So what kind of mutt is Scooby? I need one who is capable of carrying my worldly possessions on transcontinental excursions without stopping at every other gas station. This weeds out Neons and Civics and ’75 Dodge vans and a host of other economical options. I would like a car that could handle the mountain roads around Flag and other destinations desert. I’m content to stay off of jeep roads for now, but being able to drive dirt roads would be nice. For the uninformed, dirt roads in the high desert have obstacles like rocks and the occasional washout to overcome. I would like a car I can drive up the mountain, on paved roads, during the winter when the roadsides are six feet under the white stuff. The road to Snowbowl is wide and paved, but in winter chains or AWD are a must to make the ski area 2000 feet above town. Preference will be given to applicants possessing ability to carry bike(s) and skis comfortably.
I think Scooby will probably be a Subaru or Honda CR-V. CR-V’s are marginally expensive for my budget and Subaru’s—they speak “Mountain Town” too loudly. Besides, I’ve been scoffing at my younger brother’s Mercedes and Volvo wagons for too many years to begin driving one now. What went around is coming back; I envision Scooby as one of those long, low things slinking around the neighborhood at dusk on the way home from soccer practice. In my mind, it is a driverless car—making trips to the job and the grocery store and up to the mountain with the bike. I’m in there somewhere, but I am well hidden. Only if I paste into the image a big dog, bumper stickers, lumberjack shirt, and dreads do I see myself sitting up straight in the driver’s seat—all things I’m outwardly unwilling for. Another silly (in AZ) argument against long cars is that they are hard to maneuver and park in metro areas. But nobody knows what metro means in Arizona and it’ll be awhile before I get to turn Scooby loose on one and put my well-worn Club on his steering wheel.