Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Explaining Car Maintenance to Millennials

This isn’t the post I was expecting to write today - all I wanted to do was make a quick reminder that Silicon Valley Gives Day is coming up May 3 and you should make a donation to Good Karma Bikes using this link. 

But instead, I just spent more money fixing my motor vehicle in a day and a half than I spent on bikes in the last four years. 

This may seem like an odd thing - especially if you are a millennial who has the good sense to not own a car. So let me explain to millennials, space aliens and others who have not purchased a car what will typically happen when your car needs to be fixed. 

First, you come to a moment when your car needs repair and you either can’t drive it, it becomes unsafe to drive, or, simply the vehicle is making A Noise it shouldn’t be making. 

You’ll bring it to a car repair place - often a dealership with a big, complex building. You’ll talk to a person behind a counter with a nametag. You’ll ask about how much it will cost and you will get an answer we’ll call ‘A’. You are skeptical, but the person with the nametag assures you they can do it and the car will be fixed by the end of the day. 

You will then spend money to arrange other transportation home. There may be a shuttle van driven by someone who smells like Otto's jacket from The Simpsons, but you will spend money to arrange other transportation home. 

Partway through the day, you will get a phone call from the repair place. They will tell you they found A Problem -  that means the repairs will no longer cost ‘A’ but cost ‘B’ - and ‘B’ is more money than ‘A’.

You’ll be tempted to argue. Argue, don’t argue, it is entirely up to you. But because your motor vehicle is in pieces on a workshop floor and you need the car back...there is almost no value in your side of the argument. You will say ‘yes’ and go back to your life - secure in the knowledge that you’ll get your car back at the end of the day even though it cost you more money. 

Then if you’re really lucky, you’ll get another call in the afternoon that you think is the person you talked to at the dealer telling you your car is ready. Instead, you’ll find out that there is A New Problem - and they have to keep your car overnight. That means even more inconvenience. 

Then, the next day, you get a call to pick up your car. You take a cab, Uber or even a folding bike there and want to speak with the person you spoke to the day before. But that person is nowhere to be found. 

You wait for five or ten minutes. You may be sent to another desk who may send you back to the desk at which you were waiting (as what happened to me this morning) and wait for the person you spoke with yesterday. You want to talk to the person with the nametag about the promise made to you the day before about getting your car back the same day. Instead, someone else shows up.

You will explain calmly that you are disappointed that you were told twice the day before that the car wouldn’t be held overnight and you were inconvenienced. The person will not respond and simply give you the paperwork.

At this point, you may be tempted to speak to the manager. But at this point, you do not have anyone to back up the conversation you had the day before: you signed off on the ‘estimate’ agreement. So, you go back and forth fruitlessly with a hapless but pleasant manager who, by the way (and this is for all of you fellow freelancers out there) is making money standing there while you are not. So you will get back on the road. 

Because you are agitated at this point, you will start to see how absurd the business of owning a car and driving actually is. You may begin to wish to have all the time you have spent looking for a parking spot or stuck in traffic. 

You will also start to think about alternatives to your present situation. You will also realize that every day you ride your bike is another day between you and the next time you have to bring your car to a service station. You realize that a bike that costs a few hundred dollars from an independent shop will save you a lot of money that just can’t be found in a spreadsheet.

You’ll also realize Bike to Work Day is around the corner, and, come hell, high water, or both, you are going to take part. The Bay Area Bike to Work Day is May 12

If you’re a Bay Area resident do yourself and you car a favor: take the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition’s Bike to Work Day pledge. If you don’t have a bike, visit a bike shop and get one - because it is cheaper and easier than 'ash in your brake fluid' rear shocks or any other one of hundreds of possibly made-up problems a car service place may charge you money for. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 

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