It is obvious to any marginally-sober individual over the age of 30 that a large, perhaps majority portion of the population under 25, are cretins. Because this point is in no serious dispute, I shall refrain from unnecessary equine sadism and proceed instead to one of the panoply of causes for this crisis: ZIPCAR.
For those unfamiliar, Zipcar is a service that allows any person with a driver’s license to spend $12 per hour to park a rental car at any IKEA or Target location. They may also work at a Wal-Mart, though it is unlikely anyone cool enough to be a member would allow themselves to be caught dead at one, even ironically. All “zipsters” enjoy access to a fleet of professionally-maintained zipcars and the hourly rental rate includes zipgasoline and zipsurance.
The problems with this begin immediately. First, Zipcar is sold as being cheaper than owning a car, and this may be true if (a) you are talking about a new imported car, and (b) you live in a place with no on-street parking. Otherwise, it is nearly complete horsefeathers. From 2004-2009, I owned a rather jaunty 1998 Ford Escort ZX2 coupe (stick, natch), which I bought for $2500, sold for $105 (priced by the pound), and factoring in all repairs, insurance, and bribes to get it through one last inspection, it cost me just under $200 per month over its life.
If you factor in only what it costs to drive a Zipcar, the comparison seems sound: I probably drove that car around 200 hours per year, which in a Zipcar would cost about $2400, and they would be in a much newer sled. But the problem is that you do not only pay to drive a Zipcar, you also pay for every hour the infernal machine is parked. Had I taken exactly the same trips, including multiple weekends out of town to visit friends and family, it is a certainty my Zipbills would have been double or more the cost of my humble Escort.
Likewise, to own that Ford required an investment of capital, albeit a small one, which itself required planning and forethought. Driving it reminded me of the sacrifices I had made in starting my business, among them dumping a fancier car. When I was a wee lad, driving around in a fine executive sedan like a BMW 328i required you to have either a high-paying job, a lease payment that made you cry, or wealthy parents; now, any slobbering dolt from a third-rate school with a 2.0 GPA in psychology can enjoy the same experience for $14.50 an hour. What’s next, ZipFriends, who for a single flat rate will hang with you and compliment your taste in rarely-laundered clothing, your Chalupa-toned physique, or your erudition in matters of which superhero could defeat which prehistoric megafauna? I am refraining from Googling this out of fear that even my wildest fever dreams have by now been superseded by reality.
Go get a drink, because folks, I am just getting warmed up.
Owning a car requires not merely coming up with a payment, but social interaction of several important kinds. First, you have the Registry of Motor Vehicles, which provides young people with an early and formative experience of civic life at its best. Second, you have your insurance company, which for many young people is their first experience of true adulthood: spending vast sums of money on a product you barely understand and hope to never use. And unlike all the cotton-wool experiences young people have, full of “student discounts” and mucilaginous praise of “youth” (which as any reasonable person should know is the only form of mental illness which improves with time), your insurance agent will in fact remind you that your youthful incompetence is a risk to us all, and charge you extra, as well it should be.
Then you have your friendly neighborhood mechanic. For your average upper-middle class brat, the local garage or dealer service department is among the few remaining connections to the visceral, earthy, and casually-criminal world of the authentic Working Class. Learning how to talk down a bill, walk out on a scam, and know a fair shake when you get one are not merely important for getting your ride fixed, but for life in general. It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, babies, and sooner or later you’re going to want to get out of that milkbone underwear.
But last, and perhaps most importantly for a generation whose parents chauffeured them from scheduled play date to violin lesson to professionally-produced birthday party, Zipcar wrings out all the wonderful serendipity that owning a personal, high-speed, long-distance transportation device otherwise provides. With YourOwnCar, you can take off anytime, go as far, and stay as long as your heart dictates. With a Zipcar, the meter’s on, and your reservation is always running out. When was the last time you had that kind of leash? That’s right, when your mom was coming over at 9pm to pick you up from summer camp.
The worst part is, I sometimes think might be just how the little bastards like it.