Americans perhaps are not the only ones who love their cars. They are also perhaps are not the only ones who feel a sense of unbounded freedom in their cars, free of their superiors or spouses, even for a while. I remember how happily I roamed the streets of Kolkata, no matter the frequent potholes and less frequent traffic jams. In the US, I often do a thousand-mile trip through the hills of West Virginia or the fields of South Carolina, savoring the air of green pastures and the espresso of rest-stop Starbucks. Hardened travelers must wonder why a bespectacled man sits in a roadside café, peering out of a frosting window, occasionally sipping cherry coke and pecking at a laptop keyboard.
Also, the euphoric feeling that speed generates, blinds us to the truth that a car is the most underused asset on earth. The world over, people use a car no more than two hours a day. 90 per cent of the time a car sits in a garage or on the street gathering dust – and, worse, losing its value. The moment you drive a car out of a dealer’s shop, it becomes a ‘used’ car and loses a third of its value. Tells you what an item of vanity and vagary it is. In any case, for that item people on an average cough up $15, 000 – unless you need a larger dose of vanity and spend a million dollars for a Bentley or a Lamborghini.
No surprise that Uber and Lyft are doing good business and Zipcars, temporary-use cars, are gaining ground. I can barely wait for automatic, driver-less cars.
Our adoration of private cars has become as old-fashioned as our nostalgia for horse-drawn buggies.