Downsizing. No, upsizing. No. I’m not really sure. How about resizing? Yes, I have resized my vehicle. After 10 years of driving the same model car – an Acura TL – I have changed to a new vehicle. It is a new 2010 Mazda MX-5. I’ve been driving it for a week and I’ve had substantial time to reflect on the change on a micro- and macro-level. Going from a midsize, near-luxury sedan to a roadster is a pretty radical change. Most people add a roadster as a weekend car; I made it my only car. I had some logical reasoning going into the purchase, and post-purchase, I’ve affirmed these beliefs and realized others.
To begin, I simply wasn’t happy with my Acura. It had been purchased used and had the same transmission problem as my previous one. The “buying it used” part had a big effect on me. I never felt the car was really mine. I never had any emotional attachment to it – not like the first Acura, which I had bought new. So buying new was the only option for me. I felt that I wanted to be back in love with my car.
Looking at the vast choice of cars available, I was very uninspired with all the sedans. Even the sport coupes didn’t appeal to me. The thing that annoyed me the most was bulk and waste. I’ve hated SUV’s and trucks for a very long time. I’ve recently been on a simplification plan – downsizing and minimizing my footprint. Becoming a motorcycle rider helped with that. It’s simple, no-frills, no-baggage transportation. Looking at sedans, there’s two extra doors and an entire back seat area that will rarely, if ever, get used except to collect and haul crap. The two seat roadster was the answer. Of the available roadsters, of which there are very few, I didn’t want to deal with the cost of maintaining a BMW or Audi. Like I’ve said to others, “I could get a Z or a TT, but I like my money, too.” So the MX-5 was the answer.
So I satisfied my need for minimalism and initial-ownership. The roadster choice also fulfilled my need to enjoy driving again. With my massive commute in a bulky, heavy sedan, I had begun to despise driving. It was a chore. And I had to drive sensibly to save gas because my commute was so far. Riding the motorcycle was a totally different experience. The small engine meant I could go faster and ride harder without worrying about wasting gas. The light weight and general “bike-ness” meant I could handle it harder. The open air experience was unmatched. In the last few weeks of owning the TL, I drove everywhere with all the windows down and sunroof open. It was ok, but a convertible is a totally different experience, for the better.
So when I bought the MX-5, I was a little freaked out. The windshield view is tiny and I wasn’t completely prepared for it. It took a few days to feel comfortable with the car and then I could relax and understand my feelings in this new car. One thing that came into my head was an article I had read about people buying large houses. The article said that people don’t really feel comfortable in large open spaces. I applied that to my new-found comfort in my purpose-built driving cockpit. Everything is close at hand. It made sense. Then I thought of when I had my first Acura and I bought a cheap beater car: a Toyota Celica. The Celica was crappy in many ways, but I honestly think I liked it more than the Acura. Maybe because it was smaller and had a more sports-car atmosphere? Possible.
I think the TL was supposed to be my “all-grown-up” car. I had “made it” professionally, I was living on my own, and this was the next step. Grow up, be an adult, get a responsible car. I never considered that I didn’t have to follow the recommended path. So with the MX-5, I feel more like my old self. And that can’t be a bad thing.
And now that I’m here, the term “mid-life crisis” means something different. When you’re younger, it’s a joke. To see some middle-aged person acting like a teenager again seems dumb. They’re supposed to act their age. But when you get to “mid-life” yourself, you find yourself evaluating your life so far. You may discover you haven’t taken the time to have fun, maybe you’ve gotten wrapped up in work and chasing status and collecting “stuff”. You look around, see all the stuff you have, and while it’s nice to have, it’s also a pain to have.
“I’d love to have a dozen cars!” Really, no, you wouldn’t. You have to store, insure, license, maintain, and wash all those cars. “I wish I had a house with a few extra rooms.” No, you have to heat, cool, clean, furnish, and pay taxes on that extra square footage. People ask me how I’m going to get anything home in my tiny new car. First, if I’m buying more stuff than can fit in the car, I’m buying too much stuff. Second, if it’s too big to fit in the car, I should have it delivered. Third, if it can’t be delivered, I call Enterprise and rent a bigger car for a day. The likelihood that I would end up at the final choice is very slim. Buying a bigger car enables bad choices like buying too much stuff. I can’t take a bunch of crap with me because there’s no room in the car. If I have trash, it comes out right away, there’s nowhere to put it in the car.
Less is truly more.