Upgrading into quite a dilemma


I am embarrassed by my elation.

I am elated – over the top overjoyed – because I have just acquired a new vehicle, a small 4-year old low-mileage SUV. When I found out that my even smaller and much-higher-mileage all-wheel-drive hatchback needed major repairs that included brakes, clutch, belts, and engine work to the tune of half what the car was worth, I took a leap of faith and got this one.

This vehicle is safe(er), runs great, and will hold my bikes. I got a good deal on my trade-in and, after looking at several used cars, this one made sense. I have to admit I like a solid-feeling vehicle with a clock that works and brakes that don’t shudder at every stop sign. Who wouldn’t?

This truck – I always call an SUV a truck – also has the works, tricked out with a moon roof (whatever happened to calling it a sun roof?), a sound system so complicated I may never figure it out, and alloy wheels that are I hear are desirable. It also has active torque control (I don’t even know what that is), and second row seats that slam down via a lever when I open the back to load my bikes.

I certainly don’t need all this stuff, but given its low mileage and great condition I chose this vehicle over a used base model. I haven’t opened the moon/sun roof yet or tried out the sound system, and I have no idea if I’m using active torque … I see an hour with the owner’s manual in my very near future.

The reason I am embarrassed is precisely because I have come to enjoy some of extra features beyond what is necessary for safe and reliable transportation. Add to this the fact that now I’ve become concerned about it as a “thing,” a possession that makes me nervous the moment I pull out of the garage.

You may have read in this space that I’ve spent the last couple of years divesting myself of “things,” paring down my belongings to mostly those that have meaning for me – my mother’s chair, my grandmother’s bureaus, artwork from my travels. I’ve learned to let go of both possessions and baggage such as outdated beliefs and long-held resentments.

I’ve also stopped mourning things I have lost – a pearl earring, a favorite book of poetry – as well as those that have broken or worn out. And, yes, I was elated to own some of these “things.” So if I’ve already come this far, what is it about my new-to-me truck that has me apologizing for its charms?

It’s not a question of whether I “deserve” such luxuries – that’s a First-World debate for another column. Rather, it may be the idea, and now the reality, that I own something with bells and whistles I didn’t necessarily need but now would be distressed to lose, the notion that I have become attached to a “thing.”

On the other hand, perhaps the meaning I’ll assign to it over the years will become one of comfort and convenience, as well as safety and reliability.

It’s a paradox I’ll have to learn to live with.


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