Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Past Deadline: Downsizing the Wheels

It feels good to downsize.

About four and a half years ago I wrote a delighted column outlining how excited we were about the purchase of our first minivan. As much as the word “minivan” was associated with such other dubious descriptors as “grown-ups,” “suburbia” and “environmental disaster,” we had overcome our anti-ness and embraced the space the vehicle offers.

There were times when it felt big enough to house our family of four. Fortunately it never came to that.

On that theme, though, we waxed rhapsodic about how wonderful it would be to be able to climb into it if faced with nasty tornado-like weather while camping in our tent. We were also gleeful about the fact it had roof racks for our canoe.

Ah, the glorious space! When we first got the van, both of our kids were still in big car seats, which fit into the van like a hand in a glove. We no longer had to pull the front seats up into the dashboard in order to accommodate the children, which is handy when you are a tall person.
Not only that, but we could easily stash a stroller, a diaper bag, three babysitters, groceries, a playpen, a pony, sleds, bicycles, a big-screen TV, camping gear and a small flock of sheep in it whenever we wanted to go anywhere.

It was dreamy.

Life has a funny way of happening, though, and lots of things changed. For one thing, over the last couple of years we found ourselves travelling less and rarely camping. The canoe (sadly) has become a monument in my parents’ backyard. The kids are bigger and only one of them needs a car seat. We no longer require strollers, playpens, diaper bags, ponies and small flocks of sheep. Also, their interests do not include anything that requires scads of gear, i.e. hockey bags, to be lugged from place to place. At least so far.

When I wrote that cheery column in 2006 I called myself a hypocrite and dismissed my environmentalist sentiments by basically saying, “Oh, well, at least it wasn’t a Hummer” and by justifying the family’s need for space. Our choice was, really, no different than the trailer-pulling, wood-panelled station wagon of my childhood. I suppose this means I chose to ignore anything I learned about consumption over the past few decades.

Anyway, here we are, in 2011, and the fact is we simply don’t need a vehicle that is big enough to live in. Not only that, but since those heady days of early minivan ownership, there has been another rather significant change. Groom-boy isn’t driving to work a few blocks away, he’s now commuting to Ottawa every day.

For various reasons, commuting in our personal vehicle is the most reasonable option for him at this point. I use the term “reasonable” loosely, however, because of the $#@^%$ gas prices.
For another litany of reasons, we opted at first to try the one-guy-in-a-van-commuting thing. Purchasing a second vehicle wasn’t in the cards, and I was enjoying the fact that by having a one-car family, I was losing a few pounds by hoofing it all over town.

Eventually, gas prices rose to the point that we realized we could buy a brand new car with better mileage rates for cheaper than what we were paying for gas alone for the van. We returned to the dealership we have frequented for more than 10 years and traded the van for a peppy four-door wagon. It’s smaller, but roomy and has a hatch design that gives us plenty of storage space. The kids like it and it actually fits properly in our teeny tiny driveway.

The coolest thing, though, is that it feels like coming home. I like smaller cars. I like being able to tuck them into small spaces. I love how they manoeuvre. And holy cow, how we are looking forward to spending less money on gas! (Assuming it doesn’t climb into the buck fifties too quickly.)

Oh, and it’s vivid blue. And every time I get into it to drive I turn the key and say, “Wheeee!”

Downsizing is good. Now, if I could just downsize the clutter in my house, I’d be living the dream.
Published in The Perth Courier, May 5/11.

No comments: