DITCHING A CAR MADE MEETINGS SHORTER
When I worked as a newspaper reporter in small-town California, owning car was crucial. That changed when I moved to San Francisco. Meetings were scheduled well ahead of time, phone calls and e-mails became more common, and I no longer had to drive to the middle of nowhere to meet a source.
Meanwhile, finding parking near my apartment became a huge time-sink, and the parking tickets piled up. So I sold my car and signed up for City CarShare, a nonprofit program in which customers reserve cars in 15-minute blocks. The cars are scattered throughout the city. It’s similar to renting, but without paying by the day, trekking to a car rental lot, and filling out lots of paperwork each time.
Why didn’t I sign up for CarShare’s for-profit competitor ZipCar? It wasn’t a carefully thought out choice. I just saw more CarShare vehicles around my neighborhood, and I was eager to switch before I received yet another ticket.
It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, even though, yes, the CarShare bills are a bit larger than I expected. There are financial benefits—no more worrying about gas prices, no more expensive repairs, plus a nice bill from CarShare that assigns a cost to every trip, making it easy to file expense reports.
But I didn’t bother to calculate my exact savings. They’re almost a side effect of achieving my main goal. That became clear to me only a few days after I made the switch, when I was sitting at my kitchen table and heard a street sweeper roll by. As usual, I tensed up, trying to recall if I had reparked my car or if I was about to get another ticket. Then I relaxed. I didn’t have to worry about it anymore. I wouldn’t have to think about parking my car or about any of the other stresses involved in car ownership ever again. A big chunk of my brain was freed up to worry about other things.
And there’s been a surprising upside to the decision as well. See, I’ve always been terrible about extricating myself from meetings. Now, whenever I start to feel like a get-together has gone on for too long, I just point out that I need to return the car. Suddenly, I’m free to go.