I brought my car into the garage for an oil change. The mechanic, George, told me that I needed new brakes and that it was going cost me $500. $500 seemed like a lot, especially for my car, and the brakes didn’t seem to be that bad in the first place. I tried a different garage down the road. They had a team of mechanics look at my car. All of them agreed that I didn’t need new brakes but that I should get my starter replaced. A new starter coincidently cost $500. The mechanics explained that I could pay for the new starter by not getting the brakes, so all it would cost me is not getting the brakes I didn’t need.
Before I changed my oil, my car both started and stopped just fine. Now, it had some real issues. Perhaps, I thought, I should look into getting a new car before I put any work into this one. Besides, I was getting afraid to either start or stop my car. At the car lot, I fell in love with this beautiful convertible. It was sleek and handled beautifully on the test drive. It had the highest horsepower on the lot, the salesman said. It was also $50,000. When you look at how much money that was per horse, $50,000 was pretty reasonable.
Unfortunately it wasn’t practical for the family man I’ve become. Reluctantly I led the salesman over to the minivans. Cup holders and built in DVD players didn’t quite compare with so many horses but automatic sliding doors, hidden storage and many more cup holders won the day. My family is going to have to drink a lot more to fill up all of those cup holders. Finally I asked the salesman for the keys to the minivan because I was going to take it home.
He started asking questions about financing. Financing? No, I told him, I’m going to pay for the minivan by not buying the convertible. By the way, since the minivan is so much less expensive, please add the remote starter to the minivan and any other extras you have. When can I pick it up?
No, he told me. It doesn’t work that way. I still had to pay even though I wasn’t going to get the convertible I loved. This was very different than what my mechanics told me. I rushed back to the garage, although I must admit I started slowing down a few blocks ahead incase my brakes weren’t up to the task. Leaving my car running, I asked them for my new starter and sought assurance that it wouldn’t cost me anything more than not replacing my brakes. Apparently I was mistaken. Not only couldn’t I get the brakes they wanted money too. They wanted $500 to be exact. This was a much different story than they told me originally. The new starter should have been free, other than not getting the brakes I did not need.
They had a T.V. in the garage and were watching one of the presidential debates. Candidate after candidate said the same thing. They were going to give me all kinds of great things and it wouldn’t cost me, the taxpayer, anything. Well, the politicians would have to cancel to programs that we didn’t need and that would pay for many new and wonderful programs. I pointed it out to the mechanics. If such a policy made sense on the national scale, why shouldn’t it work here? They were not convinced. They said it didn’t make sense.
In the end, I didn’t get the brakes I did not need. I do not have the new starter, although my car continues to start. Maybe I didn’t need that either. The convertible is still in the lot, next to the minivan I did not get. Apparently, not getting things I did not need was the only way to not spend my money. I wonder if the candidates will ever learn that.
The Cost of Civilized Society
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