A Capital Idea Part 115: My Wife and I Now Own a Hybrid Car
I guess this is incrementalism or "lesser evilism" at its best.
A few weeks ago, my wife noticed an advertisement from the dealership where we bought our 2010 Honda Fit two years ago. It was specifically asking for 2010 Honda Fits for trade-ins, and offering "up to $15,000" for the car. Even though we liked "Lenny" or "good boy," our Honda Fit, we thought about trading it in and purchasing a Honda Insight, a hybrid model which had been our second choice in 2010. After a few days, we went to the dealership to ask about the trade in and look at the Insight selection, but said we planned to come back later. Initially, my wife Eunice had wanted to return after my spring break, but as spring break approached, she decided to go back to try to make a deal, before spring break so we could drive the hybrid car during our spring break trip, which was to be sort of a delayed 10th anniversary celebration.
Thus, on Tuesday, April 3rd, we returned to the Honda dealership to talk seriously about making a deal. Eunice originally wanted to pay no more than $5,000 for the Insight, but I figured it would take way more than that. Eunice's figure was based on an advertised price of $18,000 something for an Insight, minus the $15,000 she expected to get for our Honda Fit. However, the price of Insights had gone up in the meantime, and we were unlikely to get $15,000 for our Fit. Sure enough, after looking at our Fit and noticing the barely visible residual effects of a small dent in the back of the car (which happened when I was hemmed in at the Winco parking lot and didn't notice the larger car just in back of me), the dealers only offered $7,000 for the old car. Meanwhile, Eunice preferred the higher end $25,000 Insight model on display because it's grey color was less susceptible to looking dirty, and it had those little mirrors on the sunshades in front of the seats. Yes, these are the types of things upon which my wife's choice of a specific vehicle depend, so now, we have a clean looking car where my wife can do her makeup. Before that happened, however, Eunice huffed and puffed for a couple of hours, nearly blew the dealership away, got the trade-in price up to $10,000 but still no deal, and was getting into our Fit to leave, when I figured that the dealership was ready to make a last minute trade. I went into the building to ask for my Honda Fit key to be returned to me, told them we had about had it unless they made another deal with us, and at that point, the boss, whose family owns the dealership and with whose father I went to high school, offered us $13,000 for the Fit. (My high school classmate passed away in an off-road vehicle accident a few years ago). Finally, Eunice agreed to the deal, and after both of us signing about 100 papers and Eunice writing a check for $13,800 which included $1,800 for a 7 year of 100,000 mile warranty, we were proud owners of a brand new Honda Insight hybrid car.
On the way home, however, we noticed that "she" -- we decided that this was a girly car -- was "singing," that is, making a high pitched squeaking sound coming from in front of us, that seemed somewhat like morse code, whenever he reached speeds of around 65 miles per hour on the freeway. During our test drive, we had never gone faster than abut 45 mph. Friday morning, April 5, we took the car to the dealer to try to fix the problem. What we found out was that the sound was due to an improper seal between the front windshield and the car frame, and this was the second Insight in recent weeks that had the same problem at the dealership. We were told that there was no danger from the problem, just an irritating sound, but that the window company that could fix the problem was too busy to do the job that day. Thus, we decided to go on our trip to Arizona, squeaky windshield or not. Now we have returned, after a week of sometimes squeaky driving, which we labelled as the car "singing." We do plan to fix the sound soon, though. During our trip, we averaged between 45-50 miles per gallon, as compared to the 34.5 miles per gallon which the Fit averaged. On Thursday, in fact, when we drove from Show Low, Arizona to Blythe, CA, with a side trip to Canyon Lake and Tortilla Flats, I have a carefully calculated average of over 49 miles per gallon for the trip. Thus, we are already saving money and more importantly, gasoline with our new car, which is basically the same to drive as other cars, unlike the Prius. My step-daughter Isabella was one of the earlier buyers of a Prius, about seven years ago, so I have had the opportunity to drive it from time to time.
After deciding to purchase the seven year warranty, Eunice and I quipped that seven years from now, we would probably buy an alternative energy car, such as an electricity or hydrogen-powered car, which by then will probably be readily available in some form. I have seen various critiques of incrementalism and what is called "lesser evilism" by some progressives, but I have never really bought into that ideology. It seems to me that it is driven by a combination of impatience with what these people perceive as a lack of progress, and rigid idealism. However, progress rarely happens all at once. It seems to me that it is usually incremental, and if we continue to make incremental progress -- to choose the "lesser of 2 evils," so to speak, and make it clear what we consider to be good and progressive -- the future we shape will become better and better, if not in the leaps and spurts which sometimes happen, at least slowly and incrementally. In fact, there is a well-known principle in behavioral psychology called "shaping," which is that: If you want sophisticated, complex behaviors (solutions) to be implemented, one must shape it incrementally, by a series of steps and successive approximations. Of course, the same can apply to destructive behaviors -- that they are learned incrementally if too complex to occur spontaneously. The key is to continue moving forward in a productive direction. I think that the current trend toward hybrid and alternative fuel cars is an example of that. It doesn't solve our fundamental problem of government-rule-by-corporation which exists in this country, but it might indirectly lead people to a paradigm shift in thinking which will make people's thought processes incompatible with corporatism. Incidentally, I saw a documentary last night called "Bag It," by Jeb Barrier, which discussed the insidious effects of plastics on our lives. The same points about incrementalism (recycling or avoiding the use of plastics, for instance) and fighting government-by-corporation by the democratic actions of citizens, were made in this film.
While I am discussing some encouraging trends, I will finally mention that since I don't get cable television at home, it was a pleasant surprise to me, to see how progressive MSNBC has gone, with Lawrence O'Donnell, Ed Schultz and Rachel Maddow all lined up between 7 - 10 p.m. Meanwhile, Alex Wagner, who looks a lot prettier than the name sounds and of whom my wife was getting a bit jealous, was on at 9 a.m. I think Andrea Mitchell was on at 10 a.m., and she seems pretty centrist, but the rest of the lot are progressive. In between those times, we were never in the motel room, so I don't know what was on MSNBC during those hours. On the down side, there was a sort of wild west atmosphere in Arizona wiht lots of gun-loving talk by residents we met, even after the Jared Loughner incident, and even a gun-radio station in the Phoenix area. There was a sign on the nightclub next to the motel where we were staying in Show Low (which was named after a card game, and we stayed in a motel on Deuce of Clubs Avenue), informing patrons that guns were not allowed inside. Also, the only political radio show I could find in Arizona was the Micheal Savage show, who let no opportunity to praise himself pass, calling himself a "brilliant political analyst." The only talent I found him to have, was the ability to spin everything to the right, counterclockwise. I guess that is how these people keep trying to turn back time.
When we returned from our trip, my wife went through our accumulated mail, and found an advertisement from a Toyota dealership offering "up to $13,975 or more" for 2010 Honda Fits. Apparently our judgment in buying that car was very good and fortuitous, as I expect it will prove to be with our new hybrid car, the Honda Insight. Without the offer for the old car, we never would have purchased the new car.
My future objectives include convincing my wife to have solar panels installed on our house, and aside from that, hopefully for both of us to contribute more to progressive causes.