Thursday, March 18, 2010

Gorillas in Your Midst

Every family, every situation, every problem, has what’s known as the 800 pound gorilla - one overwhelmingly important factor before which nearly every other consideration shrinks into insignificance. And, as we all know from the cliché, he’s the 800 pound gorilla in the room that no one is talking about. Your 800 pound gorilla won’t necessarily be the same as your neighbor’s, whose resident simian may bear no resemblance to that of his best friend’s. Still, the gorilla is there. Sometimes he’s discreet and quiet, but he’s always at work, even (and especially) when no one notices him.

This ape, however, is likely to be the chief saboteur and instigator of your financial stress. There may be a variety of reasons for his presence, and there may be some long and convoluted tale as to how and when he first took up residence with you, but he’s there, and he’s robbing you blind. The sooner you find that interloper, the sooner you stop letting him clean out your bank account, the sooner you can stop working for him and get on with the very real and serious business of living your life without having to play zoo-keeper.

I had developed something of a knack over the years for spotting the gorillas in other people’s lives. Because I had NEVER driven in my entire life, and because I had decided to make a virtue of necessity - in this case, our inability to support a second vehicle for my own commuter use - I had always sort of viewed the two-vehicle family with a mixture of pity and contempt.

We’d pass by our neighbors’ houses, and I’d see that, in some cases, the probable purchase-price of their cars matched or even exceeded the price of their homes. Purest folly, I thought to myself. The economics of the thing just didn’t make sense at all - who in the world really needs to encumber themselves with so much debt for a rapidly-depreciating vehicle, after all? I always though of transportation as a sort of utility - it was something to be obtained for the lowest possible price, whenever possible.

In our case, it was public transit for me, and only limited driving of the van for the wife and kids. Clever folk that we were, we’d bought our house along a mass-transit line, and used the bus system as a “second car” for my commute. Living where we did meant we didn’t need that second car that I had seen as the unacknowledged source of so many other families’ financial hardships. The mind simply boggled when we considered how much money we weren’t spending on another car, and we patted ourselves rather heavily on the back for the wisdom of choosing to live where we did.

Of course, this wasn’t without its costs. We had one vehicle, with mass-transit (such as it was) hauling me from home to Gig #1, then from Gig #1 to Gig #2, and then home again at the end of day, which was, for me, around 8:00 in the evening. I estimated that I spent not less than 90 minutes commuting in the morning to the first gig, and then another 45 minutes from there to the second job, and then about 45 minutes from there back to the house, for a total, on a good day, of about 3 hours spent in transit and/or waiting for the bus to show up. It was a pain, but it was tolerable, and we knew it certainly beat the expense of another vehicle, insurance, and all the attendant expenses.


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