tatjna (tatjna) wrote,

On the Care and Feeding of your Friend With A Car

I'm writing this as a spinoff from another post by a friend. It is a pointed post but it is not aimed at anyone in particular, ok?

This is Wellington. Wellington's a tiny city. People walk in Wellington and it's been set up so that not only is walking easier, it's also a hassle to bring a car into town, and if you live in town and have a car, it's expensive to find somewhere to keep it. I live in the suburbs with off-street parking, and usually use public transport to get to work. But I do own a car, because for me a car is independence. Many people in Wellington, however, choose not to own a car.

If you don't own a car, it's a bit of a double-edged sword. On one hand you don't have running or parking costs, maintenance expense/hassle, or the drving-round-and-round-the-block trying to find a park problem when you're in town. You just walk, no hassle, and not really a timesink - it takes less time for a town-based apartment-dweller to get to Courtenay than it does for me to drive in and find a park.

On the other hand, when things are happening that aren't a convenient walk, you rely on others for transport. All of these have their issues - taxis are expensive, trains/buses run on their own timetable not yours, and don't always go where you want them to. Friends aren't always going the same places you are.

But what if your friends are going the same places you are?

And here's where I step in as the friend with the car, and talk about the etiquette of blagging a ride.

First, I want to say that I bought my first car at 19, and have not been without one since. Therefore, I have little perspective of what it's like to not be the friend with the car.

OK, with that out of the way, here goes. Owning a car is expensive. Even in the worst of my Not Spending Money days, my car would cost me around $800 a year in maintenance/registration/tyres/warrants. Add to that that a decent car (for me ~$6000) lasts about 6 years, that's another $1000 a year. Then there's petrol. At the moment I'm spending around $70 a fortnight on petrol. So that adds up to approximately $70 a week it costs me to be the friend with the car.

Mostly, this expense is purely for my own advantage - it gives me independence and gets me places. However, it's not entirely selfish:

As the vehicle owner in my household, I am always present for grocery shopping. Others can choose whether to be there or not, but I have to be. I'm also the one that does the dump runs, collects/delivers stuff that we've bought/sold and does the carting of anything too heavy to carry.

As the owner of a vehicle with a towball (at least till my most recent car), I get to pull trailers. Hello, moving house! Hello, firewood missions! Hello, helping with the lifting every time!

When we all go to Kiwiburn, my car gets stacked to the gunnels with stuff, a trailer hooked on the back, and people vie for spots in the remaining space for their bums. I get to juggle the arrangements for all these people and their gear to get together at the same time for the filling up. I also get to make sure I'm organised and ready so that I can be available to collect said people and gear from their various places and times, and fit it all in in some efficient way.

When there's a local gathering, I usually get more requests for rides than I have spare places. At the last one, I dealt with this by filling my car up, dropping one lot off and going back for the next lot who got the bus as far as Karori.

If someone buys a thing and it needs collecting, or if someone needs a thing collected urgently, I'm often called to ask if I can do it, because I have wheels.

When it's raining, folks often ask to be dropped home instead of having to get wet or wait for a bus in the cold.

Sometimes, collecting people to take them places involves going out of my way, not just to pick them up but also again when I drop them off.

None of which are things I really mind - I like being able to help people out and as I've got older I've become assertive enough to say no when it's a hassle. However, there are times when I do feel like the local taxi/delivery/courier service, and feel twinges of resentment. So, in the interest of that not happening, here are some things you can do to make the life of the Friend With The Car easier when you're asking for their wheels to help you out:

1. Most folks don't use the ashtray in their car. Leaving a few coins in there after they've carted you somewhere, to go towards expenses, is always appreciated.

2. When there's an event coming up and you need a ride, ask in advance, not on the day. The person needs time to sort out how to coordinate everyone, and 20 texts on the day of the party that they have to say no to because it's too late, makes them feel guilty and harrassed.

3. Go out of your way to make it easy for them. They are doing you a favour by carting you and your stuff, so being ready with your stuff in a place that's convenient to them is a real bonus. It may very well be easier for you if they come to your house to get your suitcase, but it's harder for them and since you are the one being done the favour, you're the one who ought to shoulder the small hassle of carrying it to somewhere that's easy for them to get to.

4. Be on time. When someone has to park illegally to get out of their car and go fetch you from your house, they are going above and beyond by risking getting a ticket or being towed. You could help them avoid this by being ready at the roadside when they arrive.

5. If there's a group of you all going in the same vehicle, organise yourselves to be in the same place at the same time, with your gear, for collection. Sorting this out should not have to always be the responsibility of the Friend With The Car - IMO it is the responsibility of the people who are being collected.

6. If you rely on the same person for a ride on a regular basis, occasionally let them know how much you appreciate their regular contribution to your happiness and wellbeing, in whatever way is appropriate to your friendship. Validation is awesome and everyone likes to know their little favours are noticed.

Thinking about these things will go a long way towards keeping your Friend With The Car happy and willing to continue contributing to the community by providing the transport.

I say again, this is not aimed at anyone in particular, it's simply a list of things that I think as the Friend With The Car, that help keep the friend from feeling like a taxi service, and thus keep the friendly part in Friend With A Car.

In other news, I think the word 'misogyny' is overused, and that there is a place for 'chauvanism' to regain its rightful place in our language. It could be argued that the belief that men are superior to women stems from an innate hatred of women and thus the two terms are interchangeable - but frankly, I think some people are simply chauvanists rather than misogynists, and the overuse of the word misogyny is actually diluting its meaning for the times when hatred of women is an accurate description.
Tags: blagging etiquette, happy motoring, vroom vroom
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