The quantifiable madness of my situation (Update #2)

Updates

  1. Originally published, April 24, 2021, at 9:55 pm.

  2. April 25, 2021, 4:35 am:

    • It seems I needed to actually do the spreadsheet work. I’ve corrected the values in what my car is costing me now. It’s really quite extreme.


Pandemic

It seems that intellectual property[8] is not the only problem the developing world has in manufacturing vaccines.

“The point the Secretary (of State Antony Blinken) has made repeatedly is that as long as the virus is spreading anywhere, it is a threat to people everywhere. So as long as the virus is spreading uncontrolled in this country, it can mutate and it can travel beyond our borders. That, in turn, poses a threat well beyond the United States,” [State Department spokesperson Ned] Price said in responses to questions.[9]

So what is the U.S. doing? Restricting raw materials India, which is suffering a dramatic and likely woefully understated increase in COVID-19 cases,[10] needs to manufacture vaccines. The U.S. is maintaining Donald Trump’s “Amerikkka first” stance, claiming its first obligation is to vaccinate its own people.[11]

Hindu, “U.S. defends restrictions on export of COVID-19 vaccine raw materials amid India’s request to lift ban,” April 23, 2021, https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/us-defends-restrictions-on-export-of-covid-19-vaccine-raw-materials-amid-indias-request-to-lift-ban/article34391251.ece


Armenia

Chris Megerian, “Biden formally recognizes killing of more than 1 million Armenians as genocide,” Los Angeles Times, April 24, 2021, https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2021-04-24/biden-formally-recognizes-armenian-killings-as-genocide


My car

I’m a qualitative kind of guy, but the madness of my situation is becoming apparent in ways I can quantify.

As I began writing this, my 2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid is in for a transmission service, you know, that service Toyota says shouldn’t be needed, but which my mechanic in California recommended every 50,000 miles.

Even now, I abide by my grandfather’s dictum that, “If you take care of the equipment, it will take care of you.” Unfortunately, it’s becoming clear that taking care of this particular car means not being an Uber/Lyft driver on Pittsburgh roads.

The cost of operation for this car remains high, mainly, it needs to be emphasized, because of Pittsburgh’s negligence on road maintenance. In fact, so high that the average amount extra I’ve been spending per month, $1,295.09, since the beginning of this year over the average since I started driving for Lyft in 2016 (I started with Uber the following year), is about four times that of a new car payment. When I compare what I’ve been spending on the Camry Hybrid since the beginning of 2020 with what I spent on my 2006 Prius the first year I had it, $1,995.17 per month, the difference is even more extreme, but this would be both because the Prius got significantly better gas mileage and because I bought the Prius with lower mileage (although the Prius had smaller wheels and therefore would have cost even more in the ways that the Camry Hybrid is costing me too much).

The trouble really is that operating costs on the Camry Hybrid for this year are already higher than the worst of last year (where the excess, $350.09 per month, approached an estimated monthly car payment), which I thought was a pretty awful year.

What got me thinking about all this is that Uber, which, along with Lyft, has pledged that all its cars will be electric by 2030,[12] meaning I’m probably going to have to go electric at some point in the not too distant future, sent out an invitation to buy electric vehicles for Earth Day. But the battery technology still isn’t where I need it to be.

Oh and, by the way, my insurance agent tells me that because a new car (I’ve been crunching numbers on a 2021 Toyota RAV 4 Hybrid) has so much better safety features, my rates, which are already dropping like a rock—he says he’s never seen anything like it—would go down even further.

With newer technology, especially with a lighter lithium-ion hybrid battery, even though the RAV 4 Hybrid is bigger, I’d likely see modestly improved gas mileage. This is harder to judge with any precision because Environmental Protection Agency estimates are not real world experience, let alone in Pittsburgh, where I immediately lost a couple miles per gallon of mileage on arrival from California.

But the bottom line right now is that I could literally buy a new car and improve my cash flow. Dramatically.

I’ve been looking at the RAV 4 Hybrid because I believe, with bigger wheels, it would be much more robust on Pittsburgh roads, which are the cause of my problems with the Camry Hybrid. My experience with cars—my transmission guy agrees that this is likely true—has uniformly been that everything with bigger wheels is more durable. Tires last significantly longer and don’t cost that much more. Such wheels are accompanied by more robust suspension and steering. Everything holds up better. That would lower my long-term costs.

When I’m getting clobbered with repairs in the thousands of dollars for steering, tires, and suspension work, I’m not sure I have a choice but to make a change.

Uber and Lyft offer rental deals, but the rental car companies sold much of their stock during the lockdown to stay afloat. The cars they have now go to higher-paying, in some cases, much higher-paying customers than Uber and Lyft drivers.[13] This, when I’m already in a market where people have trouble getting rental cars thanks to an incompetence blessed with “it is what it is.”

I might, to some degree, obtain the benefits of a new RAV 4 Hybrid with a used car, but I drive over 60,000 miles per year. I’m wondering, really wondering, how much sense that really makes.

As I weigh all this, I wonder yet again, why I can’t have a sane life, why I can’t have a real job, a job that respects who I am, a job that isn’t abusive,[14] a job that would let me keep the otherwise perfectly good car I already have. I just don’t understand.

And even as the logic of my situation compels me to a particular conclusion, I realize I am contemplating taking on years of debt for a job I don’t even want.

This is madness. And I’m way too old for it.


  1. [8]David Benfell, “The lethal dishonesty of ‘intellectual property’ in a pandemic,” Not Housebroken, April 4, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2021/03/21/the-lethal-dishonesty-of-intellectual-property-in-a-pandemic/
  2. [9]Hindu, “U.S. defends restrictions on export of COVID-19 vaccine raw materials amid India’s request to lift ban,” April 23, 2021, https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/us-defends-restrictions-on-export-of-covid-19-vaccine-raw-materials-amid-indias-request-to-lift-ban/article34391251.ece
  3. [10]Shaikh Azizur Rahman and Emma Graham-Harrison, “India’s Covid death toll at record high, but true figure likely to be worse,” Guardian, April 24, 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/apr/24/indias-covid-death-toll-hides-stark-truth-for-the-poor-its-even-worse; Joanna Slater, “India’s devastating outbreak is driving the global coronavirus surge,” Washington Post, April 19, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/interactive/2021/india-covid-cases-surge/
  4. [11]Hindu, “U.S. defends restrictions on export of COVID-19 vaccine raw materials amid India’s request to lift ban,” April 23, 2021, https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/us-defends-restrictions-on-export-of-covid-19-vaccine-raw-materials-amid-indias-request-to-lift-ban/article34391251.ece
  5. [12]Andrew J. Hawkins, “Lyft vows ‘100 percent’ of its vehicles will be electric by 2030,” Verge, June 17, 2020, https://www.theverge.com/2020/6/17/21294040/lyft-electric-vehicle-ev-100-percent-2030; Andrew J. Hawkins, “Uber pledges to shift to ‘100 percent’ electric vehicles by 2030,” Verge, September 8, 2020, https://www.theverge.com/2020/9/8/21427196/uber-promise-100-percent-electric-vehicle-ev-2030
  6. [13]Scott McCartney, “Wait, Where Did All the Rental Cars Go?” Wall Street Journal, April 14, 2021, https://www.wsj.com/articles/hertz-avis-enterprise-rental-car-shortage-11618335385
  7. [14]David Benfell, “About my job hunt,” Not Housebroken, n.d., https://disunitedstates.org/about-my-job-hunt/

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