A few years into my first job at Essex, a friend of a member of my family paid me a visit in good old Colchester. I invited them over to my flat – I was then living in a maisonette which I loved but had to move out involuntarily – and having served them an appropriate amount of tea and biscuits, the question came.
“So, sekarang bawa kereta apa? Tak nampak pun kat depan.”
I politely replied that I didn’t have a car.
“Habis tu pergi kerja macam mana?”
I showed her my bike. She smiled at me and put her hand on my shoulder. “Takpelah nak, pelan pelan,” she said.
I knew she meant well, and I knew she meant to comfort me, and coming from a country where public transport was non-existent and you’d by a car before you’d even have your first paycheck, I can see where she was coming from. Only foreign labourers went to work on a bike in Malaysia.. and I suppose, me being a ‘foreign labourer’ in the UK, it probably made sense to her.
I didn’t want to prolong the discussion and moved on to other things, instead of telling her that at one point I did have a car, but beings that I have no children, amenities are close by and I can get to and from town on the bus if I didn’t want to take my bike, I found the car to be a frivolous necessary expense. That not having a car was a conscious decision taken not out of necessity but preference.
Now that I am a few years older and arguably, slightly more mature, now… I am contemplating whether I should get a car, and what that actually means. Humour me some mental deliberation.
I’m coming to realise that despite the job that I do and the age that I am at, I still live my life like I did a good fifteen years ago, the year I arrived in this country. I go everywhere by bus rather than paying a little bit extra for the privacy of a taxi (or a Uber car); I still (until very recently) have mismatched plates; I still don’t care for owning much property. I note that my other colleagues who walk or cycle to work as a matter of choice still own cars, for days when the rain is relentless or when they need to cart things from place to place. Me, I end up having to curry favour, call a taxi or get wet.
Granted, these colleagues have children and should I be in a similar situation, I too would probably own a car: it makes more sense for ease and comfort. Where as as a lone soldier, well.. owning a car would mean an extra £150 or so in parking, fuel and insurance costs; an amount I could afford, but the amount could also go towards a nice holiday.
Which brings me to my earlier point: why is it then that at this point in my life and career, am I thinking about getting a car? Am I, despite everything, craving a little status symbol after all? *shudder*
Oh dear. Is this what they call a mid-life crisis?