Several years ago I was walking my buddy, Tim, out of my house to his car. He told me he had parked it right at my front door. I opened the front door, and there it was. I think I was drooling from the first look.
“That has got to be one of the most beautiful cars I have ever seen!” I exclaimed.
It was a Mercedes 600 SL convertible with the AMG performance package. It was silver with black leather interior. It was so pretty. With its top down, it seemed to glisten in the sun on that warm spring day.
Every detail of the car was perfect. The craftsmanship was impeccable, and it had over 500 hp to get wherever you were going, fast.
He said, “I love this car. It is so much fun. Why don’t you get one?”
“I would love to have one, but I just can’t,” I said.
“Why not? I would think you have the money to buy it,” he said.
“I could never feel comfortable in a car like this. I once had a Porsche convertible, and whenever I drove anywhere, people would stare and comment, ‘Nice car!’ Then I would feel embarrassed.”
“Why is that?” he asked.
“Maybe I don’t believe I deserve it. Maybe it is counter to my values. Maybe I like being understated. The truth is, I’m just not comfortable owning something like this,” I said.
As I was answering his question, I could see his face changing from interest to confusion. He then got right up in my face and said, “I have none of that.”
Adamantly he continued, “I believe God gave me the unique ability to make a lot of money. At the same time, God gave some engineer in Germany the unique gift of designing works of art just like this one. When I buy his car, I am honoring him for his gift with my gift. Simple as that. I have none of whatever you have.”
Getting the “Wannas”
This happened over fifteen years ago, and I found myself telling the story just this weekend to Bob, another very close friend of mine. We were talking about cars. Bob needs to buy a car but doesn’t care enough about them to go through the hassle. But I remember when Bob used to think about cars.
We had lunch one summer day with our wives. It was one of those Italian restaurants on Peachtree Street with a great patio. Every time a Ford Thunderbird passed by, he would stop the conversation, point, and say, “There’s a black one,” or, “Look at that red one with the top down. Isn’t it gorgeous?”
Bob told us that day he had the “wannas.” He put in his order for one and waited in line just like everyone else. Eventually his number was called, and he got his black on black T-Bird and loved it. He drove it everywhere and was so proud. After over 100k miles he sold it. He never cared about another car again.
Chrome, Lights, and Rumble
So I asked Bob, “Why do you think I am that way about cars? Is it because I don’t believe I deserve it?”
“I don’t know. Maybe it is because you never wanted a particular car as a goal. When I work for something, I really want it, and I am proud when I get it. I am not embarrassed because it is the result of something I worked for,” he said.
Like usual, this was a good insight from Bob. I bought cars mostly as an impulse buy. I was told by others what I should buy but didn’t care. I certainly didn’t care enough to have a car purchase be a goal I worked toward.
So if a car is not a goal for me, then it is a status symbol. That’s when I get uncomfortable.
Funny how I never have this issue with motorcycles. I love the chrome, lights, and rumble.