Automobiles: Servant or Master?


Driving to work this morning, I had an insight. I love cars, they’re amazing creations. Critics would call mine a junker, but I still love it. What’s not to love? It was cheap, is fun to drive in stick shift form, gets excellent gas mileage, easy easy to work on and parts are cheap.

But I realized today that it isn’t love, it’s Stockholm Syndrome! My car has taken me hostage. Somewhere along the line cars changed from things that freed us to be able to take longer trips and get to far away places fast to something that we MUST have and keep up as a prerequisite for daily life. Think about it: if your car breaks down (say right in your home driveway) right after work AND your son has a hocky game that night, which are you going to attend to? The car! You gotta get to work the next day…

I did some quick and rather shocking math. Adding up the miles on all the cars I’ve owned, I’ve driven 350,000 miles in my 23 years of driving. That’s 14 times around the earth at the equator! How much time did that take me!?! Let’s see… 70 mph on the freeway, but I spend a lot of time in rush hour traffic too. Lets say 45mph average: 7,778 miles. If I drove 15 hours a day, stopping only to sleep, gas up and pee, that would be 518.5 days of driving, uh oh. I’ve spent 1.4 YEARS of my waking adult life so far on my butt in the driver’s seat of my car. :eek: No wonder I’m out of shape.

I need a job closer to home. :o Instead of freeing me, my car has enslaved me. How about you all??


Well, you’d still have to maintain a buggy and feed / water / doctor a horse. Foot transport isn’t free, either. You’ve still got upkeep. Shoes, sandals, socks, Dr. Scholl’s, medical treatment for fallen arches, ingrown toenails, bone spurs, knee and hip problems… if you’re diabetic or at all overweight, sooner or later your feet are going to be major problems.

it’s expensive to get anywhere by any means!

Seems like a good reason not to go anywhere and just be a couch potato!


Without maturity, a car gives a person too much freedom with or without ownership of it. Noone should use/have one who isn’t mature: Do you have friends who want you to drive in circles around town, tp-ing, going to the bars, “campground” activities, or stopping along a country road to drink or smoke pot? Do you need privacy and think that a car will deliver you to a place to hike or just sit for hours? All of these are reasons for wanting the use of a car, but not good enough reasons for using or owning a car.

Are you really running away from your parents and your responsibilities to them and to yourself? Do you drag race, go around train gates, have an attitude about police and sheriff patrols? Are you running out of gas on the road? Are you indulging in heavy petting? Do you rationalize that you are learning how to work on engines?

Excuses abound for why one needs a car before one can actually afford insurance, gas, garages, houses or rents, payments. Just like the original poster said, a car needs constant attention. It is actually an extension of oneself. Who said that? Do you have car insurance but not health insurance? Then you need to rethink ownership, and, perhaps consider leasing. I don’t know if a person would use a leased car, in the same irresposible manner as one owned or borrowed … but, if one pays additionally for extra mileage, it might provide a contraint.

Yes, the veniality, the driving to the store which is a block away, the spewing of more carbons into the air, these things also should be considered.


I've got you beat. I've been driving for 4 months short of 2 years and I've put more than 30,000 miles on my car.

So you drive 1,270 mi per month, I've driven 1,500. Of course my parents live 300 miles away, the annual family camp is 400 miles away, etc.
I drive a round trip of 32 miles to work. (weekly 160)
I go to the coast on the weekend which is a round of 100 miles.
I go to a bible study weekly that's round trip of 50 miles.
I hang out with catholic folks weekly for a round trip of 68 miles.

Of course I'm single so mobility matters to me. I've not spent much of my miles in my car, although I do tend to take back roads so I drive slower. My car is a tool that I use. It gets me to work, but more importantly it gets me to friends who are Catholic.

It has to be difficult to decide if you want to see kid or fix car but as the above poser pointed out cars aren't really time consuming compared to what the alternatives are. Caring for a horse and buggy takes MUCH more work per mile travled than a car....maybe 20 or 30 times less work.


This is a legitimate need. Perhaps not a sole reason to own a car, but a darned good one. I really, really want a convertible (even though I live on coastal New England) for this very reason). I already live in an area that isn’t too heavily populated and I’d go zooey if i couldn’t do things with nature.

Yes, the veniality, the driving to the store which is a block away, the spewing of more carbons into the air, these things also should be considered.

Driving to the store for a soda may be wasteful, but even if the store is a block away it is almost impossible to shop for a family by yourself without a car.


I hear you, this is Texas you'd think I would be able to ride a horse to work, but not so, can't have a horse when you live on a golf course. and it is too far to drive a golf cart. The Prius is a 2007 we bought used in 2008, with 7M miles, it now has over 40M miles on it. My 2002 Dakota P/U has about 150M miles on it. our dream is to get to a position where we can get along with one car. Prius will be paid off next year, and we won't buy another car until will really retire.


Be careful not to misread me. Cars SHOULD have been a incredible blessing that freed us from isolation and hardship.

But we haven’t used them that way. Instead of using them to turn a 20 minute walk to work into a 3 minute drive, we’ve all moved 20 miles away from our workplace and simply waste the opportunity it presented.

THAT is the way the car has become the master instead of the servant.


But, used for isolation. I had a friend who suggested driving when one felt low, comforting she thought. It is a waste of time to commune with driving or alone at one’s destination, with nature. Just go to your local parish church, and spend some time with the Blessed Sacrament, saves gas. The peace of the natural world doesn’t match a clear conscience. And, if you have a clear conscience, you would be looking for people. Metroparks, green spaces, etc. no problem: People places. If you go to these places and not talk to anyone, within an hour you will be leaving, fealing lonesome no doubt.


We live in America, where the automobile is very important, and affordable. Sorry for the aggrandizement about having one.


I half agree with you.

At the same time, we have the option now to become reliant on travel. If a person has a job 20 minutes away on foot, and that employer is treating him poorly, he can accept a job 20 minutes away by car with a better employer - and instead of uprooting his entire family and selling his current home and buying another so they can live close to the new employer, he can just buy and maintain a car. So now the employer has less power over him. Same for where we go to school, buy our groceries, and so forth. We can get better prices, better educations, and much more without uprooting our families, which removes some of the power of the people running these organizations, since they must now compete with many other schools, grocery stores, and so forth, rather than relying on their convenience and just competing with the immediately local businesses.

We actually bought our house after looking at what we would do if our car broke down so we wouldn’t be “mastered” by a car. Before that, we had gone 9 months without a car, and had bought just a junker that we couldn’t rely on for when we moved - so it was important to us that we have that option. We live close enough to a P&R that we don’t rely on the car to get to work, plus we can walk to the grocery store and church if we really have to. Still, it’s been a real pain when we’ve actually had to do that. Plus, now I’m pregnant and just can’t walk that far.

However, more businesses are delivering. Car-sharing has started to become popular in some cities, with businesses like FlexCar. Public transportation is being encouraged, and slowly continues to grow. It is quite possible that we might be able to get back the choice to live without a car and all of its expenses without giving up the most important of the freedoms that it affords, at least in relatively urban areas. :thumbsup:


I appreciate the comment just before this one. My brother has an interesting situation. He deliberately moved to a small town that once thrived as it was on the line of an interurban RR. That would be early 1900s. But, the town has very little to say for it anymore, (except that they have a post office that sells passports.) The schools are located further in the countryside. The parish in the small town was closed, and my brother can no longer “walk to church.” Of course, they drive everywhere, to school, to work, to shop … but, they would no longer be able to “walk to church” for Mass. What an uproar since, even though there are 2 parishes within a 5 minute drive and another 4 or 5 within fifteen minutes. It has been several years since the closing, and a remnant of the Parish holds services at a Methodist church in the same berg, within walking distance of their homes, since they all live within this discrepit town. The PNC married priest comes from out of state, every month: *He *has far to drive! … Your post gave me this perspective. We never walk to church, and we live in a small town/city where, as my cousin says “everything is withing walking distance.” It would be a “good stretch of the legs,” perhaps 15 minute walk for us, to our Parish Church. Some people may walk, perhaps everyday, who live a block away.

This reminds me further of myself meeting some residents of a nearby city, more economically happy then ours, at Fellowship today: These families send their teens to our town for Catholic High School, paying extra on top of that for being non-parishioners. (It is approx. a half hour drive.) That contrast in Faith is interesting don’t you think … although, I have never faulted my brother’s family before on their Faith. They also travel around with an Lental Choir Show every year, singing at Parishes in the Diocese and Protestant Churches, both.


Cars have really changed the ways which are communities are designed, and in general probably not for the good.

In the past, most people lived in neighbourhoods, close to work, that also included stores, schools, etc. People knew their neighbours, worked among them, saw them on the street in the evening. There was, in general, a sense of community and connection with people. This was true in small towns, but also in the neighbourhoods in large cities.

With the advent of some public transport, there began to be suburbs. The first suburbs actually appeared before personal vehicles were widely used, and were connected by public transport. The communities were still pretty complete, and not incredibly huge, and made for pedestrians. (These early suburbs are really popular areas now in most cities.)

With cars, people just moved farther away from work, and shops. Sidewalks became less common, roadways bigger, driveways dominate the front yard. Kids are as often bussed to school as walk. In order to get to any amenities (say the big-box stores) you have to drive out of the community. Organic communities based on proximity are less common, and people often do not know their neighbours.

The worst affected have been rural areas. More and more those who live there must go into towns or cities to conduct daily business. Kids are bussed over an hour to school. This becomes not a problem only for the convenience and comfort of those living there, but begins to erode away at our ability to produce food locally, because people do not want to live under those conditions.

So yes, I agree we have let our cars control us and the way we live. This has not been great for the environment, or our health either.


I’m going to be taking a 3 hour round trip on the bus today with a toddler just to get to my prenatal class. Sure wish I could drive!
(however I definitely wish a car wasn’t so necessary- my community has terrible public transit for being a big city and before DS was born I used to bike everywhere- biking on the sidewalks is illegal, biking on the roads and you get honked at, passed with an inch of room, etc- not for the faint of heart!) ITA with bluegoat that so many communities have been designed under the assumption that people can drive to get where they want. In many european communities cities are designed for pedestrains or cyclists and public transit. I certainly wish this was the case in my community!


Yes, community planning is definately in the "new dark ages" today. Sadly, I say that as someone somewhat responsible (civil engineer). You can't build walkable communities today - they're illegal. Seriously.

Go ahead and try in any suburb to get permits to build a comprehensive community. You can't. The zoning ordinance requires large lots for single family homes, the public works department demands wide roads and huge setbacks to allow for high speed traffic, the village planner demands 30-40% open space dedication and landscape buffers, the village engineer requires stormwater detention and wetland/floodplain preservation, the zoning requires acres of asphalt parking lots for even modest retail strip malls.... By the time you meet all the land - eating requirements out there in suburbia today you cannot construct sufficient residential density to support even a 7-11 on foot traffic.

And we wonder why things are so expensive! We've approximately quintuppled the paved acreage of Chicagoland in the last 30 years while less than doubling the population (IIRC). Duh, no wonder things are so expensive, somebody PAYS for all that asphalt - you! And me. We have to. Our masters, the cars, demand the tribute.

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