Driving Myself Crazy Searching for the Ecological Solution

by Susanna Starr


Since speaking on the cell phone is prohibited when you’re driving in Santa Fe, I pulled over to answer mine, which rang just before approaching Beaver Toyota. So, it was the most logical thing to drive into the parking lot of a large car dealership.

After getting off the phone, I was approached by a nice looking young salesman who asked if he could show me something. Without having any previous thought as to purchasing a vehicle, I responded by saying, “Only if you have a used hybrid that’s not a small car.” A small car would never fit my lifestyle. My modus operandi is to throw all kinds of stuff into my vehicle -- bags of compost, stacks of newspapers for recycling and lots more.

It was a rather flippant reply, since I was there by accident rather than intention. But truth be told, for some time I was feeling upset about the outrageous cost of fuel that my much-loved Land Rover was using due to the obscene rise in fuel costs, with the government for supporting the oil companies, and with the oil companies for notoriously exploiting the American consumer for many decades. So maybe, just maybe, I was somewhat primed for a change.

Meanwhile, the nice looking young guy smiled and said, “I just got in a two-year old Highlander – it hasn’t even been washed yet.” I told him that I wasn’t really serious and he said, “Why don’t you just look at it”? I looked over at my friend who was sitting next to me and he just shrugged. For him that was a major understatement, since he is well known for his love of buying vehicles. He’ll buy one for himself or help anyone else who shows the slightest interest in buying a car or truck, new or used. Now, however, he took great pains not to influence me in any way.

What could I do but at least look? The Toyota Highlander is the perfect car for me, although I didn’t know it at the time. It’s smaller than the 4-Runner but larger than the Rav-4. And…..this one was a hybrid, the only kind I would consider buying. I already had a 1985 Mercedes Diesel that I had bought two years earlier because I knew that I could run it on vegetable oil, which I did until my source left town. I was still using it but the Land Rover now seemed less viable.

This Highlander Hybrid seemed perfect, two years old and looking new. We took it out for a test run…..smooth and easy. My friend, the auto enthusiast, was of no help. The decision was mine and, much to my surprise, I decided to go for it, then and there. Everything about it was perfect except for the color, but I considered that a trivial consideration.

I did the paper work and drove back home with my friend. I had called my partner, John, at home to tell him what I was doing and the next day the two of us drove down together to pick up the car. I liked old things, used things, things that I was familiar with. Buying an almost new vehicle without previous thought was a major exercise in spontaneity. I lived my life being as much a non-consumer as I comfortably can be, so what had I done? 

That was the first part of the story. The next part just happened yesterday. John and I were back at the Toyota dealership for regular maintenance on the car I’ve now had and loved for the past couple of years. We were sitting in the waiting area with Kona, our dog, contentedly lying at John’s feet. Every few minutes someone would bend down to pet her and bring her a dog biscuit. I was thinking it might be a good place to leave her for the winter while we went to Mexico.

While I was musing, my young salesman walked by. After exchanging hellos he casually asked, “You don’t want to sell your car, do you?”  I asked, “Why?” He told us that he had a client who was looking for exactly the model we had. As it happened, he had just received one that wasn’t for them, since it didn’t have the four wheel drive feature of ours, but was a year newer. “What color is it?” I asked casually. “Silver,” he replied. Hmmmmmm. I admit that I had always admired the white and silver ones I had seen and had even voiced a longing for my own car to have been one of those. But, of course, I already had the blue/grey one and was happy with it. Still……..

“Okay,” I said, “why don’t we at least take a look at it?” It looked just like ours, in spite of the year’s difference and, of course, the color. “We don’t really need a four-wheel drive,” I said, ”since we live in Mexico in the winter and I don’t like driving in the snow anyway.” Next thing we knew, we were in his office going over figures. Luckily, we had to leave before anything could be finalized, since we were meeting friends for lunch at another part of town. This would give us some time to think a little about it.

I called after lunch to tell him that I didn’t think it was going to work, but somehow he convinced me that we should return to his office to discuss it. Maybe I didn’t need much convincing, since I was prepared to either take it or leave it. We did both. We took it, in that I signed a contract, but left it for them to “certify” and detail. He should be delivering it to us in a few days. I hope it will be a long time until I have to go in for maintenance and servicing. It’s just too dangerous. But sometimes that’s how things happen – at least for me.


Susanna Starr is an entrepreneur, photographer, speaker, artist, writer, and traveler and holds a degree in philosophy from Stony Brook State University of New York. Susanna has over twenty years experience in the hospitality business as owner of Rancho Encantado, an eco-resort and spa in Mexico. She has lived in Northern New Mexico for more than thirty five years and has lived in and traveled throughout Latin America. Susanna is the author of the book: Fifty and Beyond: New Beginnings in Health and Well-Being. 




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