Arriving to speak at the high school, I wasn't surprised to discover the hot-rodder was a student in a flashy car.
When the driver noticed he had an audience of three other kids with envious looks on their faces, he goosed it again, burning more rubber as he roared off into traffic.
Sure enough - the spectators were impressed - and started talking about how lucky the kid was to have his own car. Fooled by appearances, they'd missed the truth of the situation: the autohead didn't own that car - that car owned the autohead.
The three impressionable students didn't realize the driver was rushing off to work. They didn't know our car owner had financed those flashy wheels. They had no idea that along with acquiring the pleasure of patching out in parking lots, our driver had also acquired $300-a-month car payments. $200-a-month insurance payments. $100-a-month gas, tire and maintenance expenses.
17-years-old, our driver was saddled with having to earn $600-a-month, just to pay for that shiny beauty. For five. Long. Years.
Because he'd just started his work career, the hot-rodder's salary of $6.00 an hour forced him to work 30 hours every week, just to cover the payments and income taxes.
While other kids were free after school to do what they wished, our driver was forced to march off to work.
But the expenses continued to add up. In addition to the financial commitment, that four-wheeled possession also extracted a psychological payment. While the driver was in class, he worried about someone breaking into his car. Or stealing its stereo. And when he discovered the paint job's first nasty ding, it felt more like that careless shopping cart had taken a piece out of him.
And then there was the labor commitment. During those rare times he wasn't working, or worrying, he was busy washing, or waxing, or changing the oil.
The true cost of any possession is never just money. It's freedom. Peace of mind. Labor.
In reality, that kid wasn't driving the car, the car was driving the kid.
How many of us bought the nicest house we could get a loan for, and happily signed a 30-year mortgage commitment for the opportunity? Or purchased a car we could only afford through the payment plan? Saddled with having to make those payments, we're pressured to do whatever is necessary to keep our jobs - even if they turn sour.
Frustrated from working so hard and having nothing left for ourselves, we reward ourselves with impulse purchases on credit cards. Then when those bills roll in, many make the minimum payments, pretending not to notice that the payment made last month did nothing but cover the new finance charge on the card's balance this month.
One day we realize we're trapped. We're "forced" to earn a certain amount of income each month to pay all those bills.
Because we traded our freedom for those possessions, we ourselves, become the possessed.
There wasn't time to explain all this to the kids oohing and aahing over the flashy new car. And it was too late to warn the squealing driver who was already trapped.
But it wasn't too late for the group waiting inside to hear my talk. And it wasn't too late to add the subject to my speech.
Squealing tires always catch my attention...
Mike Johnson is an energetic writer & entrepreneur. Learn more about Mike's offerings at www.MikeJohnson.biz