Thursday, July 22, 2010

Drive It Like It's a Rental? Depends How You Mean It

For the past week or so, I've been puttering around in a rented Ford Fusion, picked up from the Enterprise Rent-a-Car near Chelmsford and Lincoln.

I can't wait to return it.

Other than work-related traveling, I've never rented a car before and don't much enjoy the experience.

Even a cursory look at the car I do drive -- which I hope to squeeze a couple hundred thousand more miles out of -- might show you that I don't fret too much about scrapes and dents. My reasoning is simple -- I believe a car is a tool, not an investment.

Having lived and driven around in a few cities, I just expect my car to get dinged up, scratched, etc. If it doesn't affect the way the car drives, I don't much mind -- as proof, just ask the two drivers who have hit me when I was stopped at red lights. Ditto for the interior. My "reverse OCD" makes it hard for me to keep the thing neat, but the bonus for a passenger is that you never have to say you're sorry if you spill your coffee. In fact, you might be high-fived for it and credited for your Jackson Pollack-like artistry on the upholstery.

Not so with a rental.

Just having the rental for this week, my wife and I have both noticed the extra "pucker factor" we feel when wheeling it around the city. That extra feeling of responsibility sort of takes the fun away from wondering if that driver is really going to pull out from her spot on Merrimack into traffic without looking (I was seconds away from a nice low-speed collision just today) or whether someone might get too antsy at the Lord Overpass and scrape the entire side trying to get over to Appleton Street (totally fine if it's my car, but please don't hurt my rental!) Ditto for the interior and the rules for passengers.

Anyway, you get the idea. I've never liked the expression "Drive it like it's a rental," in its traditional sense and I find it makes the most sense when it's spun 180 degrees out.

And one other, unrelated thought -- there was a conversation a while ago on about some of the best "Third Spaces" in Lowell. I wasn't familiar with that expression at the time, but the idea is that most people have a First and Second Space (their home and their office) where they spend most of their time. Your "Third Space" is your primary "go-to" for either relaxing or working that might be a coffee shop, a pub, or wherever else might suit your fancy. An unsung hero among Lowell third spaces might be the Starbucks inside the Target on Plain Street. I know the whole "chain-inside-a-chain" might scare away some coffee shop purists, but in its corner are great hours (8 to 10), access to ample caffeine and food, easy restroom access (unlike some of the Dunkin' Donuts that require you to be buzzed in, which can get frustrating and even embarrassing if you're pounding the espresso shots), a central location for many in the city, and seating options that can either put you in a very central, public spot, or sort of tucked back away from the employees and the rest of the store you're in.

As much as I love Brew'd Awakening as a place to meet up/hang out/read the Globe and Sun, its layout makes it a really tough place to go for someone looking to get knee-deep into serious reading, writing, or business.

As for the Stahhbucks on Plain, it would be very easy to go there in the morning, order a little something to eat or drink, and basically spend your entire day working on your Great American Novel, your resume, your studies, or whatever else you do without anyone really noticing you're there, let alone pressuring you to buy anything or to surrender your real estate.

Oh, and one last note -- I'm fixing to take another "Blog Holiday" for a bit. I'll be back on the 30th and looking forward to falling in on all the old daily routines then.

In the meantime, have a great Folk Festival and, as always, thanks for reading.


C R Krieger said...


Regards  —  Cliff

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