A lot of stuff changed within a three-month window: new car, new license (state), new apartment, new marriage, and new job.
After that diamond ring, this maroon colored 2010 Honda Accord LX-P renewed the record as the most expensive thing I’ve purchased with my own money. The experience returning from a New York City resident to an average American car owner had given me two realizations about myself.
The greatest reflection was how paranoid I had become after all these years. Just ten years ago I was still clueless and careless about mostly everything – but those that I grew up with had heavy influence on my thinking: Dennis, Tim, and Phil are all fairly over the top in knowing factual details of stuff, analyzing in depth into insignificant things, and bargaining for deals. Now, feeling super uneasy for any knowledge that I might miss, I spent months reading materials and getting quotes from 10+ dealers spanning 3 states. It all paid off as I walked into multiple dealerships, apparently knowing more than most of the sales people, and got a solid deal. At the end of the day, what remains unknown was how the money saved divided by the hours of research I put in compared to my equivalent hourly wage from work.
The other reflection was, somehow during the five years of not owning a car, I had become a city driver. Prior to that, I absolutely hated urban driving – even not-so-urban places like DC and Pittsburgh made me super nervous. Somehow I learned, on the back seat of all the late night cabs leaving work, the lead-foot technique at following the traffic flow and the manuvering skills around pedestrians and other random road blocks. Now I’d prefer to drive in Manhattan over a flat highway any day.
Moving into NYC five years ago was a big pain in the ass. Moving out of NYC now was also uneasy. It’s a city that I both hated and loved with all of my heart. Though one thing is certain… it’s nice moving into a two-bedroom apartment with a loft, a balcony, parking spaces, a swimming pool, and a gym. Picking up the apartment keys and car keys on the same day, I started furniture shopping and cross-state moving with my brand-new car. It wasn’t exactly the best idea to take her through the shitty potholes in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Elizabeth with heavy loads of stuff, starting day 1, but some cars are just less lucky.
The move was made easier when I hired two movers from Flushing. These were non-professionals who helped people move as a side job. They weren’t the most careful but provided excellent value for my super-cheap furnitures. Both of them were from Taiwan and had awesome personalities to talk to. On top of that, one of them looked extremely similar to Jay Chou and used to be a chef at a really big restaurant in Taiwan.
The wedding was another big expense not only for us, but also for our friends and families. It was also the most exciting and memorable week that I can remember. Starting at Atlantic City with my three buddies, to the trendy rehearsal dinner to the altar to the dance floor, it was nice being the center of the attention and seeing months of planning come to reality.
During the past two years, I watched pathetic commuters jump in and out of busses along the ghetto state highways between New Brunswick and Princeton, sometimes late into the night, sometimes in the rain or snow. I had always wondered what kind of poor souls they must be to not drive a car or ride a train, and instead opt to be standing in untrimmed weeds with a half-torn umbrella, by a road where cars zoom by at 50-70 miles per hour, kicking up soda cans and littering cigarrette butts, shiverring while waiting for a bus that stops every 100 feet in the invisible distance.
Well, the answer became crystal clear when I moved into Jersey and realized that the bus was the only feasible transportation to commute into NYC from certain spots within the state. I bought some tickets and added myself to the group of pathetic souls. Driving to a park-n-ride, walking to the bus stop, napping on the ride, power walking to the office from Port Authority, and then repeating it all in the reverse direction took 4 hours out of each day. Wow. Lucky for me to start this ritual in the lovely late spring when the air was warm and rain was nonexistent… I couldn’t help but to wonder how many commuters per winter decisively jump onto the highway out of depression. Well, let me not find out.
Because 4-hour commutes and the notorious 16-hour consulting work days were not naturally compatible, I found myself an insurance job in Newark instead. It’s still an hour drive each way, which is long by the average American standards, but a significant improvement in comparison. Leaving my dear friends and letting go some of my most prided projects was a painful process, but effectively reducing my work day by 30% and commute by 50% was well worth it.
Lots of changes, in such little time.