The self-own is what separates us from the animals. We utilize our logical capabilities not to make better choices, but to convince ourselves that in fact the bad choice is good. Just as characteristically human is the aggressive denial of the self-own, in which we cannot even acknowledge the bad things are bad. "I'm not mad, I'm laughing."
On this note, there is perhaps no greater self-own—and then denial of said self-own—in modern American life than driving a big honking car. I have been making this case for quite some time, and people with gigantic cars yell at me, because that is what people tend to do when they’re told they have owned themselves.
All of the benefits of driving big cars, as I have previously argued, are illusory. They’re not safer than sedans and wagons. The vast majority of people who drive them do not need the space or towing capacity nearly as much as they think they do, and despite popular conception, they do not handle inclement weather better than a smaller car with similar technology—such as all wheel drive—which many have. Meanwhile, the costs of owning a humongous car are similarly outsized. In addition to the higher sticker price, owners of big cars pay hundreds if not thousands of dollars more every year in gas because the gigantic car is so much less fuel efficient.
These are the obvious and well-known aspects of the SUV self-own. But USA Today brought to light a new realm of the self-own, one I had not previously considered: SUVs and trucks are now so profoundly gigantic they no longer fit in the already pretty large suburban American garages constructed to store said cars. New SUVs and trucks are now too tall and too long to fit in many standard American attached garages, which tend to be seven or eight feet high.
The USA Today story quotes a woman named Kristen Trevino from a Dallas suburb who not only cannot park her gigantic Ford F-150 in her own garage, but also has trouble parking them in public ones, too.
“My truck is really big,” she told USA Today. “Trying to maneuver into a space totally sucks. If you go to the mall and it’s really crowded, looking for a spot is a huge factor. I really have to spend time searching.”
In this context, “my truck is really big” should be read as an attempted humblebrag to mitigate the self-own.
It is cool, you see, to drive a 5,000 pound vehicle to the mall. It is cool to have every journey in your expensive truck begin and end in total frustration. It is cool to be charged an oversize vehicle fee, as many parking garages have started to do, according to the USA Today report, so you can haul dozens of cubic feet of air with your 3.5 liter V6 engine. It is cool to keep your car in the driveway because it won’t fit in the part of your house specifically made for the car. This way, all the neighbors can see how not owned you are.
And we can operate in this delusional self-own despite all of those costs because, as humongous as they may be, they are not an accurate reflection of the full social costs of those giant vehicles. The rest of us, the ones who don’t drive huge cars, are paying for the difference.
Large vehicles mean roads wear out faster and need more repairs, but we all share the burden of those costs. Trillions of dollars in fossil fuel subsidies mean the fuel for these vehicles is artificially cheap. We, the American taxpayers, who drive cars big and small or no cars at all, make up the difference.
It is not the people who cannot park their unfathomably huge cars in their garages who are the most owned. It is all of us. How much longer can we deny it?