Imagine, if you will, it’s September 1966. You’ve accomplished what no one in your family had done before. Just a few short months ago, you earned your Ph.D., and with a little hard work and a lot of luck, you’ve been hired to your first professorship, at Stanford. Now it may be no Harvard or Yale, at least not yet, but for a first time position, you still consider it quite the coup. Classes begin next week. You found a tidy little cottage in Palo Alto, just a couple of miles from campus. Sure you could keep riding your bike like you did as a graduate student. It’s really not that far, and the weather is just so damn pleasant. But this is California! How are you going to get to the beach on the weekends or up to the city for a show? Besides, you’ve worked hard to get here; you deserve a reward. On down to Peninsula Chevrolet of Palo Alto.
Now that you’re there, though, what to buy? Sure, it’s a reward, but you’re still junior faculty after all. Need to look at the cheaper stuff. That eliminates the Corvette straight away. Forget the Biscayne; that’s for old, cheapskate farmers. How about the Chevelle? Well, the SS sure looks nice, but who needs so much motor? And Aunt Mabel drives a 300 to church and the grocery store. That doesn’t seem to be the right fit either. All that leaves is the Corvair and the Chevy II. Are they still making the Corvair? You’d never guess, since the dealership doesn’t have any in stock. Well, that little gold Nova looks pretty good. Just enough sparkle for the girls, but it won’t get me too much attention in the Economics department, like the Camaro behind it. Oh, look at that, it’s even two-toned.
And it has the uprated six. A little peppier without killing you on the gas!
The salesman is pretty slick. He knows you don’t need the hard sell: “Just sit right here”; “take it around the block”; “imagine looking back to get a second look every time you park it on campus.” Even the soft sell is unnecessary. Where do you sign?
Flash forward to the fall of 2019. Classes have just started on your 54th year of teaching. You’re a little grayer now, a little softer around the middle. But your mind still hums and your ticker’s still ticking (those statins probably help). Just like your little old Nova. You could retire, and you could buy a new car. But why would you? You got one of the best jobs in the world, and you got a car you love and that’s loved you back.
Sure, you could spend some money making her look better. That Palo Alto sun has taken its toll, and you could get a face lift, too. But why would you? Both seem to be getting you where you need to go every day just fine.