How working from home has changed my relationship with cars
AkioOhtori last edited by
Or perhaps I should have called this "How has working from home changed my relationship with cars?" because I honestly don't know. I'm hoping by the end of this brain dump I'll be able to answer that question.
In late 2019 I got laid off. Having worked in oil and gas for ten years, 1.5 recessions and like four oil crashes, I'm honestly surprised it hadn't happened before then.
A couple of months later I got a new gig and in late January 2020 I flew to [redacted] for my new employee orientation. I knew the new job was a full remote team, but I thought I was going to be working out of the Tulsa office just… remotely.
Turns out this was not the case.
They’d thought about getting me a cubicle at the local Tulsa office, but decided that was a lot of work and didn’t. Also I think we would have had to pay them rent? So, instead, I was going to work full remote.
On the bright side, this meant I got to start building my home office in February 2020, a month or two before everyone else got started. This was a good thing.
But also instead of waking up, showering, feeding the dogs, eating breakfast, and spending fifteen to forty minutes driving one of my cars to work, I’d be rolling out of bed and staggering the 10 feet to my desk.
Let me back up a bit
So hey, originally when this was going to be a DriveTribe post, introducing myself seemed important. Now with out influx of refugees from the same I guess I have to introduce myself anyway!
Hi, my “name” is Akio and I have a (usually) ever-changing fleet of inadvisable cars. When I joined Oppo back in 2016 I’d just completed my first “cheap car challenge” wherein two friends and I flew to San Diego, bought cheap cars, and then drove them up the Pacific Coast to Seattle. It was an epic adventure
that is available on DriveTribe for a time anywaythat I need to get around to porting to Oppo, but for my it was my first post on Kinja Oppo and the pitch that got me authorship.
Anyway, I ended up keeping the Alfa Spider from that trip, which necessitated selling my 1963 VW-based Manx-style Dune Buggy. Since then, I re-acquired my first car, a 1984 Saab 900 Turbo, bought and kept a Land Rover Discovery on our 2nd cheap car challenge, a 4WD Honda Wagovan, and other random, inadvisable, eclectic cars. The last acquisition was a 2004 Jaguar S-Type R as a reward for getting a new job. Something about a 400HP supercharged V8 for under $5k just seemed like a steal.
Throughout all of this, I now realize, I would always drive all of my running cars to work. When I worked in the next town over, I even took the Dune Buggy on the 35-45 minute drive to work a couple of times. It wasn’t fun, but it was an experience. More importantly it was a stress test for the cars. I needed to make it to work but I chose to take the projects. It was their test, it was a right of passage, it was a way of bonding with the cars. Most importantly, it made my coworkers think I was crazy, which was a nice bonus.
Back to January 2020
So now I have a new job, which I thankfully love and it isn’t in oil and gas, but no commute. Then there was this whole pandemic thing (maybe you’ve heard of it?) and…
That… changed things.
But very gradually.
So, at this point it seems reasonable to inventory the fleet:
2013 Volvo C30 Polestar LE – “Daily driver” and the “reliable” car
1984 Saab 900 Turbo Sedan – First car when I was 16; Been in the family since 1998; permanent project car
1987 Alfa Romeo Spider – First cheap car challenge car, work in progress but usually reliable
2001 Land Rover Discovery II SE7 – Second cheap car challenge car, utility vehicle, offroad queen
2004 Jaguar S-Type R – Present to myself, “fun” fast project, pain in the ass, for sale
So yeah, the Volvo and the Disco split (or used to anyway) daily driver duty. The Saab and Alfa, when running and driving, played fill-in. The Alfa usually got me to work once or twice a week, the Saab almost never got me there and back, but that is another tale entirely.
So what about now?
Well… I don’t know, do I?
The problem that immediately presented itself after changing jobs was I had no real reason to drive cars other than the Volvo and the Land Rover. Mostly the Land Rover, to be honest.
There are a couple of reasons for this, best I can tell.
First off, the pandemic drastically changed errands. In the before-times, they were a leisurely thing to do, even a way to alleviate boredom. Taking a project car made the trip more silly and more interesting. Peak pandemic, the few errands we ran (required supplies like dog food), the uncertainty of taking a project car like the Alfa or Saab just added to the already high ambient dread. I didn’t want a car that might not make it. I wanted to get there, get in, and get out while interacting with as few people as possible.
Even non-errand activates – just going for a drive – the possibility of breaking down just didn’t work for me. Also, we were told to not do that for… some reason? Amazing to look back and realize how little we knew in even late 2020. Why couldn’t we leave the house? Like at all?
But I digress…
More importantly, while I usually have a bit of a “wrench every day” attitude since work from home / the pandemic I… haven’t. I think this is because I’m not driving them as much due to aforementioned work from home and need for reliability?
Now… that isn’t to say I haven’t done some significant wrenching. The Jag got a huge refresh, from which it returned running slightly worse, the Alfa got a new head gasket and a full top end refresh, and the Disco has got some pretty significant upgrades and repairs as needed.
But, in general, I, unusually, feel like I am fighting a losing battle. This is unusual and disheartening. Usually I run with three “permanent” cars and one “project” and feel like I have just slightly too much to do. Now I have what feels like four projects and an overwhelming amount to do.
The cars have their specific roles, the Volvo is great for most things, like long trips, grocery runs, and just driving around. The Land Rover works well for bigger grocery/Home Depot runs, driving the doggos around, driving around in bad weather, and, primarily (now) offroad trips.
So, basically, the Volvo gets to go on work trips and the Land Rover gets to go on offroad trips. I don’t really track mileage, but a way to look at it is I’ve owned the Volvo for nine years and driven it 52,000 miles or so and I’ve owned the Land Rover for nearly five years and put 30,000 miles on it.
The Jag? Well… it doesn’t really have a point. Also, it spends a lot of its time being broken because it is a Jag.
The Saab? It likes to break down and not much else. Seriously I have never been around a car that hates its life more than the Saab.
The Alfa? Well… its life is complicated. Generally, it is pretty content to soldier on, reliable, scrappy and generally a good car. However, in May 2020 I blew the head gasket on a track day and… well frankly I think the patient was out for too long because it came back… wrong. Since replacing the head it has insisted on running rich and poorly. It… has not gone well. But I’m working on it!
So what does all this mean?
Well I wish I knew.
My sort of vague speculation is that the decreased mileage and/or need to drive has decreased my motivation to wrench? Also there is a decreased need for variety. I drive my car(s) once or twice a week at this point, so there is no monotony. I’m not driving the same machine every day. I’m not getting bored with or angry at it. We could be BFFs. Furthermore, without any coworkers to talk to the cars about and bring them in to show the need to repair them is less… urgent.
So, now here I am with four project cars and almost no motivation to work on them.
That said, the situation isn’t hopeless. I do still wrench, but generally have to force myself. For example, the Alfa’s head blew in May 2020, but I didn’t start repairing it until track day 2021 was impending. I didn’t make it, but track day was rescheduled and I made the second one. It didn’t do great, but it made it and now I’m getting ready to repair it, yet again, for track day this year.
For new years 2020 and 2021 we took off-road trips, which motivated me to do a ton of work on the Rover.
This year I’ve got a May track day and a June offroad trip to wrench for. I’m also aiming to have the Saab at 100% cosmetically and mechanically in time for the Saab club drive in October/November.
What is next?
Well the Jag needs to go.
The other four are basically forever cars so… they get to stay.
I need to make more excuses to drive, which is made easier by the pandemic being less ambient doom now.
But, honestly, I don’t see a path to “getting back to normal” without a commute.
And that is ok.
After the Alfa’s rich running and the Disco’s front end are taken care of, the Saab is going to be my “new” project car, which makes sense as it has been several years since I've worked on it earnest.
And that is ok.
As much as I liked the old way, the new way is OK too. Cheaper for one. Also I feel like some of these projects will actually get finished. Like... finished finished.
So... what about you Oppo? Has the pandemic/career change altered your relationship with cars?
RamblinRover last edited by
Jag staying broken even despite being a Ford Mondeo, because when they slapped the Jag badging on it, they somehow made it a real Jag.
I've been in-office all through the several seasons of shenanigans, so not much has changed from that, but I've been staying busier with expanded responsibilities, so getting less done with my projects, more's the pity.
The latest twist is that I'm now going to be formal head of the drafting department and on call for a lot of plant management stuff (as our production manager just left and was replaced by his brother, still a little green) and day to day engineering work as the head engineer is retiring. And in another year, I'm kind of planning to take my PE exam.
...what a lot of that means is I'm trying to get better at delegating to keep from working myself to death. If I succeed, it paradoxically means I can take time off... ever.
MybirdIStheword last edited by
@AkioOhtori well now that I actually have the money to restore my T/A properly, I found that it makes practically zero sense compared to many other options. Why not buy something crazier, something more fun? I can maybe justify one big toy in my life. And frankly, while I can wrench, I really don't love it. Learning restoration only makes sense if I will do it again in the future. Time to let her go.
Qaaaaa last edited by
@AkioOhtori Ah, yes, the pandemic, or as I like to call it "my entire adult life so far basically". I finished college in May 2019, then started grad school immediately after that. Then, rumors of all graduate assistant contracts being terminated immediately, all foreign nationals being sent to their home countries, and all resident students sent to their families for remote learning precipitated my lab hiring me full time as a research engineer. (Note, all of the rumors actually came true- I would have been deeply screwed had I not taken the job). Thus, my "adulthood" and career in general started with me living walking distance from the lab, which is on the campus of where I did my undergraduate degree. So: from 2015 until the full-swing stage of the rona (summer 2020) I effectively didn't have a change in driving behavior, living with the reality that I could have a total shitbox daily that broke all the time because I really only needed it to go buy groceries. Thus, the automotive lifestyle resulting from owning a Golf that rolled off the line in Puebla three months before I rolled into this world got to continue until the catastrophic failure of said Golf in September 2020, resulting in a mad hop between various $500 shitboxes for months on end until my mom got sick of me never visiting and foisted a "reliable" 2005 Mini Cooper S upon me. Somehow, I've tumbled into what I would call "real" adulthood, where I have an actual commute (to a host of various labs, offices, and other worksites), necessitating what I'd hoped to and long successfully avoided, commuting. One broken Golf, ill running Cabriolet, and engineless Rabbit snowballed into an assortment of nine vehicles with at least four wheels, outgrowing a space in a creepy structurally deficient alley that sometimes had a roof, moving me into a 5000 square foot almost an actual mechanic shop.
TL;DR- how did the pandemic change my automotive relationship? It made it worse. Way worse. Before, what was going on was nearly acceptable. Now, to some, I am pariah, barely functioning in my niche. I wonder what's next.
ITA97 last edited by
@AkioOhtori I think we all know here how I went from a garage full of cars, to one car-truck and a garage full of bicycles.
mjswee last edited by
I'm in a similar situation to you. I was working in my rural hometown and had 5 cars. My commute to work was 12 miles and I would rotate what car I drove into the office. I had a pole barn and a detached single car garage, so I could store everything easily. But then I started dating a girl who lived in a city about an hour away. We ended up buying a house together in the city because she's an established realtor there and I could work from home full time in my current job.
My problem is I don't have enough space in the city. We only have a two car garage and she gets one space, plus we have yard tools and other storage in there. So I have my 912 in the house garage, my daily Jeep in the driveway, my Mercedes in a 10x30 storage unit that is $200 a month, and my Austin-Healey and 914 are currently back in my hometown in a pole barn on a property of my parent's. My plan is to bring the Austin-Healey to the city as it should fit with the Mercedes in the 10x30 unit. And I'll rotate the 912, 914 and Mercedes as the car stored back at home. But like you, I now don't drive anywhere. My drives are mostly Point A to Point A pleasure drives, a Cars and Coffee visit, a drive to my parents, or an occasional PCA drive.
I've considered selling the Mercedes, but every time I drive it I fall back in love with it. I've considered selling the 912 while the market is hot, but I could never buy back that car in the future with what I paid for it. The Austin-Healey is a keeper for life. It seems like the 914 might be the odd one out, but I feel like I'm still in the getting-to-know-you stage with it. All the while I have a new Jeep on order (will be replacing the daily) and keep looking at M2s, M3s, and M4s for sale. I'm hoping to find some industrial zoned property to store my cars in and charge others to store cars or boats, but that market in my area is tough.
Darkbrador last edited by
@AkioOhtori No. But I need a dune buggy.
Bandit last edited by Bandit
@AkioOhtori Working from home has meant during the summer I'm now using my Trans Am as my daily driver since I really don't have to go anywhere further than 5 miles away in my daily life or get on interstates.
Working from home has also afforded me more time to wrench on it, during the pandemic I've had an opportunity to do an LS swap and full suspension rebuild. Who cares if I'm working on my car while listening in on a conference call that really isn't that important. I've also had the bandwidth to have some side projects in the 1998 Mustang GT and 2000 Yukon Denali projects I flipped.
Likely the biggest opportunity for me though is working from home has allowed me to look for houses for sale outside of my typically preferred commuting range (30 min or less from the office) which has opened up homes that are larger, nicer, and (somewhat) more affordable than houses closer to where I work. I might soon have a 2 or 3-car garage which will be a good upgrade from my 1-car garage apartment I've got currently.
On a personal note, I'm just hoping that working from home more often now doesn't become career limiting since I wont get daily facetime with my leadership. I'd like to move up in the company and make a higher salary so I can continue to enable my automotive habits (and sure other things in life too).
sn4cktimes last edited by
@AkioOhtori good post!
I’m still rocking the AMC Eagle and Dodge Rampage. Wife still has her Juke. Eagle needs more work and then I think it may be worthy of attempting to haul our teardrop trailer… so next year. Just ordered a new Noco lithium battery for my Husky enduro bike. Half the weight, 3 times the available running amperage, 6 times the CC amps. Rampage needs a new lead acid battery. And has some oil leak from somewhere…. But it runs, so I’m deciding on whether to jump both feet in and get it repainted now, or do something major with it, and then get it bodyworked/painted properly.
pip bip last edited by
@AkioOhtori i still enjoy driving, so my relationship hasn't changed.
LimitedTimeOnly last edited by
@AkioOhtori Although the pandemic only got me to work from home for a few months twice, I got a new job in 2021 that is 90% WFH (new job motivated in part because old job rushed the return to office as far as I was concerned). And my partner stopped traveling one week a month for work due to the pandemic, while also picking up a somewhat regular gym routine.
This all has changed the relationships with cars. Fewer miles on the GTI, but now I have to drive it anytime I'm working and visiting a site, because no company fleet vehicles available with the new job. I could and do take the Outback more for site visits, but my partner now wants it available for unpredictable gym visits and doesn't like driving the GTI even though it is a DCT auto.
Which means next car replacing the GTI having a manual transmission and lower ground clearance might really upset the work needs, but be more feasible due to lots of WFH with less stop and go commute traffic making the manual less fun.
This is part of why I'm living with the status quo for at least another year before making changes, to see how things in life evolve again for car use.