Friday, June 02, 2017

I get around, round, get around round round

The other day, I had lunch with a former colleague. We hadn’t seen each other in a few years, and spent some time catching up. Amazingly, his children – who were little guys when Scott and I worked together twenty years ago – are now all grown up. And amazingly – to their father, anyway – neither of these kids (immigrants from the suburbs) is a car owner. They Zipcar. They Uber. They Lyft. And – when needs be – they do an old-school car rental. I didn’t even think to ask whether they use Getaround.

I didn’t ask because, in truth, until I saw an amusing article in The Boston Globe yesterday, I’d never heard of Getaround, a sharing economy service via smartphone app that’s the AirBnB of the automotive world. Or, if I heard about it, I forgot about it immediately. They weren’t in Boston. Up until now.

With Getaround, if you have the yen for wheels for a couple of hours, you don’t have to go the corporate route and join Zipcar. You can tap the car of a fellow millennial and, as the Beach Boys would have it, you’re all set to getaround, round, getaround round round.

I’m not a car owner. I’ve been using Zipcar for nearly a decade now, so I don’t seem like the type who’d be averse to running errands in a car that’s not mine. But I don’t know if I’d ever use it. What I do know, however, is that, if I did own a car, I’d be completely averse to letting someone else drive it.

I wouldn’t want someone who’d leave a half-filled Dunkin styro cup in the cup holder. Or riding the clutch while I wasn’t looking. Someone who’d eat something greasy and leave the bag on the seat. Who wouldn’t fill ‘er up. I’d have no problem letting friend or family drive my car, but a complete stranger? No thanks.

Then again, I’m not a millennial.

I wouldn’t do AirBnB, either.

Oh, I’d consider renting through them. After all, I’ve done short term apartment rentals since back in the pre-AirBnB days, and they’ve worked out fine. I’m not talking about sleeping on someone’s couch and sharing their bathroom. (Ugh!) I’m talking renting an apartment or house that’s mine, all mine. The first time my husband and I did that was a flat in Paris that we found in Harvard Magazine – get this – a print publication.

That first experience was great, and, after that, through different online services, we rented places in NYC, Rome, Paris (the original folks stopped renting), and Ireland.

Last month, I rented (for the second time) a full stand-alone house in Galway for a week’s vacation.

But would I rent my own place out? Not in a million years!

Every once in a while, my husband would bring up doing a house exchange with someone living in a place we wanted to be. But I always put the kibosh on it. Even with a homeowner’s closet – and how secure would that be? – I wouldn’t want someone I don’t know using my dishes, nosing through my stuff, criticizing my artwork, taking a shower in my shower.

Frankly, when I rented other people’s places, I liked seeing how they lived and what they owned. And while I would want a renter like me – clean, careful, etc. – I wouldn’t want a renter like me – curious.

In one memorable stay, while looking for an open drawer – which was customary, as I’d always found an empty dresser in other places we’d rented – I came across a large drawer filled entirely with thongs. And I mean entirely filled. The couple was our age, so I found it all pretty funny. Still, weird that you’d leave stuff like that around. (There were other odd thins around, but let’s leave it with the thongs.)

This apartment also had a Degas on the wall. Yes, a Degas-Degas.

The flat, as it turned out, was owned by one of the many grand-offspring of a famous captain of industry. (You would recognize the name.) The apartment was pleasant enough – I think we stayed there a couple of times – but stuck in the amber of the early 1980’s. Lots of Laura Ashley, and a preponderance of chartreuse green decor in the non-Laura Ashley rooms. But it was not a luxury place by any means. (My home is nicer.) The location, while good (not too Upper East Side), wasn’t great. (My location is better.)

So we figured that there wasn’t enough money to lead a grand, work-free life, but that each of the grandkids had gotten a high-value work of art or two out of their inheritance. (There were a couple of paintings in the living room that “looked” expensive, but the Degas was the only work I recognized.)

Bottom line: I’m not going to be getting around anytime soon.