I’ve always liked the show “Mad Men” but I’ve been absolutely hooked this time around.
And because I’m an oddball, my favorite character really isn’t Don Draper (sober or not), but the often-arrogant and frequently manic Pete Campbell.
So it was immensely disappointing to read a New York Times column about Vincent Kartheiser, who plays Campbell on the show.
He’s not at all the WASP-ish immaculately trimmed New Yorker, but a hipster from Hollywood.
And bizarrely for a Los Angeles resident, he doesn’t have a car. Instead, he relies on the city’s ludicrous public transit system. God, he’s such a hipster.
Karthesier brings up an important point though. He refers to statistics suggesting Generation Y children, the “Trophy Kids,” – those born roughly between the 1980s and mid-1990s – no longer view cars as a status symbol.
“They look at them as pollutants,” Kartheiser told the Times. Ouch.
He’s right, especially in California. I can’t remember a time when there wasn’t traffic in LA. There really isn’t a pocket of the 101 that doesn’t get socked in with traffic during most weeknights and weekends.
Most people my age don’t really care what car they drive, or know much about the one they do. Which probably explains why most of them drive either a Toyota Camry or a BMW 3-series, the automotive equivalent of a white T-shirt.
They don’t care about their car as long as it doesn’t break down or cost a fortune to gas up.
And living in a city like Boston now, the few people who do have a car view it as more of a hindrance. Something that needs to be moved every Wednesday morning for street sweeping, or something like that.
I could list a thousand reasons why the Trophy Kids don’t like cars, but I won’t. I’ll blame the Internet, partly because I’m petty.
But frankly I’ve grown used to not having a car. If I had one in Boston, I’d probably go insane. The streets don’t make any sense and the parking situation is painful.
So while a car isn’t the definitive status symbol for Americans it used to be, I’d argue it’s still significant. Just like where you live or what clothes you wear, it does say something about you.
There are lots of people like Kartheiser. I know this because there are places like West Hollywood and Silver Lake, for example.
I don’t have as much antipathy towards public transportation, mostly because in cities like Boston and New York, it actually works. In LA, not quite as well.
At least Kartheiser says he’s getting a car. For him? Probably a beat-to-death 1990s Subaru wagon. It'll continue to look scruffy for years but never completely fall apart. On the downside, he'd likely lose it on a Venice street.