February 14, 2009 in City

Around here, car and driver much cheaper

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Does anybody in Spokane have a “car and driver” to take them to work?

This popped into my mind in the aftermath of the Tom Daschle affair. His Cabinet appointment was scuttled because of unpaid taxes, stemming from his use of $255,000 worth of “car and driver” services.

Those unpaid taxes appalled me, but I was even more appalled by the sheer size of that guy’s chauffeur bill.

Dang, with $255,000, a guy could buy a pretty nice fleet of Chevys and drive himself to work in Spokane until 2080.

This is the perfect illustration of the differences between upper-end America (the rich and powerful 2 percent) and boring old regular America (the other 98 percent of us). Could the differences in our lives possibly be more stark?

It boils down to this:

•Some people are so all-fired important, they can’t even spare the time to drive themselves to work.

•Other people, like me, don’t even want somebody else driving them to work. We’d elbow the chauffeur right out of the driver’s seat.

Just ask my wife. I can’t stand it when someone else tries to drive. All I do is nag (“You’re following too close”), offer alarmist advice (“Watch OUT!”) and generally tell the driver what I would do if I were at the wheel (“Not to criticize, but the wise driver would avoid the Division-Ruby couplet after 4 p.m.”).

Honestly, I just don’t understand why anyone would need or want someone to pick them up and drive them to work every day. Driving to work is my personal time, where I can be alone with my thoughts or, even better, the thoughts of the KKZX Radio Men.

I suspect that where we live makes a difference in our attitude toward the subject of Driving Mr. Daschle. Tom Daschle worked in Washington, D.C., a notoriously traffic-clogged city with streets jammed 16 hours a day with important, powerful Congress members and lobbyists – all being driven to work.

We, on the other hand, live in a smaller, saner, relatively traffic-free Northwest city with streets not very jammed with people driving their 1998 Nissan Altimas toward the closest espresso drive-through. So I guess I can see why our comparative attitudes about “cars and drivers” might be sharply divided.

Maybe if I lived in D.C., or even Seattle, I might gladly accept my $255,000 in car and driver services so I could spend my commute doing something important like calling my office and powwow-ing or confab-ing. I might e-mail someone with my BlackBerry, if I had one. I might read important documents, like, for instance, the U.S. Tax Code, so I would know whether I am supposed to pay taxes on my car and driver.

But, to be honest, I would do none of those things. I’d probably sit in the back seat and think my own thoughts (usually about lunch), or listen to the Radio Men.

It has occurred to me, however, that there is, in fact, a Spokane version of a “car and driver service” and that many of us have used it many times.

It’s called the STA bus, and it works almost exactly like a car service. The STA bus comes right to your neighborhood, picks you up and takes you to work. You can use that commute time to read the U.S. Tax Code, where you can discover the excellent news: Bus fare is not even remotely reportable as income.

Eat your heart out, Tom Daschle.

Find an archive of Jim Kershner’s columns at spokesman.com/columnists. Kershner can be reached at (509) 459-5493 or jimk@spokesman.com.


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