My last two apartments have been in buildings in which every unit a balcony or patio. I can see about 60 balconies from my current parking lot, and if I look up on three different nice summer evenings, I might see one balcony in use one time. I've always been amazed at how all these people paid whatever little bit extra to move into a building with a balcony, almost always populating it with some sort of outdoor furniture, then absolutely never use it.
A friend mentioned this weekend she'd soon be in the market for a new car and asked if I had any recommendations. (Everyone always assumes I'll say a Toyota Prius. Does this happen to Emeril? If people ask what they should make for dinner, do they assume he'll say andouille sausage?)
I asked what she expected to use the car for. She said she mostly makes a very short drive to work here in the DC area, short trips around town, and that she needed something to get to the mountains for snowboarding.
I said, "How many times a year do you drive to the mountains to snowboard?"
"Once. Maybe," she replied.
"Well, maybe rather than paying twice as much up-front and twice as much in gas for an SUV, you could get something more affordable, more fun to drive, and easier to park," I said. "Then when you DO go to the mountains, you can take a tiny fraction of the thousands you'll be saving and rent the biggest, baddest, most tricked out SUV you can find."
I suggested checking out the Ford Focus (including the hybrid), Volkswagen's diesel models (great mileage but not necessarily better emissions), and yes, the Prius, still a great car at a low price compared to other hybrids.