From Maggie Barron. You can reach her at maggie[AT]borderstan.com and follow her on Twitter @rookerysf.
I graduated from kindergarten about 25 years ago, yet I still struggle with its central lesson: sharing.
Back in the day, I looked around at the runny-nosed kids mashing together different play-dough colors, breaking the crayons in half and leaving the caps off the glue sticks. “Ownership…” my five-year-old brain thought, “means having all of the crayons.” And thus a little capitalist was born.
A quarter century later, and my way of thinking is showing signs of age. Today, the mark of a savvy city-dweller isn’t how much they own, but how much they can get away with not owning. It’s no longer a virtue to own a car you only use on weekends, or camping equipment you only use once a year.
There’s certainly a lot of sharing going on in DC. We have the best bike sharing system in the country, and are one of the top 5 cities for car sharing. You can share office space, kitchen space, tools with your neighbor – pretty much anything you can think of you can borrow or rent from someone else in DC. As The Atlantic recently put it, collective ownership is “less a fleeting fad and more an essential piece of how we’ll live in an increasingly dense, urbanized world.”
It’s been hard for me to wrap my head around, which is especially embarrassing because my husband actually works for a peer-to-peer car sharing company. As he talks about trust, community-building and cost-savings, I am secretly thinking to myself “Wait, is someone going to be touching my stuff?”
Is there hope for people like me? The truth is, I want to be the kind of person who likes to share. I agree that it uses resources more efficiently, is more economical and provides an opportunity to meet new people, many of whom have probably evolved from their play-dough mashing days.
I am trying to take baby steps. Recently we rented a neighbor’s car for a few hours, and the whole time I felt oddly transgressive, as if I had borrowed it without asking. “They are really just giving us their car? We could be weirdos!” I said. “But we’re not,” answered my husband. But we could be, I thought.
We have also signed on to DogVacay, a website that matches people who need dog sitters with others willing to host – sort of the “Airbnb for dogs.” Our first hosting experience, for a shar-pei mix named Howard Zinn, was similar to babysitting for a stranger’s child for five days, and about as much fun. (Howard wasn’t so much into being a member of the sharing economy as he was into drooling and chewing on socks.) It did pay almost $200, though. So mixed success.
But I am going to persevere. While I think that in many cases “sharing” is a misnomer for this new trend (many of the services are really “renting” or “paying someone to do something for you,” which is slightly different), in small doses it might even be good for me. As long as I can still keep my own crayons.