Tara was an early lesson in the power of economics.
In 1979, in the days when the rest of the world was driving Austin Allegros and Morris Marinas, Tara’s father drove an Alfa Romeo. Tara’s father was a civil engineer, a profession which seemed very lucrative. Tara’s family lived in a big old seventeenth century house, thick stone walls and rooms like something from a Sunday newspaper colour supplement, it stood in what estate agents would have described as “mature gardens,” large trees, abundant flower beds, and roses climbing the walls. It was the kind of home that you might have expected if you had known her. Not only did Tara’s father drive an Alfa Romeo, he allowed Tara to borrow it to go out at in the evening. The price of the car would have been unthinkable for most working people. The thought of being eighteen years old and being allowed to drive such a car was beyond our imagination. Even the cost of the insurance would have been far beyond the means of most of Tara’s contemporaries (to be honest, even having the money required to have filled the tank with petrol would have been too much).
Economics excluded any prospect of romantic involvement with Tara. When you were eighteen years old at that time, and a pushbike was your only mode of transport, attractive young women from Tara’s background would tend to give you a miss. In 1979, driving a car was something unusual among those at Sixth Form college, owning a car was even rarer. Tara’s usual boyfriends would be twenty-somethings and would be driving their own cars and have cash in their pockets.
Tara was not shallow, she was intelligent and witty and engaging, as well as being pretty. Tara was a friend to those of us who depended upon bicycles, but when it came to choosing someone for a date, Tara simply responded to the best offer available, as would any of us in her situation.
Human nature has not changed since Abraham offered Lot the opportunity to choose which land he would take for his people, and Lot chose the best land. It is human instinct to seek the best for oneself; perhaps it is part of our Darwinian programming, our instinct for survival. Economists would offer theoretical models based on returns and benefits to explain why Tara would have chosen a sharply dressed young man who drove a Ford Escort over a teenager dressed in sweatshirt and jeans who rode a bike.
Economics is logical, it explains much of our human behaviour, and it is always bad news for those of us on pushbikes.