Tanner Zurkoski is sitting in the car that’s become his home for a month, and will cease to be such after today. It’s a hybrid that barely allows him to sit in the driver’s seat comfortably without hitting his knees on the steering wheel; he is 6’4” after all. When asked whether there’s anything he wants to say about living in a car, he answers, “I don’t recommend it.”
He’s experienced the kind of psychological ups and downs one might expect someone in his place to go through. Fortunately, Zurkoski seems to be ending on a relative high note. “If you had asked me like a week ago [how I felt], I would have been super lethargic and been like, ‘This is the dumbest decision I’ve ever made; this is terrible,’” he says. “But I mean, now — it sounds weird — but I’ve gotten used to it.”
Zurkoski finds himself in his current home because of a call he answered from Evergreen, the organization that runs the Brick Works. Evergreen, along with car sharing company Autoshare, wanted to draw Torontonians’ attention to the MOVE Expo — and the fact that the average Torontonian spends 80 minutes per day commuting in a car, which works out to about a month for every year — by performing a stunt that would be impossible to miss. That’s where Zurkoski comes in. He’s been hired to live (this includes eating, sleeping, tweeting, blogging, and conducting interviews like the one with Paul Bedford, above) in a car for an entire month, spending a minimum of 23 hours a day in its cramped space.
Zurkoski says that while it seemed more of a “romantic” idea at the start, it has since lost its shine. Even being paid $1,000 a week seems slightly less attractive when other factors come into play. “The amount of money I’m making is more or less what I would have made, and that would have been working 12 hour days — not 24 hour days — and I could have slept in an air-conditioned apartment with a queen sized bed so…financially that’s not the main motivation,” he says.
The past few weeks have seen some of the hottest days of the summer, and Zurkoski says it was a little unbearable. With temperatures hitting mid-30s and humidity adding another five to ten degrees, sitting in a car is the last thing many Torontonians wanted to do. But Zurkoski is passionate about the cause he’s promoting, especially as an avid transit user himself. “I actually happen to like the TTC because [Toronto] is the only city I’ve only lived in that has functional transit and I think I am in a very small majority when I say the TTC is pretty cool,” he says.
The job hasn’t come without its challenges, but Zurkoski says he hopes it got the message across, and gets people thinking a little bit more about how they spend their time and whether it’s the wisest decision. “Obviously me spending a month in car is not going to make anybody do anything,” Zurkoski says, “but hopefully what it does do is it engages people in a conversation about it at the very least.”
“Hopefully that engages people enough so that they take their own interest and they pursue [the issue] independently.”
As for what long-term effects living in a car will have on him, Zurkoski says he’s not sure. “I like the analogy of when like your dad — when you’re in a 1950s movie — catches you smoking and makes you smoke the entire pack. I’m getting that feeling with the car. It’s either that I’m never going to drive again or I’m never going to leave this car.”