Tuesday, November 09, 2004

We Need Cheaper Bad Habits

I was driving past the gas station today thinking, "Gee, it would be cheaper if I smoked!" Not from a quality of life perspective, of course, but it would definitely save on the pocketbook if I bought a package of Marlboros and spent my time lighting up instead of motoring around town. Figure, what's cheaper, ash trays or new tires? Gas is hovering around $2.05 a gallon at this moment in history at my particular gas station. As Americans we like to complain about it, but it was more expensive than that 15 years ago in Europe. By a lot. And still is today, I'm sure. That's why everyone in European countries drives cars the size of margarine tubs. They are so small that sometimes they drive up on the sidewalk to avoid traffic jams. Which is why European pedestrians sometimes wear Fashion Fenders on their persons. (Or at least they should.) So our Gasoline Addiction is a national bad habit that we should probably try to purge just like any other bad habit. The problem is, shall we try to cut back? Go cold turkey? Join a self-help group? It will be very embarrassing when we collectively jump into our cars to drive the full 12 steps. Maybe we could hypnotize ourselves. Swing a fascinating object in front of the whole nation, something that would cause us to gape, trance-like (I'm thinking Janet Jackson's Nipple Shield, here), and then when we are sufficiently transfixed, we could start chanting, "Take mass transit. Take mass transit. Take mass..." Except for you know darn well that if we all did that, suddenly the mass transit proprieters would start whining at us. The airlines are already at it, telling us we are too fat for the seats. Did it ever occur to them that maybe THE SEATS ARE TOO SMALL? I was just in Buffalo recently for a trip involving a wedding, and on my way back to Orlando I sat wedged next to a gentleman who was so substantial that he had to fold his arms and rest them on his chest for two hours in order to avoid having children with me. (I was solo on this trip, but perhaps if I had my noisy kids with me he would've spent the whole trip in the restroom just as a precaution.) I think he was also holding his breath, too, because when he accidentally breathed during the snacking portion of the flight my tray table flew up. And HIS tray table was about at crotch level so needless to say he was very cautious with the peanuts. But my point is, although this fella was the size of an offensive lineman, he wasn't particularly fat. He was just a big guy. Shouldn't the airline seats be large enough to accommodate those who don't fall smack dab in the middle of the bell curve? Do we really have to risk someone's carry-on grapefruits being tossed overboard into Kansas just because someone landed at the top of the growth chart? So if we all start taking mass transit to deal with our gasoline addiction we will immediately start hearing about the excess pressure on those bus tires and the fraying of the railroad tracks. Probably the smog would dissipate, too, and we might discover that the U.S. is an entirely different shape than we thought previously! (Or at least that the census is totally wrong.) I think we should build towns all nice and close where everybody could walk everywhere, from work to school to church to the grocery. The problem is, those areas already exist. They're called CITIES, and nobody wants to live in them. So when we get stuck out here in the suburbs with $5 a gallon gas, who's gonna feel sorry for us? It won't be the Europeans. I gotta strap on some fenders.

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