Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Not the QOTD

by Tom Bozzo

Adding to yesterday's extract, Nick Kristof again:
Mr. Cheney’s image seems to be of a dour stoic shivering in a cardigan in a frigid home, squinting under a dim light bulb, showering under a tiny trickle of (barely) solar-heated water, and then bicycling to work in the rain. If that’s the alternative, then many of us might be willing to see the oceans rise, whatever happens to Florida.
Oh, ho ho ho. Now I partly resemble that remark, having taken this morning's ride to work (#70 since the snow melted in late March!) in just enough of a mist that I had a few droplets to wipe off my glasses. It also made the ride a bit more refreshing — soon to give way to bracing — which was good, since the good-for-almost-nothing office building's water heater was on the fritz this morning and the post-ride wash-up was extremely bracing and mercifully brief.

Now, I don't mean to suggest that you're a lazy sod if you, dear reader, don't occasionally bike or walk to work in the rain (though let's face it, it may not exactly kill you, either). The crazy thing, though, is that most people won't get out of their cars (or trucks) even for a three-mile commute in perfect weather — see Peter Gordon here — whether to save the planet, to save some amount of cash, or to arrest some spread of middle-aged backsides. When I'm feeling misanthropic, this factoid doesn't help my sometime view that we're not making a good case for ourselves that we shouldn't be allowed to go extinct. And don't get me started on the likes of Virginia Postrel spreading manure regarding energy-efficient lighting. (Style, maybe; substance, no.)

What actually surprises me is that one doesn't see more from traditionalist commentators to the effect that inability to endure a few drops of rain is contributing to the decline-and-fall of the culture. Forget Ma and Pa Ingalls and family surviving winter in Upper Midwest without modern utilities, just set the way-back machine to The Sad Story of Henry [1945], in which the big green engine's inability to endure a few drops of rain serves as a lesson in the evils of vanity and indolence. I suppose that the likely suspects either haven't transcended the need to Show the kids who bullied them in their youth with fast cars, or otherwise hope to transcend their mortal bodies.

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In defence of the fat-assed, time is the one thing that most of us lack! My walk/metro to work takes 25 minutes extra each leg, so that it's nearly an hour extra a day. While I'd like to be fitter & earth-friendlier, it generally only happens when one of our cars is in the shop. Although I've toyed with the idea of selling car #2 to force the issue.
Cathy, in your case, biking would be a significant time-saver in the walk-to-'tro leg of the trip, though the ride wouldn't be long enough to provide a lot of exercise. A big part of the problem is that most people live too far from work; my comment is directed more to people who live in circumstances such as mine (good paths, short commute) and drive anyway.
Can't ride - I drop the kids off to daycare on the way - which is actually FASTER walking since there's no in-and-out-of-carseat-hell to deal with - sadly!
D'ohh, forgot about daycare. Of course, with enough passengers, even not-very-fuel-efficient cars do well in fuel consumption per passenger-mile.
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