No cars? No phones? Now what?


As an avid cyclist–albeit one who hasn’t turned a pedal in nine months and six weeks as of today–I loved seeing Michelle Singletary’s column, Contentment Without a Car, in the WaPo today. I’m a big fan of life without cars, and I’ve only become more convinced of that since 3B’s arrival, when we’ve gone on more family walks than before.

Previously, Mama or I would take Barky for a walk alone, but now all four of us go for walks whenever possible, during which we’ve attempted to cross the street many times, always celebrating when all of us make it to the other side alive. I know from my many years riding a bike–especially the year in which a woman ran me down in her car, wrapping my bike around her front wheel and dragging it thirty feet into the street after I just leaped off–that cars are deadly and that drivers are stupid. Having what was my sturdy bike wrapped into a pretzel in 10 seconds by a careless driver has always served as a reminder to me when I get behind the wheel to be careful, signal, look twice, and be polite.

Not that my driving record is sterling. There was that O-turn-and-a-half in the underpass that ended only when a fender or two bounced off the guard rails. . .another lesson learned by a 16-year old boy. But, despite my foibles, I feel like I try hard to be alert and polite, lest someone get killed because I really wanted to make it through this one yellow light. I wish that I could say the same about any other driver in the greater DC area–particularly this one. Most of them appear to have gotten licenses by sending in collected box tops rather than displaying any driving skill or common sense.

So, as someone who likes to take walks and bike rides and see a white–not smog-orange–moon rise in a sky full of stars, I’m all for a world with fewer cars. That said, I’m still a technology geek–after the blog, what was your second clue?–and I do love what phones have brought us, even if I don’t use the phone as often as some would like (just ask my Mom about how often I call).

Perhaps that’s because I’m my father’s son–his career was with AT&T–or; because I spent half of my time at home during high school with one plastered to my ear, or because phone lines and phone technology, such as cell phones, bring us the internet and email which have supplanted phone calls as my favorite means of communicating. That’s not because they create more distance, or I don’t like talking to people, or any other social doomsday scenario, it’s because for some time now, I’ve either worked difficult schedules or lived in different time zones from most of the people who I would call. Asynchronous communication like email is a perfect fit for me, and the ability to share pictures and videos from a distance is a godsend, especially with a new baby.

So I’m pretty sure that I’ll never convert to being Amish (Amishism?), because I’m not sure that they’d let me hook up DSL to their phone in an old oil tank, much less run power out there for our iMac so we could videochat with the family. (Discussion question: Would it be cheating to set up WiFi network between the phone shanty and the house and use Skype through a solar-powered laptop back in the house to make calls?)

On the other hand–which makes for three hands, for those of you counting–there is Anthromama’s recent apocalyptic thought that perhaps the time of peak oil, otherwise known as the day of reckoning for car and technology addicts, is upon us and that cars, phones, and most of our creature comforts will soon be gone. If that’s the case, then we’d all better learn how to do something useful with our hands rather than spend our days, as I do, editing web pages. ‘Cause that’s not going to be so handy when the lights go out. “No, I can’t splice rope, or even splice fruit-bearing trees, but I can fix comma splices. Does that help?”

On the other hand–crap, we’re up to four hands now–my bike will still work even if we’re out of oil, although I’m not sure if the town blacksmith would be able to forge me a new chain and cassette for it when the old ones wear out. Of course, I could just lubricate them to prevent wear, but that would require oil. D’oh! The ankle bone is ultimately connected to the neck bone, I suppose.

  • Three interesting things about the WaPo article:

    1) “The telephone, and the use of the telephone, is not something we’re opposed to. We just don’t want it to be the main part of our lives.”

    I love the fact that they accept that something is necessary, but doesn’t have to be important. I hate how Pavlovian I feel when I’m running for the phone.

    2)”a young Mennonite farmer…called a farm-supply dealer. ‘That Manex fungicide, do you have that?'”

    Manex is a fungicide considered hazardous by OSHA and EPA standards. Burst my bubble about all-natural Mennonite farming!

    3)”Stoltzfus pondered the question of bringing a phone into his home. It could lead to television and radio, he said, or endless yakking by his teenagers.”

    Telephone, the Amish gateway drug.