Monday, December 7, 2009

Elegy For A Mazda 323


If the world ends -- at least the developed one -- not with a bang but a whimper, what does that whimper sound like? When I dispatched for the world’s most infuriating interstate bus company, it was like this: The aging fleet came into the shop needing maintenance, and we sent the buses back out still needing it, because we had so many broken vehicles that we couldn’t afford to take any more off the road. The limping buses broke down, then, someplace where I’d have to hire a charter company to rescue the passengers, a tow truck to rescue the bus, and a commercial shop to fix what our shop should have, for more than it would have cost us. Rich guys in Beamers and nice suits owned the place, and thought their jobs were to lobby state legislatures for subsidies so buses would stop in small towns.

What does the whimper sound like now? I meant to write about this the first time Jason, Barbara’s Barsy’s Almonds business partner was burglarized. But I had other things to say. Then he was robbed again, and I had fantasies of bringing back the whipping post, and de-pantsing thugs in the public square, but I still was busy.

The outline was something like this: Buckminster Fuller said that technology was enriching us, so that we were feeding more people, and a greater proportion of the world’s population, and feeding them better than ever before. Further technological evolution, and deliberately arraying our technology to serve human needs, would make us four billion billionaires (This was more than thirty years ago).

In fact, Fuller didn’t adequately account for abundant fossil fuels, particularly oil. I meant to quote E. F. Schumacher that, “The...illusion (that science and technology have given us unlimited powers) is based on the failure to distinguish between income and capital where this distinction matters most (in regard to irreplaceable and powerful fossil fuels).”

I would have said that energy decline and post-peak economic contraction would give, maybe are giving, us a rewind of the past. I’d just read Herbert Asbury’s The Gangs of New York, and meant to quote it for examples of squalor and violence.

The punch line would have been that whatever colorful punishments we meted out to the depraved on account of they’re deprived would become rights of passage for thugs, and work against us. Even killing them would affect us by making them heroes to their tribe. The real answer is realizing our true human identity, by mimicking and integrating with the world ecology. (Warriors against terror, take note.)

The Friday night, some idiot stole Barbara’s and my car. I’d neglected to put it in the garage. We’d had a rash of auto break-ins a while back, and I leave it unlocked so I don’t have to replace glass. There’s nothing valuable in the car, and who’d steal a beat-up ‘91 sub-compact, really?

I had a meeting Saturday morning, with my neighborhood Transition Town group, and then I was going to relieve Jason, who was flogging Barsy’s Almonds at the Midtown Global Market. I left the house, expecting to drive over to Joe’s house. “Okay. I must have put it in the garage.” Not in the garage. Back to the street, to look slowly up and down the block, step out into the street and look from that angle. Back to the garage to make sure I hadn’t missed the car there in my panic. I opened the door, and squatted to look in. At that angle, the car would prevent my seeing the back wall. “Nope. There’s the wall.” Call Barbara and ask her if she had taken the car after all (she’d made other plans). “No, sweetie, I don’t have it.” I didn’t want to call Barbara, she was busy handing out samples at a store, and it would be better if she found out later.

I walked over to Joe’s house, and stayed calm during the meeting. (The idea of transition towns is that we can’t count on the larger society, so we adapt locally to the economic issues precipitated by the looming thresholds of peak oil and climate disruption.) Then I called 911. Then I waited for the cop. I moved furniture, and sat and repaired a lamp shade. I was raging in Martian gibberish at a snarl of thread when the cop arrived. Fortunately she was a forty-something woman with a severe bob. I managed to pull myself together, and make a report. The officer told me that with some of the older small cars, any key you can get into the ignition will turn it.

I walked and took the bus to the market to relieve Jason, and sold a lot of almonds. Somebody came by from another holiday market, in Wayzata, where the rich people live. She said that it was full of fantastically turned-out women. “I swear, Tom, the older they are, the higher the heels on their boots. It makes their butts look firmer. They aren’t buying anything, and they look at you like you’re a bug.”

I thought of statistical tragedy and immediate tragedy. I thought of my ugly little car, ripped off by some dim little jerk, looking for a warmer way to get home. Immediate theft. Cold, well kept women in fur jackets and knee-high boots with stiletto heels, driving second or third cars that cost more than my house, while their husbands cook the books to keep little Muffy and Chert in ponies. Statistical theft. There’s a clutch of women walking miles, through sub-Saharan Africa, to get water every day because of each one of those Wayzata wives. I’ll be damned if I whimper.

1 comment:

GooseBreeder said...

No whimpering but plenty of getting real, like not ever leavi ng the next car outside the garage, putting all that energy into getting the Transition Town up and running and involving little thugs who steal cars so they can do something productive with their miserable lives.