18 April, 2005

Diagnosis: not so clever

Satisfied at last. Each night, I emerge from under my hedge and root around in the news. Each night, I seek out statements deserving of being nibbled to nubbins with my strong if smelly teeth. Tonight, the scent of spring jasmine and wild irises almost kept my wild-animal nose from finding the stupidity -- but some stupids stink enough to attract even a drowsy, flower-stoned hedgehog.

Tonight's winner: The Washington Post quotes Nancy McGuckin, a geographer who calls herself a "travel behavior analyst." She said,
If you see people replacing an in-home activity like brewing your own coffee with an activity that requires a new [car] trip, that's not exactly the trend we're looking for.
I'm sure she knows that there was a time, not so long ago, when a trip of more than 5 miles was a very rare event. When all those goodies we now get outside the home, from Corn Flakes to sexual fantasies, were available, if at all, by the sweat of our brows in our very own homes. No supermarkets or adult bookstores, no traffic congestion, and no oil imports. Take-out coffee is just another part of a long-term trend toward specialization. So maybe McGuckin thinks that the cause of vehicular congestion and wasted oil is, at root, the division of labor? Hmm.

Here's what I think. Hedgehogs rarely make coffee at home but we like to go out for a cup now and then. And no, we don't drive cars. So the problem here is not that people are increasingly going out for their coffee. The problem is they have bought into the absurd line that living close to other human beings is a "low" quality of life, and have therefore stuck themselves into isolated automobiles for even the most mundane, inherently local trip, like a trip to a cafe. The problem is with suburbia and car culture, not with take-out espresso. She's seeing one tiny symptom and calling it a disease.

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