Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Just go for a drive

Last night I went to the cinema. After 16 years without television, I'm always excited to see the advertisements before the film. I can't resist the promise of spectacle, but like the desire for fast food when you're hungry, the excitement lasts for about two minutes, then comes nausea.

Three out of four ads are trying to sell cars. One of those screened last night had a man cruising some downtown at night alone in his car. Of course he seems alert, confident and strangely content as he drives through the slick cityscape. The allure of the edge: dark empty streets, drug dealer types, somewhere a burning vehicle in an empty parking lot. Thank god, it's a bus. Nobody likes public transport. And then the punchline: When was the last time you just went for a drive?

Well, never, in my case, but I know people do. Some years ago Time Out asked various celebrities what's best to do in London "for free", and the superstar architect David Adjaya said he likes to drive his car around the city aimlessly for hours. So much for "London for free" (what about car maintenance, petrol, congestion charge?)

Driving just for fun: burning petrol, pumping CO2 and pollutants to the air, and making your car a little older. As they say, doing your bit for the economy; the economy of overproduction, waste, and ecological destruction. In a few years, if we ever get to have the Fossil Fuel Museum, these citations can go on the wall. I imagine visitors' reaction: you had the cheapest energy ever available to humans, and you just burnt it for fun?

Five years ago a barrael of petroleum sold for $22. Today the price is $78 - almost four times more. Most rollercoasters return to the starting level at the end of the trip, but this one's going up the mountain the whole way, a spectacular takeoff straight into the sunset. In five or ten years "just going out for a ride" will be as likely as burning your house to get warm. But you wiil always be able to go out for a cycle. And there won't be all these annoying architects in their swanky cars on the roads.

No comments: