A minor cartastrophe

15Nov10

A horrible noise interrupted my commute this morning. It sounded exactly like the stall-warning siren from a Cessna 152 (another story—and another noise I’d prefer to never hear again).

I looked at the dashboard and saw a blinking red light. Crap. Almost at the same moment, I smelled the acrid aroma of burning car. Crap! I put on my emergency blinkers and pulled into an empty lot. I popped the hood. The engine was covered in oil. CRAP!

The story has a happy ending, thanks to the Volkswagen Man. The mess was spectacular but the repair was pretty minor. I was very grateful to get my car back this evening—and for only $123.88!

Yet I also felt oddly vulnerable during my drive home.

My minor “cartastrophe” reminded me that the city I inhabit is not built for people; it’s built for cars. I had the unsettling realization that without a car, I’m just another furry little mammal on the side of the road.

I still remember a short story I read in junior high: A couple of aliens were studying our planet. From space, they could see millions of little creatures zipping around, following each other like ants on a trail. Inside of the little creatures they could see tiny animated objects. “Do you think those little objects are the brains—or the guts?” asked one alien of the other.

I think we used to be the brains. But in designing our cities—and our lives—around our cars, I think we’ve now become the guts.

What a strange world we humans have created for ourselves.



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