Cars are an amazing invention. With no effort on your part, they can take you all over the country. Shame they cause global warming and all that.
On one level, I enjoy the natural environment. I love unspoiled forests, quaint coastal towns that will need more canoes and taller gumboots when sea levels rise, and being able to breathe.
I know traffic congestion interferes with people’s quality of life and I’m familiar with the pleasure of walking or cycling to one’s destination.
On another level, I realise how freaking awesome cars are.
I’m not talking about shiny mags, V6 engines, spoilers, nitrous kits, or red paint–which makes cars go faster, in case you didn’t know. (Yes, I dated a car guy at one point. No, hubby is not a car guy, thank goodness.)
I mean the fact you can get into a chunk of metal, rubber, and other materials I don’t want to know about and, with minimal physical effort, end up at the top of a mountain or on the other side of the country. (New Zealand is quite narrow.)
No matter what you think about cars, you can’t tell me that isn’t amazing.
I realised this the first time I went tramping (hiking for Americans) for five days.
I love walking through the bush with a pack on my back and letting my mind roam freely for hours, but tramping makes you realise how much energy it takes to move your body even short distances.
That little rise might look like nothing, but by the time you reach the top your heart will be pounding and your legs will have doubled in weight.
When you walk, you quickly discover it takes less effort to step over roots and keep your body at the same level than to step up onto them and lift your whole mass by 10cm.
When you get a chance to rest, sitting still and doing nothing is a joy.
After five days of winning each foot up every hill with sweat and scroggin, I got in a car, sat back, and relaxed.
Through no effort of my own, I began to move. I sat still in cushioned, air-conditioned comfort and watched the ground whizz past far faster than I can walk.
Cars are amazing.
I’ve had a similar experience with lawnmowers. For a couple of years I lived in a cute, somewhat damp flat with a modest-sized lawn on a mild slope.
Wild goats lived in the bush below the garden, but sadly I never saw them. I planted two feijoa bushes in the lawn, which never fruited.
Being a good little tenant, I went to Mitre 10 and bought one of these:
They work fine when several conditions are satisfied:
a) They are new. That is, they’ve mowed less than three square metres of lawn.
b) The grass is perfectly dry, the way it only gets in summer.
c) The grass is short enough that it will be fine unmowed for another week.
The corollary of point c is that by the time you need to mow the lawn you can’t.
For two years the push mower and I struggled with the lawn, our battles all the more bloody for being infrequent.
Blood was never literally involved, though the neighbour’s cat did have an unnerving habit of pouncing on the mower as I pushed it.
Mowing was hard work (not as hard as writing, obviously), but I survived it.
Then, in anticipation of moving to a house with a larger lawn, we bought a motorised lawnmower.
I pulled the starter thingy until it started roaring, and pushed it across the grass. With almost zero effort on my part, and hardly any desperate back-and-forthing, it cut straight through the blades of grass.
It was like magic.
I feel guilty every time I buy petrol to put in my lawnmower, but I push it over the grass and it makes it shorter with so little effort. I’m sorry, but I’m not going back.
Do you ever feel guilty about using modern life’s conveniences?
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