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July 21, 2010

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The callousness of the casual driver.
Sarah boarded Amtrak for Chicago on June 13. I'd hoped to take the train out at the end of this month but $526 seemed too much for roundtrip coach. I toyed with the idea of flying but to me that's just torture--degrading, uncomfortable, and somehow out of scale with human perception of time and space. So I surfed craigslist rideshare options and found a good one after a few false leads. Departure was much sooner than I'd intended but I was missing her so much I didn't mind pushing the date up. I was a little apprehensive about the prospect of sharing 3 days of driving with a stranger, but I got a good feeling from our phone conversations and the deal was sealed. David drove up from Portland last night and I set him up with the projector and Man on Wire, which he hadn't heard of but instantly loved: "This should be required viewing in every school." A former race jockey who'd never even been on a horse until he was 19, like Phillipe Petit he's a firm believer in following one's dreams, however unlikely they might seem.

We rolled out early and he asked where the nearest Arco was--they have the cheapest gas. "It's probably so cheap because that's BP," I said. "I'd rather spend more elsewhere." He didn't know that Arco, Safeway, Amoco, and am/pm are all supplied by BP. And as we drove we still saw plenty of people fueling up at BPs along the way. In a sense I guess it doesn't matter where you get your gas, it's all kind of dirty. And beyond being dirty every step of the way--extraction, refinement, combustion--car culture breeds callousness and detachment, as evidenced by this gruesome joke aimed at children. Destroy life. Destroy empathy. Wildlife is just something which gets in your way as you race to your next destination. Get 'em while they're young, show them bees and ladybugs exist only to be scraped from windshields.

It's a slippery slope. From bugs to birds to squirrels to raccoons to dogs to deer--all the way up the food chain to humans. 42,000 dead a year on American roads alone. Splat! Don't worry. It happens every 15 minutes. Get used to it. And the more I drove that Mercedes sports coupe across the USA, the more I felt entitled to it. The speed, the comfort, the bubble. I loved every minute. Another tank, wipe the glass, some more caffeine, just hit that gas!