Like most people on the left half of the New World, driving has informed and constrained and enriched my adult life. I’ve enjoyed it. Indications are that mine will be one of the last drive-everywhere generations. The shape the tribe settles into may be more pleasing, and strengthening local culture is a fine thing, but the loss of the time-behind-the-wheel, with the music playing, going places, well, it’s sad.

One time years ago I even wrote a terribly long (pages and pages) poem about driving; here’s the beginning:

To walk is best of course. And I
would rather drive than fly. Would turn
Earth's curve beneath my tires. Would burn
Earth's blackened past in engine fires;
burn time that space is measured by
from edge of map to edge of sky.

Now? Now, we’re looking at $100 fill-ups, and quite a few of those hundreds of bucks are definitely becoming Part Of The Problem: propping up degenerate fanatic-financing autocrats, creating an environmental holocaust here in Canada; not much of it is good.

Driving, you know, it brings on the highs and lows. I’ve had a couple of intense experiences just these last couple of days.

Takedown! · I was heading up Oak Street, a major north-south route that is notable for eventually, in a southerly direction, joining Route 5 and taking you to Tijuana if you want to go.

I made what I thought was a deft little lane change to get around some slow movers and this previously-unseen cop car hopped in front of me and slammed on the brakes. I didn’t think I’d done anything illegal, was more puzzled than worried, but then the cruiser and a paddy-wagon did a quick lane swap; the wagon halted and this cop leapt out, banged on my window, barked “Stop right there!”, turned back and whipped out his gun as he jumped up on his running board.

Vancouver policeman aiming his gun

Then I saw they’d pulled over this shiny new Caddy and there were other squad cars screeching in from all directions, gun-waving officers leaping out. I was fortunate, the very first car with a front-row view. I suppose there must have been thirty or forty blocks of traffic jam behind me by the time the dust-up was over.

Vancouver has gang issues, you read about this kind of thing, so right away I hunkered down with my head below the windows, wondering how efficient auto bodies are at stopping bullets. In a bit, hearing only the barking of the police bullhorn, I sat up, with the camera ready of course; if the shots look blurry that’s the non-too-clean car windows.

Felony takedown in Vancouver

The cops totally had their procedures down; I was impressed. They wanted everyone in the car to hold their hands out the windows, then they got ’em out one by one, had each one do a 360º and then back toward the paddy wagon.

There were five people in the car. They came from two different ethnic groups; the dozen or so cops on the scene featured four, so the whole thing was very Vancouver. The 5 in the car were two girl-next-door types, one ugly male skinhead, and two dudes who were seriously trying to look like heavy mobsters. I dunno, maybe they’re upstanding but misunderstood citizens. But those cops sure looked tense.

Civilization · The other day I drove to my office. This is a rarity, and silly, because it’s only five blocks from home; but I had to run, mid-day, from a telecon to an appointment with really tight timing. Anyhow, in the course of the ninety-second-or-so drive, there were three incidents of the kind common on narrow streets in civilized places; two cars approach a corner or each other, slowing, and one driver performs that hand-wave that everybody knows means “I may have the right of way but, come on through.”

It’s such a small thing, but I climbed the office stairs with a smile on my face.

Driving everywhere, I’ll miss it.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Preston L. Bannister (Sep 21 2008, at 22:59)

Why should we be the last "drive-everywhere" generation?

The problem with carbon emissions when extracting oil from oil sands or shale is only true if we burn fossil fuels to get the energy needed.

Why not use solar or nuclear power?

The big problems with solar power is the low conversion rate (to electricity), and the daily/hourly mismatch with depend. When capturing heat from sunlight you can get higher conversion rates (for smaller capital investments), and daily variations in sunshine matter much less.

Use of nuclear power also means more oil extracted for the same energy input, and minimal carbon emissions. As with solar, generating and capturing heat is simpler and has a better conversion rate than the usual indirect process of using nuclear energy to generate heat, then convert (some of) the heat into electricity.


From: John Cowan (Sep 21 2008, at 23:05)

For years, I had a vision problem that didn't impact life or work that much but left me unable to drive safely. I had a surgical repair some years back, but I still don't know how to drive, and I haven't missed it.

And why not?

My adopted city uses about as much gasoline per capita as the rest of the country did in the 1920s. We don't need no steenking personal automobiles.


From: Fabian Ritzmann (Sep 22 2008, at 01:33)

Preston, the resources for nuclear power (uranium primarily) are even more limited than fossile fuels.


From: Ade (Sep 22 2008, at 07:50)

I'm quite happy to be the first of the don't drive everywhere generation.

I only owned a car (and started to drive everywhere) when I moved to the US. For the first 30+ years in the UK I never felt the need to own a car. Unfortunately most of N America wasn't built with that in mind.


From: Pierre (Sep 22 2008, at 08:52)

I used to like listening to the radio on the way to work and back, and now, well, it's quite rubbish. Thank goodness for iPods, I suppose. I then had a period where I would take public transit to work, and I found that I read a whole lot more and was much better informed.

I am rather contradictory on the subject of cars versus not-cars. I actually love cars, but I hate being forced to drive them in silly situations where they are wholly inappropriate, like commuting to work in a city. Biking not too fast (so I don't get sweaty, of course, this isn't the Tour de France!), I do times that are as fast or faster than cars moving around the city downtown here in Montreal (especially if one includes parking, for either vehicle!). I got rid of my car when I went to live in France for a year, three years ago, and when I came back, I just didn't bother getting another one (I use a car sharing or rentals, as needed). I put a rule down for myself: my next car will be mid-engined and is going to be quite a lot of fun!

As for the ballistic characteristics of auto bodies, they do not offer much protection, usually only deflecting the bullet somewhat but still leaving it with plenty of energy. Getting lower is still a good plan, offering less to shoot at, obviously. The engine block, though, is quite bulletproof. Fire hydrants are very good too, albeit annoying small. Mailboxes, not so great, especially against the smaller calibers (like 9mm) that seem to be most common nowadays. The best is being home on your couch, a long way from the shooting.


From: Preston L. Bannister (Sep 22 2008, at 08:55)


My guess is the low estimates (where did they come from?) count only naturally occurring U-235. Over the long term you want to count all fertile material (a <b>much</b> larger resource).


From: Bob McCabe (Sep 22 2008, at 12:09)

I have never owned a car and until this year have managed to organize my life around not having one.

Last spring my new company had me move to Richmond VA where I found I could not get to the office without transport of some kind. After looking around I found a Chinese made 150cc scooter for $1,500, new. It gets 80 mpg (city!) and will do 60mph. As I have been riding motorcycles since first year university so it was easy to get used to (as was spending $7 a week on gas).

Now my company has opened a new office in New Jersey and wants me to move there, but with the typical short sightedness that most companies show the new office is not on any transit system. Winters in New Jersey are not scooter friendly, so I will be forced to finally buy my first car.


From: Ted (Sep 22 2008, at 13:02)

There are many aspects of life in North America that I envy but the fact that you're forced to do so much of your travelling by road is not one of them. For me time spent in a car, even as a passenger, is time lost forever. Here in Europe my favourite kind of trip is a long unbroken journey sitting in a not-full Quiet Zone carriage next to a well-stocked buffet coach in a brand-new, softly-lit Pendelino or TGV, with my PowerBook stuffed with funky things to do.


From: Paul W. Homer (Sep 25 2008, at 08:49)

I don't mind driving, I really don't. But in Toronto, where I am surrounded by an every growing zombie hord of impatient type-A personalities that feel it necessary to grossly exceed their own abilities in keeping their vehicles from careening out of control and killing lots of innocent bystanders, I kiss the ground everytime I get to my destination.




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