“I am so bummed,” the usually elegant Sondra said before I even had a chance to say, “How are you?”
We were meeting for our monthly Cheesecake luncheon and I had never seen, let alone heard, her so disturbed.
“You should see our neighborhood!” she exclaimed in disgust. “It looks like a war zone! Our tree-lined paradise, and now six—I tell you—six Hummers on our block alone and they can’t even be bothered to park them out of sight, because, of course, that would mean out-of-mind, which is not exactly what they hope for us Hummerless neighbors.”
I didn’t even have to raise an eyebrow for she was on a roll. “So, I tell you, if one more house on my block takes to sporting a war machine, I may just go out of my ever-lovin’-American mind and declare my own war on this freedom of excess. I mean, do they not know? do they not care how close we are to sucking fumes?”
I knew I had to calm her. Sucking fumes was several years away. And besides, America was the world’s foremost bastion of freedom and free enterprise. I told her so.
“Free to what?” she cried. “Free to leave our kids in the dark. Free to pine-beetle our way to the death of transportation, as we know it. Free to consume the rest of the world into untimely death by OUR affluenza!”
I opened my mouth to speak about the boon these Hummers might prove for alternative fuel R&D, but she was already there.
“And don’t get me started on the food-for-fuel imbecility,” she warned. “In fact, in protest, I think I shall boycott the excesses of cheesecake and buy bean-futures. Come to think of it, we should start a bean program. Hang a bean-bag on every Hummer’s side-mirror to remind them that gas has to come from somewhere!”
“That’s not likely to win friends or influence the right people,” I said calmingly.
“You mean the wrong people,” she snorted, which wasn’t an altogether pleasant sound for one who sings in the church choir. “We have got so gosh-darned confused about right and wrong in this country that we call a pig’s snout a silk purse and nobody bats an eye, cause we ought to be free to imagine and manifest the future anyway we want it.”
I had to assert some reason. “Well, you know, I’m not sure we have the right to dictate the things people choose to drive.”
“OK,” she said, throwing her hand up. “Let them buy Hummers if they must and park them as monuments to excess in their backyard flower-beds, but when they pull up to a limited resource and drain the common fuel pool a million-times faster than the—
A million times!?!” I interjected.
“I approximate,” she defended, “to a scooter.”
“Well, you can’t expect Moms, CEO’s, staunch Republicans, or confused Democrats to scooter their way to all that is required,” I argued.
“That’s it!” she exclaimed. “That’s the test.” What-is-required is pretty basic. Set a reasonable standard. We’re all in this together, so I say, for those who haven’t discovered the follies of selfishness and mindless profit, then boot-camp them for a wealth of common experience.”
I could see it was probably hopeless to reason with her. Hummers had spread the fog of war into her burbs. Nonetheless, I felt the need to caution.
“Now, Sondra, I trust you realize this is private property and those things do cost a pretty penny.”
“You’re darn right—they cost the world a pretty penny and that’s why I stand amazed that all those Hummerites and their enviers don’t seem to notice the tremors. I mean, if they’d turn off their engines, they’d feel the big-quake tensing up, and it ain’t gonna be pretty when the disaster compacter comes for the metal and rubber scraps—which by the way, is a whole other boiler that just sends me—”
“Nonetheless,” I firmly interrupted—only to be interrupted myself.
“Yes, yes, I know,” she grumbled. “I know what civil means. Honestly, I’m a Gandhi-ite at heart. I really am. It’s just this deplorable disconnect with my lips— which I guess is my whole wretched point. Oh, mercy! it’s all déjà vu Isaiah, isn’t it? This lips and heart stuff is just gonna do every-sorry-last-one-of-us in. God help us!”
Now how does one reply to that? Amen?