Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Where do the people live?

Yesterday someone asked me to look at simplicity vs. environmentalism on a topic other than cell phones. I saw a slide at a presentation that I went to that was a little better than this one. It was a photo of a typical suburban neighborhood and all you could see were garages. you couldn't see the front doors to the homes. The presenter made the comment, "I see where the cars live, but where do the people live?"

Take a moment and imagine the morning routine of a typical American. Get up, eat breakfast, blah, blah blah... Then you go out into your garage, hit the garage door opener, back your car out of the garage and hit the garage door opener again. You drive to work, park in the parking garage or designated parking lot for your business and go into the office. In between your home and office, how many interactions do you have with others? We are going to exclude the guy who you flipped off because he cut you off and the lady that honked at you because you were drifting into her lane. Now think again, how many positive interactions did you have on the way to work... or on the way home? Cars destroy social interactions.

I suppose it's similar to the cell phone, it's not the fault of the inanimate object, it's the fault of the users (us). The point still remains, cell phones tend to promote inconsiderate behavior and cars make it more difficult to interact positively with others on the road. I'll be honest, I haven't had any positive interaction on my 5:30 am commute to work in the snow lately. In the spring and summer, on the other hand, I will frequently cross the path of other cyclists and talk with them for quite some time. That's just a part of commuting by bike, it promotes interaction and camaraderie with other cyclists. Unless you cross paths with a "roadie" who will most likely pass you going as fast as he can without acknowledging your existence to prove that he is somehow superior to you.

Back in the day homes had a front door that people used and that was located front and center on the house. There was usually a patio or similar sitting area near the front door where people would relax in the evenings. Oddly enough people would talk to their neighbors and otherwise interact with one another. Nowadays the front porch has virtually disappeared, but the back yard keeps getting bigger, as does the fence that surrounds it. We want our privacy. I suppose privacy isn't bad, but when it is at the expense of relationships with those around us, I don't think it's positive.

I've ventured a ways from the auto v. bike comparison, but there is so much that goes with that. Streets used to have sidewalks because people walked on them. Now people drive so sidewalks lost popularity. With the increased use of the auto, people wanted a garage in which they could park it and since they were already in the garage, why would they leave the garage to go in the front door of the house. We have therefore decreased informal interactions with those around us. And what has this provided us? We spend more time in a car (to get to work so we can afford the house with a big garage), we have more time to watch television and we are overall less happy then we used to be.

I do care about the environment, but what I am more interested in is happiness. Call me greedy, but I just want to be happy and I am generally happier when those around me are happy. Happiness doesn't come with more stuff and more free time to sit in front of a TV and watch other peoples' reality. Happiness comes from human interaction. more on the TV tomorrow.


Heffalump said...

I don't like the eyesore of Garages in front of homes either. I do like my big back yard and the fence around it. Maybe I am just a product of this time, but I am not a people person. I like being with my family and I like that privacy.
That said, we do know our neighbors and chat with them if we are outside at the same time. One neighbor brings us Salmon, or deer meat that he gets hunting, and we help each other out. We haven't branched out much from our immediate neighbors though, and that is mostly because I don't trust most people and prefer not to interact.
My garage is in the back of the house though, and we don't park the car in it.

Anonymous said...

You know something funny? I read your blog from time to time and you always talk about how your way of life makes you a happier person. But I don't know many people that actually complain as much as you. I used to have a commute 50 miles one way to work. Yes, that's 100 miles a day. You can't tell me to bike that far realistically. And living closer is not always an option. Sometimes you have to just enjoy life for what it is and not complain how you wish everything and everyone was different. Truth is, everyone has their own viewpoint of life and you really shouldn't push yours on to others. Maybe you like riding your bike everywhere but it isn't practical for all of us. Not everyone is even able to. Imagine if you had no legs. What would you do then? You seem to get stuck in your own little utopia thoughts and forget there are those of us out there that cannot do the same as you. Try living in a city where housing is twice the price where you currently live in UT but the wages are generally around the same. It makes it a bit difficult to live in close to work. The thing is, I don't think you have a clue what it is like outside your little Utah bubble. The economy is not the same everywhere nor is the landscape or ability to do the things you think we should all be doing. Why don't you just sit back and enjoy life for once instead of viewing it with this pessimistic view of everything you see or come in contact with. I don't have much, but I work damn hard for what I have. Even if that means I had to drive 100 miles everyday for work so I can have a roof over my head.