Paradise lost



(Come friend Aunt Ruthie on Facebook and let’s hang out.)

Now the tale can be told: Some time back, and for over 20 years, Auntie Ruth was a bicycle commuter. ’Twas before there was a notion of a “carbon footprint,” before cloth bags and $18 hydration equipment (called, then, a “cup”).

Back then, Yer Auntie was a dyed-in-the-wool bicycle commuter, to the point where she didn’t really think about it. It was everyday life.

The only time she ever got self-conscious would be at a party, when the conversation turned to yet another tale of commuting woe. Auntie R. would mention her bike ride to work—back in the day, it was by way of greenbelts and bike lanes in a town not Sacramento—and the commuters at the party would generally look at Yer Auntie with palpable envy (there was usually a slight sigh).

Which was funny, because after many years of doing anything over and over again, you get a little cranky. All ain’t idyllic. Auntie Ruth wanted to bitch, too: A traffic jam on her commute was a dog walker whose wandering pup stretched the leash across the bikeway, or two people walking shoulder to shoulder. The nerve.

And what about when city sprinklers were watering the bike path coming home after dark? The weather there was quite hot, like here: riding in 105 degree heat? What about that?

To quote Descartes, “I whine, therefore I am.”

Auntie Ruth now splits one car with a neighbor. One car meant less insurance, less maintenance, less pollution. Five percent of the time, splitting a car was a hassle, but 95 percent of the time there were no regrets. Meanwhile, every 18 months, Auntie Ruth would have to spend $75 to get her bike tuned up. Sheesh.

No more. Jobs change, communities change. Auntie R. is in a car like most, sitting in traffic like most, grateful for a job like most, and if it means more petrol purchased and a carbon shoe one or two sizes larger, so it has to be. Change ain’t always a straight line forward, eh?

In short, the beautiful green future will be better. Lighter on Ma Earth. But we won’t get there in a straight line, and we’ll still get a little cranky about it and let the record show: ’Twas ever thus.