Who’s Driving?

With eight decades in the rearview mirror, I realize this aged body is a machine, a motorcar–quaint term, motorcar, you don’t hear it today–a highly complex assemble of parts and processes performing with unnoticed and unappreciated precision.  And life is a road race, like Le Mans.

It’s all here: engine, transmission, frame, running gear, cab, seats, the works.  With fuel, an occasional oil change and tune-up, despite blow-outs and dents, a burst radiator hose, a broken fan belt, near-fatal crashes and a major overhaul, over three-quarters of a century my little race car sped with precision and dependability I have no right to expect.

For something like a  million miles my 1937 Alfa Romeo–Ferrari’s predecessor–powered around hairpin curves and up steep grades, fender-to-fender with the swiftest.  Now it struggles just to keep up.  The bearings are loose, the engine strains, the radiator leaks.  Decades of grit, pebbles and stones leave the body weathered, scratched, dented.  Uncounted impacts of bug, bird, sleet and hail leave the windscreen glazed.

With the finish line lurking around every curve it seems prudent to ease up on the accelerator, to retire from racing.  Before I run head-on with a semi, drive ‘er over a cliff, or coast slowly to the side of the freeway, it’s time to slow down, way down.  Besides focusing intently on the road ahead, it’s time to look around, inside and out, appreciate what, caught up in the chase, I missed.  It’s never too late to enjoy the ride.

Oh, I almost forgot!  The big rarely asked and for me never answered question: Who’s driving?

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For this I’m wholly in debt to the Buddha’s two-and-half-millennia old wisdom.

What Next?

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.
The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

The Mariner’s option was sea water.  We have choices: water from a faucet or plastic bottle.  Despite the cheapest, safest municipal drinking water on Earth, Americans increasingly choose the latter.  Why?  Because Nestle, Coca Cola, Danone, and PepsiCo sell it.  As I’ve said, this worries me.

In “Stuff” I expressed Angst around drinking-water in plastic bottles.  This current rant was triggered on learning that, despite 80,000 arguments against versus 75 in favor, Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality approved Nestle’s, the largest food and beverage company on earth, petition to increase production of free, plastic-bottled well-water from over a quarter- to over a half-million gallons a day.  While, for unrelated factors, Flint citizens are forced to buy water which may well come from beneath their feet.

We assume well or spring water is “pure,” but is it any more-so than Boston’s, Kansas City’s, Denver’s, or Los Angeles’s municipal water?  The fact is, much of the water in the avalanche of plastic bottles on Supermarket and Quick-Stop shelves comes from municipal spigots!  Read the fine print.  To appear healthy and scientific it’s “filtered,” “oxygenated.”  For fastidious consumers it’s “vapor distilled” with “electrolytes” “antioxidants” even vitamins.  But a huge volume of the bottled water on folks’ counters comes from faucets little different than from the one in the kitchen sink two feet away.

Then there’s plastic.  In Nestle’s Mecosta County, Michigan, factory–one of over a hundred–pellets from 125 ton silos are turned into plastic bottles.  On ZDNet Andrew Nusca reports Americans throws away 2.5 million plastic bottles an hour!  If my math serves–it’s an eye-crossing row of zeros–the number approaches 22 billion bottles a year!  Plastic bottles to litter sidewalks, streets, highways, parks, forests, deserts and tundra; foul streams, rivers, seashores and oceans, and never disintegrate!  Again, do we need water in plastic bottles?  Of course not.  It’s because of jaded Americans like me and corporate profit!

What next, air?

Rest assured, PepsiCo, Nestle, and the others’ have plans in place to park cargo ships at the Weddell Sea ice sheet, lay an eight-inch line a thousand miles south, suck air to compressors, fill those big steel containers with ten liter canisters and steam north with “South Pole Air” which Amazon, Costco, and Wal-Mart will market.  An individual one day supply for  $9.95 or monthly delivery for $250.  Fed-Ex and UPS are ordering vans fited for various size canisters.

Not just the South Pole.  Oh no!  Contracts are being negotiated for North Pole, Sahara, Amazon, Congo, Himalayan, and Mongolian operations, “Arctic Breeze,” “Zephyr,” “Mountain Morning,” “Jungle Calm.” And not just continental air.  How about Mid-Pacific, Mid-Atlantic, Mid-Bearing Sea, Mid-Indian Ocean air?  Picking up on flavored water, they’ll add scent: “ice-cold,” “sandstorm,” “plumaria,” “high-altitude,” “desert sunrise,” “tropic breeze.”  The options and profits are limitless!

Will the time come when those who can afford it wear a mask or those little forked numbers stuck up their nostrils piping air from floral, cartoon, or camo designer, for conservatives breathers just plain gray or blue, cylinders strapped to our backs?

How cool is that?