In Asheville’s lovely organic food store I asked where the nearest ATM was. The very friendly chekout person gave me clear directions to a Whachovia ATM just across the parking lot. I walked across and it was only when I got right there that it dawned on me that what i was doing was unusual behaviour. I’m not sure that anyone even saw me — but in a way I hope they did spot the foreigner walking up to the drive through ATM and withdrawing money. I started to feel strangely vulnerable standing there in the road, as if cars were going to be coming at me and getting impatient with me for not following the norm, even though there were no cars near at all!
Today in Portland we went to the post office to post some postcards. Drive through. Drive through postboxes! Very funny.
Beth told us a story of a friend of her’s who went to a drive through burger bar on his bike and they refused to serve him. When he insisted they called the police, who in the end took his order for him and went in to get his food. The rationale was that drive throughs can be tagetted by hit and run incidents and while their security cameras are set up to photograph the registation plate of a car, if you are on foot or on a bike you could easily disappear without trace after shooting a few folk. It’s not funny, but rather tragic.
It’s interesting just how important social norms are in shaping behaviour. Everyone has a tumble drier, so even those who think more deeply about these things get one too. Washing lines can be bought, but are unusual. More electricity down the drain.
And coming back to flying — it is the norm here, not just to take one flight to your internal destination, but to take lots of different connections to reach your destination in the cheapest way. Delta Airlines scares me, with its web of too many red flight lines crisscrossing the States each day.
And now for the positive story! On my last day in Asheville, NC over breakfast Laura and I were discussing the poetry festival she has been organising for the last 4 years and how she could incorporate ideas from geopoetics, weaving together strands of science, poetry (emotion) and sprituality. The conversation ended with Laura committed to making the next Asheville Wordfest a zero carbon event, having poets and others engaging in conversation by weblink, and looking into pedal powered screens. If that happens I will have helped to save no end of airmiles, and who knows how many other similar festivals may follow her lead. Does that justify my journey here? It’s always good to make a difference, and whilst this is turning into a truly amazing and inspiring trip, I still don’t know if I can really justify so much carbon emissions. I feel as if I am living on borrowed carbon and Chris and I have decided to put some money into the Portobello Wind Turbine as our ‘carbon offset’. (More on that later)
My latest theory is that the average US citizen carries on regardless because there is no visible effect of their lifestyle. The wilderness is huge and inspiring and beautiful, so why not enjoy a big car and a few dozen flights each year?