Drive through ATMs and other drive throughs

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?


I’m going to note here some of the resources we’ve found use­ful in plan­ning the trip.

Firstly I have to men­tion the remark­able Man in Seat Sixty-One web­site. This is run by Mark Smith, an indi­vidual rail travel enthu­si­ast, who has col­lec­ted together an enorm­ous amount of help­ful inform­a­tion about trav­el­ling by rail in Europe (and bey­ond). Continue read­ing