Saturday, March 13, 2010

Bicycle Philosophy: More and More

The image at left is a zoom-in of a photo depicting 410,000 paper cups, the number disposed of in the United States every 15 minutes (

At some point during every trip in the car, the urge to stop at coffee kiosks rises in me like a phantom. Oh look! There's Dutch Brothers Coffee! There's Fast Lane! The new strip mall has a drive through with organic coffee! On special this week! There's nothing like windshield wipers, a heater, public radio's Fresh Tracks, and a hot cup of --

The habit started when our children were small and we drove them everywhere: school (no school bus available), soccer, piano and saxophone lessons, girl scouts, boy scouts, play dates, etc. At about 4:00 pm, prime driving time, waves of sleepiness hit so strongly that sometimes my eyes drifted ... closed ... at stop lights .... zzzzzz, until kids yelled, "Mom! Green light!"

At about the same time, drive-through coffee houses were springing up like mushrooms. It became a ritual to stop, order a shot of espresso with a dollop of cream, ignore the children while they begged for Italian sodas (sometimes giving in), and succumb to bliss. The effect espresso has on me is something close to what some might call enlightenment. Suddenly everything makes sense. My powers of conversation and sense of humor blossom.

Alas, soon it seemed one shot went too quickly, and became two (same price! what a deal!), and then, almost without my noticing, 8 ounce cups became 12 and 16 ounces, sometimes with steamed milk and chocolate shavings, and this eventually evolved into a $18-a-week-habit (no! surely not $950 a year!). Even the realization that two hours after a double shot my mood soured, didn't slow me down. Decaf made a fine substitute. And there was always tea.

What to do? This is not a good use of resources.

It seemed an indirect approach might be called for. How about giving up the throwaway containers coffee comes in?

A lot of trees go into paper coffee cups, 9.4 million in the coming year, according to the Sustainability is Sexy website. 5.7 billion gallons of water will be used to produce them, 363 million pounds of solid waste will be created when they are disposed of (most aren't recyclable because they contain chemicals to keep them from getting soggy). There are lots of styles insulated mugs available and the only trick is to remember to bring one. Linking this to the pledge to try to get around without a car made a kind of sense.

How's it going? GREAT. Usually. No car, no Pavolvian response. Usually. When there is, the thought of stopping the bike, locking up, dealing with helmet hair in a coffee shop full of people with tidy hair, is enough to kill it. When driving, more often than not, the insulated mug is forgotten at home. Taking the trouble to remember a mug triggers the idea of actually putting a tea bag and hot water in the mug (sorry struggling small coffee businesses).

Success! Usually.

1 comment:

  1. From Alice, via E-mail: When I’m in a car I always feel like I’m in a box. And the few accidents I’ve been in over the years (one of which could have been a lot worse) have each shown me how illusory the protection of a box can be.

    When I bike, I avoid busy streets. A few years ago I was nearly hit on 18th and since then I have never ridden along 18th (though I cross it frequently, of course). Generally on 12th, 4th, Broadway, and some other east-west routes there isn’t much car traffic and I’m able to bike at a leisurely pace and just look around. Walking is even better. Even with two dogs, I am able to take note of lots and lots of signs of spring, mysterious cultural phenomena, etc. Last week I even saw the Faith Center catch on fire, just moments after an arsonist set the blaze. THAT was pretty exciting. And I’m glad they caught that guy.


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