In church last spring, our children learned the song, “Jesu, Jesu Fill Us with Your Love.” It includes the line, “neighbors are nearby and far away,” which gave our five-year-old son pause.
“Are neighbors far away?” he asked at breakfast recently.
“No,” I said.
AS THE STIFLING heat of summer recedes and the winter months approach, I look forward to the promise of snowy walks, steaming hot cocoa, and the sounds of sleigh bells jingling down our street. (Actually, it’s probably a garbage truck spilling bottles out the back, so never mind.) I love winter, because only in winter can I do my favorite thing: not go camping.
Yes, I know, lots of people camp in the winter. Some of my office colleagues are never happier than when their breath crystallizes in front of them as they hike through a wilderness in February, the frozen ground crunching beneath their feet. Me, I prefer the Great Indoors, thick terry-cloth robes, and the crunching of small Lego pieces beneath my slippers, a reminder that little girls should pick up their toys when they’re done. Winter hiking is what I do between the kitchen and the living room, and then back again because I forgot something.
To me, winter is nature’s way of telling us “mmphremshth,” which I can’t hear clearly, because I’m indoors and the windows are closed. But I think it’s telling us to stay inside.
I’m not opposed to camping—I camped twice last summer—but I also don’t hesitate to call it what it is: an exhausting exercise in 18th-century drudgery, but without the helpful oxen. Camping in a tent, with a family, is an unending process of menial labor that begins with deciding what to pack for the trip: everything except the couch. And then consists of an unalterable pattern which, in its entirety, is as follows:
• Pack the car completely full, blocking most windows and floor space. Put bikes on back of car.
• Remove bikes to get something inside back of car. Put bikes on back of car again.
How do you know when someone has a Prius?
Don’t worry; they’ll tell you.
We got a Prius about four years ago, and immediately we bought into the hype about milking every gallon of gas for another tenth of a mile. We read the hyper-miler blogs about how to employ the gas and brake pedals most efficiently. We competed against each other for the best MPG. It was nerdy but fun, and we felt like we were doing something at least a little bit socially redeeming.
I haven’t seen the research, but I’m convinced that a significant chunk of the Prius’ reputation as a gas miser stems from the way its users are trained to drive it.