On a recent Wednesday morning, a black Dodge Ram idled in front of the Carrboro post office. The temperature was already in the low 90s and still climbing. On the TV and radio that morning, weather forecasters spoke of an ozone alert, warning that the air was unfit to breathe. High levels of carbon dioxide and ozone emitted by burning fossil fuels smothered a hot morning, making all living creatures gasp. But the pickup was breathing nicely.
The Ram idled out front as long as I was in the post office. There was a young woman sitting on the passenger side and I generously thought maybe the air conditioning was running to keep her cool. Then I noticed the windows were down.
So why was the Dodge running? Did the driver think the truck might not start again? Large high-performance engines can be cranky, especially as they age. But this was a nice new truck, not some ancient Desoto.
The only other reason I could imagine was that this driver didn't care if the planet choked on his exhaust. He may have thought that one truck running at the post office for a few minutes made no difference. Perhaps he didn't notice the air quality restrictions under which we now operate. That Wednesday was somewhat early for ozone warnings, but they're coming earlier and more frequently each year. Perhaps he didn't hear or heed the anxious plea from the weather experts to restrict daytime driving and refueling.
Perhaps the driver didn't know or care that in recent years, the Environmental Protection Agency has ordered that all fuel sold in the Triangle be oxygenated in the hot months so that it burns cleaner and pollutes less. Maybe he didn't know or care that we've experienced three years of extreme drought and above average heat. Perhaps his town isn't yet restricting watering lawns or washing trucks. Neither is Carrboro yet (other parts of Orange County have voluntary restrictions), but I see the lakes dropping rapidly and the time will soon come when we'll all be doing the rain dance.
Perhaps that driver, and the one who left a Toyota Highlander idling at the credit union the next day, didn't know about the theory of global warming, or share concern about rising greenhouse gases. All I know is that when I see these idling vehicles, I start thinking about stealing the keys. That's the old teenage prankster who wasted his youth racing in an old Desoto talking.
Maybe the solution is better left to the youth of today, who seem to favor souped up Hondas and other pocket-rockets that we members of the Class of 1975 used to laugh at.
Perhaps there is hope for the future.