In the Scene has a recent post about a commercial that struck me as odd. I reacted the same way when I saw it . . .
Yesterday, while watching Green Bay collapse once again, I saw an add for a new Lexus (at least I think it was a Lexus, I wasn’t really paying much attention). In this ad, the “selling point” was a built-in air purifier that “kept out allergens, smells and other pollutants". The driver is seen driving through a warehouse of plants (with token pollens adrift in the air), smiling and carefree as his Lexus-purified air kept him dust free.
And this got me thinking… this was not simply an ad for a “cage", but an ad that promoted as positive the complete antithesis to riding on two wheels. Forget the “air in your face” argument, this was saying in fact that “not only do you not have the air in your face, but you are in a filtered box that makes your air separate from the air out there". Indeed, the metaphorical “cage", while focusing on restrictive and alienating symbolism, conjurs up at least open bars with which the prisoner can reach through to have minimal contact with the landscape. Here, however, the bars of the old “cage” have been eagerly replaced with solid walls, completing the captive alienation of the driver.
And this was the “selling point"!?
This mentality of going through your day without the environment impacting you is much the same reason I like my leathers better than my rain jacket. It is also the mentality that distiguishes me from people who prefer to drive. I feel stimulated when I am riding and cold, or I try to figure out whether the smell is the bread factory or a burnt clutch. The fact is I get bored in a car. You can shut up, tune out and let the whole world pass you by. You don’t have to pay attention. I would say a majority of people today would say that is a plus.
I spent a summer in New Zeland a few years ago playing rugby. In the spirit of making me feel comfortable, some of my teammates thought that introducing me to the only other Americans in our town, a couple of Mormon missionaries would be a good idea. I really was indifferent about the idea, I had lived in America, and was going to return. I frankly didn’t cross the equator to meet more Americans. But the event was more profound than I would have thought, as my teammates decided that it would be good for me. So we met at the clubhouse, it was the first time I entered the club and hadn’t seen beer pitchers out. The conversation was bland, and I just wanted to get back to New Zealand, but reading In the Scene’s post reminded me of something one of the missionaries said.
“I was trying to get sent to Salt Lake City, but at least I didn’t have to learn a different language.”
I glossed over the comment years ago when it was uttered but it struck me as the same mentality of the car commercial. In his defense he probably thought that he could do his best work in Salt Lake and that learning a new language might hinder him from spreading his message. But there are few people who won’t benefit from being yanked out of their comfort zone and experiencing the world. My personality drives me to go to new places, learn different customs, and do things the hard way because it challenges me. That is why I bike. Sure there is a risk, you could smell something bad, a pebble could hit you or worse, but the personal rewards and crazy experiences far outweigh it.