Monday, March 2, 2009

Eco Friendly Dreams


It’s 19 degrees below zero. You’re driving down an interstate highway. You are about sixty miles from your home. Although there is not much of it, snow is everywhere. The roads are more or less clear. The wind is blowing in steady gusts. Except for an occasional car coming in the opposite direction, nobody but you is on the highway. You’re anxious to get home. You’re anxious about the temperature and the condition of the highway and of course, you’re anxious about everything else anyone else would be anxious about while driving on an interstate highway when it is 19 degrees below zero and snow but not much of it is all around you and other than a few cars passing in the other direction, you are entirely alone in your vehicle traveling only in your direction which places you about sixty miles away from the warmth of your home.

As you are driving along, you find yourself drifting in and out of the state of road consciousness that comes quite naturally from driving alone for extended periods of time on the interstate. Within this state, things as ordinary as something blowing across the road in front of you have a way of enhancing or exaggerating the imaginative aspects of that consciousness just as signs posted along the interstate or buildings off of the interstate do the same.

On this particular day however, the things that appear along the side of the interstate seem to be just a little bit more out of the ordinary than usual and given the fact that it is extremely cold and your senses seem to be slightly out of whack, your response to these things is as well.

Approaching a familiar landmark, one that you have in your travels passed hundreds of times before, a giant clear plastic bag filled with the very air that is blowing it across the highway and obstructing you view of that familiar landmark wisps directly across your windshield. Startled, you swerve to avoid the bag and although the roads are more or less clear, the temperature of the day has created a patch of black ice on which you and your SUV slide and spin uncontrollably to an eventually abrupt stop.

Shaken, fearfully frozen in a state of confusion and alone on the side of the interstate, leather gloved hands clenched to the steering wheel, you in a daze sit in total silence, a silence that is only broken by the sound of the howling wind and an annoying flapping sound.

As you regain your composure and come to realize that you have not been injured and as the mesmerizing state of traveling interstate highway consciousness slowly, quickly and oddly leaves you, the everyday reality you normally function in begins to take hold. Of course, the first thing you instinctively reach for within this reality is your cell phone. Unfortunately, as you and your SUV were spinning out of control, so too was that cell phone and of course that cell phone has spun well out of the realm or place it would otherwise reside in and that you would otherwise be in control of. Trying as you may, finding that cell phone proves to be pointless and as you search for it to no avail, you are left with only the incessant sound of the howling wind and that equally annoying flapping sound.

Angered by your inability to find your cell phone, becoming slightly concerned over your unfortunate predicament, the wind and that annoying flapping sound persists as the engine in your SUV comes to a sudden stop. With no cars coming in either direction, with no cell phone and sitting motionless in a vehicle that has become the same, the wind howls louder as the snow carried by that wind polishes the black ice in a manner that can only be described by a dark essay written by the unmercifully comical Gods of fate that roam interstate highways in search of victims much the same as yourself.

With nothing but a slowly rising pensive panic as your survival reserve, with nothing but resigned commitment to the God’s of fate as your license to survive, you gaze out at the landmark you saw just before spinning out of control and that is now for some odd reason, gazing back at you. Even though you have passed this landmark many times before and have in doing so, more or less forgotten its architectural features, your gaze this time becomes more focused. As you study the form of that architecture, a clear glass dome that seems to be somehow attached to that landmark attracts your attention. The more you study that dome, the more you come to realize the fact that this particular landmark had indeed taken on a new physical presence and of course, that presence is comforting in its oddly vague but none the less reassuring architectural presence.

Sitting in you idled SUV, listening to the howling wind and growing colder by the moment as you do, the darkening horizon, the emerging earthen glow of the glass dome and the incessant sound of something still flapping provokes a sense of personal survival in you. Sensing the warmth of the dome calling, you reach for the door handle of your SUV, pull it towards you and as the door opens, you are slapped in the face by the clear and now airless plastic bag that had not only caused your accident but had produced the incessantly annoying sound that had hauntingly pestered you inside your motionless SUV.

As you struggle to free yourself from the sticky clutches of that clear plastic bag, a set of lights coming from the only vehicle you had seen all day that was actually traveling in your direction came steadily towards you.

Freeing yourself finally from the bag war, you are met by the people who had now exited that vehicle and had while you were battling a clearly lifeless air bag, been steadily walking towards you. As these people were in a decidedly different frame of mind than yourself, they approached you with remarkably warm and ordinary smiles. As if everything you had gone through had somehow not happened at all, their smiles and invitation to join them in their vehicle, reduced you to the frame of mind of thinking that whatever had just occurred in your life, your SUV, interstate highway and clear plastic bag situation would be resolved.

Frozen to the bone and in somewhat of a state of shock, you accepted their offer of a ride. Once inside their car and in spite of the fact that you were still recovering from a black ice attack, the lighthearted nature of their conversation warmed you just as much as the glow of the glass dome you were approaching while driving in their car was doing the same.

Once at the dome and having finally thawed out, you and your rescuers (friends) exited their vehicle and entered the warmed vestibule of the glass dome. Inside, warm, cozy and comfortable, the remaining shredded remnants of the plastic bag that had caused all of your black ice problems to begin with, fell from the shoulders of the coat that covered your emotionally disheveled torso into your still leather covered hands. As you watched in awe, those plastic bag remnants disappeared. In their place, the cell phone you in your interstate of mind had seen somehow misplaced as you were spinning out of control and out of your life reappeared.

Sensing that this was all just some kind of a dream and that you had not really been traveling down an interstate highway in the middle of winter on a very cold day, sensing that you SUV had not really hit a black ice patch and a clear plastic bag did not actually blow across your windshield, the cell phone now in your hand began to ring.

Answering it as if nothing unusual had ever actually occurred, you realized just exactly where you were, who you were, who you were with, and, of course, who was calling you. The person that was calling you was calling you from her cell phone. She was calling to tell you that she was stranded on a 19 degree below zero interstate and that no one was going in her direction and that she was cold and alone in her disabled SUV that had hit a patch of black ice only after a clear plastic bag had swept across her windshield and just before exiting to the landmark of the glass solar dome that covered the kitchen and the food, you and her good friends had prepared for her on her January, 2009th birthday.

What is strange about this whole story is that in January 2009, very few people in America were going in either direction on 19 degree below zero interstate highways. In as much as most of our nation was covered in snow and indeed it was one of the coldest winters on record, and, in fact black ice became a certain buzz phrase for a nation growing increasingly aware of changing climate patterns, it was not the weather patterns that were altering human patterns of driving. As weather patterns and human patterns have throughout the course of history, somehow managed to coexist, it was the odd pattern of seemingly innocuous clear plastic bags that floated across our nation’s interstates in 2009 that told the real story.

As the winter still lingers and reports of clear plastic bag sightings remain on the rise, what is even more odd than the plastic bags themselves, is that every sighting that has thus far been reported, has been reported by people driving SUVs’. As virtually every one of these sightings have been investigated and there exists virtually no physical evidence of bags, each of these sightings occurred within sixty miles of a landmark each traveler had driven by many times before. It was then, only after travelers on 19 degree below zero interstate highways were stopped in their self contained SUVs’ by the imaginary presence of a clear plastic bag floating across the highway close to that landmark and forcing them to stop in their tracks that they realized the significance of their interstate highway, solar dome dream.

On her birthday in January 2009 on an interstate somewhere in the United States of America, a woman rescued by friends was brought to a solar dome that covered the kitchen of a 21st century American home. In the sitting room adjacent to that kitchen, she was given one birthday present. Emerging from the paper she carefully unwrapped was a book entitled “Driving on 19 Degree Interstate Highways in SUVs’ While Dreaming Of Home”.

As every clear plastic bag that crossed America’s 19 degree below zero interstate highway system in 2009 was but another fascinating chapter in this book, the premise brought forth within its introduction and table of contents and forward was simple, American architecture graced with the engineering of solar domes, not only kept the home warm but in doing so assured the traveler that dreams of clear plastic bags blowing across windshields would eventually lead towards a new way of establishing the landmark examples of progressive 21st century American architecture they did indeed call home.

The Blue Collar Industrialist

M. Patrick Dahlke

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