As I have been otherwise occupied this week and have not written much, I will reprise another column that was previously published in the Metro, a weekly in Winnipeg. This one was published January 26, 2011, and is here with minor editorial changes.
It used to be that you could smoke anywhere. Now, not so much. These days, smokers are few and far between. Those who remain also tend to be respectful of non-smokers (thank you, vocal anti-smoking lobby). No longer do we have to run the gauntlet outside of shopping malls and movie theatres to get to our cars without an unwanted nicotine fix.
These days, it’s not cigarettes; it’s exhaust from idling cars that is shoved down our throats.
The anti-idling lobby is taking a page from the non-smokers. They remind us how Canadians can eliminate millions of tonnes of greenhouse gas by reducing our idling time only 5 minutes a day. They tell us how much money we could save on fuel. They have shown us how the new automotive technology does not, in fact, require 10 minutes of warm-up time before each outing, and in fact, that we increase the wear and tear on our vehicles when we leave them running to dash in for a cup of coffee. The lobbyists don’t often invoke the specter of the non-renewable natural resource we send up the tailpipe with each idle minute, but it’s there too.
But let’s face it. During Winnipeg winters, these arguments are a tough sell. It’s dark, it’s cold, and the door to Timmies is usually pretty far from the closest parking spot. It’s so much easier just to sit in the drive-thru for five (or fifteen) minutes than to park and walk in. Just like it’s that much more comfortable to get into a warm car than sit on that brick that your seat becomes after a night below freezing.
We know smoking is bad for us. The problem is that idling is no better for our health. It might even be worse. Both expose us to carcinogenic chemicals. Both pump invisible and irretrievable garbage into the air. Both waste money. Certainly, comfort has a subjective value, and many would prefer to be warm, even if it means filling up more often or shredding that intangible “ozone layer”.
But that cold, dark time of year is also a great time for new beginnings and personal challenges, as many ex-smokers have discovered. Although it may be tough, challenge yourself to an idle-free 2011. Look at the 5 second dash from the car to the coffee shop as a few of the 10,000 steps in that new fitness regime you resolved to start. It might even save you a few dollars.
And at the very least, you’ll be getting some fresh air.