Idle Chatter

Yeah, I drive an SUV. And I have a large screen television. And I live in a house that is arguably at least twice as big as I need and have an acre or two of lawn mowed every week of the summer and another acre or two mowed every other week. Ask me why, however, and I can come up with a logical reason. And while you may not agree with the reason, at least I have reason. At least I have thought about it. At least I have made a choice, mindfully. However much you might call my reasons rationalizations, they are real reasons.

By contrast, there is no reason for leaving a car idling. There just isn’t. And the woman whom I accosted in front of the elementary school couldn’t come up with one. I really wanted to KNOW the reason because I didn’t WANT to judge her without understanding what she might be going through. Like the lovely yogini at the CT Shala, who burns off the cast-off fears and troubles of a group of kids by burning a rock in the flame of a candle each morning after practice. I asked, and she answered, and all was well with the world. I don’t necessarily agree that you can burn off anyone’s fears of troubles by placing a rock in a candle’s flame. But at least I understand what she’s thinking, and I wholeheartedly respect her intentions.

The epilogue to the story is really the prologue to another. I decided to channel my annoyance into action. I emailed the president of the PTA and asked her if there is a policy on idling in front of the four buildings that comprise our school district. I told her that I had seen and smelled many instances of idling and wondered what could possibly be the justification.

I received an email reply almost immediately. She told me that he has been thinking about this quite a bit, herself, and she has been trying to get the Superintendent of Schools to come up with a firm policy on it. Until then, she wants to begin to raise awareness. As such, she would like to plan a “No Idling Day” in the district, which would raise the issue among the parents and give them a chance to think about what they are doing and how it might impact the environment (as well as gas prices).

She has asked me to spearhead No Idling Day, and I said yes. We begin our planning this week.

She didn’t even ask me if I drove an SUV or live in a house that is bigger than I need or maintain a football-field-sized lawn when woodchips would be just fine. Can you imagine?



27 Responses to Idle Chatter

  1. jlafitte says:

    Perhaps an auxiliary goal for the organizing effort could be to get your legislators to take note and take action regarding this.

    In summary the graphic observes the impact of the rapidly escalating economies in developing nations, primarily China and India. Within the next 30 years, global carbon output will roughly equal that of the entire previous century. And the acceleration of output will continue to increase, as oil supplies last.

  2. Everyday Yogini says:

    How FANTASTIC that you are going to help raise awareness around this! I am so excited that you were able to get a positive response back from the school~ by best wishes to you as you work on this and I hope to read more about it on your blog….

  3. slw2169 says:

    Good for you in taking the initiative! And in defense of your driving an SUV, as a friend to several stay-at-home moms of multiple children, I know that the ‘mainstreaming’ of the SUV has been a godsend. The unbelievable amount of ‘stuff’ that is necessary to keep a couple of kids happy, safe and content is unbelievalble. Could you do it in a sedan or something smaller? Probably. But I’ve seen my mommy friends struggle with various kid stuff plus dry cleaning, groceries, etc and I know that the SUV makes their already chaotic and difficult life much easier. Don’t feel guilty that you drive something that makes your life a little easier. At least you are aware enough to know you shouldn’t idle, as clearly some people around us aren’t.

  4. Stellata says:


    Im sorry if I sounded harsh, i think you missed my point. My point wasn’t to say you are bad for driving an SUV. It was to be careful about judging people because we all have things we can be judged about. If you want to drive an SUV, then I say go for it.

    I do think doing something proactive like calling the school is a GREAT idea.

    Thanks for blogging though, I enjoy the read.

  5. jlafitte says:

    How about, in addition to the parents, raise the kid’s awareness of what is at stake for them?

    Here is a great resource. There is also a kid’s page.

    Unless a different paradigm of “the good life” is inculcated in the next few generations, things are going to get very grim. Irreversibly so.

    Good on you for taking a stand against idling, but consider the consequences of the developing world’s objective of replicating North American/West European standards of living for their own populations. How much idling could a few billion Asians with cars do?

  6. Carl says:

    Ask me why, however, and I can come up with a logical reason.

    At least I have made a choice, mindfully.

    Coming up with logical reasons, when asked, does not also mean that you made your choice(s) mindfully. “No individual raindrop thinks itself responsible for the flood.”

    The idling issue isn’t about the extra pollution people cause by not turning off their vehicles. It’s about getting people to consider and relax. People leave their vehicles idling because they want to be able to jet off again without having to perform those little initial steps again. I suggest posting a sign on Idling Awareness Day that says “Think about your actions and CHILL THE FUCK OUT FOR JUST A FEW MOMENTS!”

  7. Dan says:

    what does the canadian website you referenced have to say about driving SUVs?

  8. DebPC says:

    This all sounds like a fight waiting to happen, even with the principal’s endorsement.

  9. samasthiti says:

    It’s their right to idle, just like your right to drive your SUV.

  10. jlafitte says:

    What Snoozin said. In the meantime, enjoy your Chinese made commodity goods and European made luxury goods, because when the oil runs out you won’t be seeing them any more. In fact you won’t be seeing quite a few things that you currently take for granted. Think about that, when you’re contemplating your kid’s curriculum.

  11. samasthiti says:

    Word Lafitte.

  12. sally says:

    But – are you only interested in changing this enviro-damaging negative behaviour because it is one that you do not partake in? you won’t have to change any of the things that make your life comfortable in order to make this change…

  13. Yoga Chickie says:

    Chinese made? European made? Good thing no one is making assumptions about me.

    So, my SUV bothers you guys and disentitles me to care about the environment in any other way? You know what I say to that? Suck my exhaust pipe.

  14. Tim says:

    I wanted to do an anonymous comment as follows, but couldn’t:

    K. Lear said . . .

    O reason not the need! Our basest beggars
    Are in the poorest thing superfluous.
    Allow not nature more than nature needs,
    Man’s life is as cheap as beast’s. Thou art a lady:
    If only to go warm were gorgeous,
    Why, nature needs not what thou gorgeous wear’st,
    Which scarcely keeps thee warm. But, for true need–
    You heavens, give me that patience, patience I need.

  15. Yoga Chickie says:

    Wow, my ability to read iambic pentameter is not what it used to be, Tim. Could you possibly translate?

  16. embodiedmotion says:

    I’m surprised nobody asked the obvious question. Now I’m curious…what is your reasoning for having an SUV and a insanely large house if you don’t mind my asking?

  17. Yoga Chickie says:

    Suv’s are safer than cars, given an suv-dominated world. Suv versus car in accident? Suv almost always wins. I would not feel safe driving my kids in a smaller squatter car.

    My husband IS trading his suv for a sedan this month. I wanted him to get a prius, but he thinks they need to get the kinks out of the hybrids first.

    House? Because I wanted space to spread out in. I wanted my kids to have lots of land, and lots of land tends to translate to houses in excess of 4000 sq ft. That’s just fine by me because it makes being green in other ways easier: better vacuum cleaners have space and easy access in my home. Wood for the fireplaces has space and access. Everyone has space to spread out their things so we know what we need and what we can give away. Furniture can be stripped and restained in my basement workshop instead of having to buy new stuff. None of this is possible in a house that does not have some of what you might call excess space.

    Would you deliberately buy a small house just to be green? Would you drive your kids around in a yugo if you could afford an acura suv? Seriously. I can pose the questions too here…

  18. jlafitte says:

    > Chinese made? European made?
    > Good thing no one is making
    > assumptions about me.

    Gimme a break, YC. I suppose you’re going to tell me that mouse in your hand there was handcrafted, locally sourced. And your luxury SUV… oh yeah I forgot Acuras come from Japan, not Europe.

    But this is beside the point. People need to recognize that the current ideal of material well-being is unsustainable and ultimately contains the seeds of its own destruction.

  19. samasthiti says:

    You don’t seem to get it.

    It’s not your SUV that’s the problem. I was merely pointing out a little hypocrisy in your “fight for the environment”. I was merely pointing out that there are probably a lot of little ways you could clean up your act at home that would make more of an impact than stopping a few idlers. I was pointing out the fact that it is a lot easier to point a finger at others and then make excuses for our own luxuries.

    That’s my point.

    Shakespeare’s point is that King Lear is at the end of the line with Goneril and what’s his name. They strip him of all his power and wealth. He bellows that humans would be no different from animals without their possessions (namely his servants and soldiers). By taking away Lear’s earthly possessions they are reducing him to the life of an animal. And he’s going crazy because of the betrayal of his daughters…. It’s just a mess. I could go on, but I haven’t read it for awhile.

  20. samasthiti says:

    I would buy a smaller house to be more green.
    I would drive a Honda hybrid if I could “afford” a Lexus. I turn my thermostat down to a very low temperature. I turn off all the lights. I drive as little as possible, and walk as much as possible. I combine all my trips so I don’t waste gas. I recycle, but I try and reduce the waste first. I use reusable shopping bags. I buy organic products, and I try to buy locally made products and food.
    I am not perfect. My husband and I were just talking about how we can do better….

  21. Laurie says:

    On the larger scale, this woman who idled her car is simply playing the guru for you. Take a minute, breathe, and see if you can look at the situation as an observer, emotions aside. Flip the situation and look at yourself.

    For example, while reading these comments, in my head I said, “Nobody needs a 4,000 square foot house!” (I have 3 kids in 1300 square feet) Then, flipped it on myself and I can see why that frustrates me… because I have a long way to go to improve my green habits.

    Join the club! Maybe we can work together to improve instead of spending our energy pointing the finger at each other.

  22. Stellata says:

    Just so you know,
    My “family of 4” friends drive a Prius. They live in Westchester. The husband works in the city and bikes to the metro north station. The mother stays at home with the 5 and 2 year old. She puts both kids in the Prius and feels completely safe. They have had one for 4 or 5 years, and haven’t had any issues with any “kinks.” Nor do they feel less safe then in an SUV. And they are not irresponsible parents.

    But I do agree with Susan, the original point was about not finger pointing… no one needs to answer to you, you only need to answer to yourself.

  23. Carl says:

    Susan, it’s not hypocrisy! Hypocrisy implies insincerity but Lauren is quite sincere. The contradiction of spoken intent with the obvious reality — that is IRONY.

    But really, that’s academic. It’s not a condemnable offense to point out the error of a person’s ways whilst ironically (or even un-ironically) committing the same offense. Al Gore is denigrated for personally pumping greater than average amounts of waste gases into the atmosphere while simultaneously decrying the pumping of vast amounts of waste gases into the atmosphere. That doesn’t mean he’s WRONG! And it doesn’t mean he’s a hypocrite. It just means he’s not imaginative enough to fix his part of the problem.

    Lauren is entitled to be as humanly ironic as everyone else is. We’d ALL have to admit to being evil, two-faced liars if irony and hypocrisy were one and the same.

  24. (0v0) says:

    Snoozin is my guru.

  25. jlafitte says:

    Carl you get an A+ for diplomacy, but it’s not as if YC should get a Nobel Prize for heading up the school district’s anti-idling committee, eh?

  26. samasthiti says:

    Oh. Owl! I am changing your name on my links list.

    And actually Carl, if you want to get down with the academics, my usage of hypocrisy is correct. Hypocrisy is the act of condemning another person for something that the critic is guilty of themselves. She may not be and idler(which is bad for the environment), but she is doing other things that are harming to the environment….
    It has nothing to do with sincerity, though I am seeing some irony.

  27. (0v0) says:

    Wow! I wasn’t looking for that, but it’s about damn time!

    -“Your humble devotee”

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