There are many dichotomies to living in California. Perhaps the greatest one is that it is a state which champions environmental friendliness while also being a state that’s entirely dependent upon the emission of fossil fuels. Every street, every freeway feels like one massive parking lot. At such a rate, it often seems as though trying to get to one’s destination on foot would be faster. And, of course, less detrimental to Mother Earth. Although Maritza Delmonay had grown accustomed to this “lifestyle” that J. G. Ballard was essentially mocking in Crash, she was aware, long before the year 2035, when the state claimed it would phase out gas-powered cars, that there was something highly immoral about being so “okay” with driving.
What’s more, being so okay with not even trying to qualify for the HOV lane. All around, if you just looked into another person’s car, you could see that they were alone. Why couldn’t they fucking carpool? But then, Maritza, being an extreme introvert, knew exactly why. At the same time, though she knew most people in California could be described as having “antisocial tendencies” (hence, a healthy serial killer population), she was also aware that they were fundamentally extroverted as a people. They just needed to be drawn out. Something that the state’s structural setup didn’t often allow for.
Even in a workplace environment, there was a sense of isolation. A separatism that an open-concept office couldn’t mitigate. The spirit of “Wild West individualism” pervaded everything, including, of course, how people chose to drive. Which is to say, recklessly and alone.
Every time Maritza drove, especially lately, it weighed on her conscience. And yet, like so many, there wasn’t much she could really do to change the means of getting around. And despite what certain people in power might say about “revamping the infrastructure,” one would quite literally need to blow up all of America and start over again to make the infrastructure suitable for allowing individuals to become non-fossil fuel-emitting cunt rags.
2035 came and went, and obviously, the promise was not kept to eradicate vehicles that required gas. Their “loophole” in the language was that they only agreed to stop selling gas-powered cars any longer. That didn’t mean people couldn’t still drive the ones they already owned. And there were, needless to say, a fuck ton of those. Teslas be damned. And even electric cars weren’t going to stop emissions—indeed, they created their own separate set of them just to be made. Then there were the batteries (another environmentally-unfriendly factor), as well as the need for charging points to be conveniently located and pervasive so that people wouldn’t be stuck in the middle of nowhere without enough charge. The solution wasn’t getting rid of gas-powered cars—it was getting rid of cars, full-stop. Or at least vastly limiting the amount of people who could drive them (if that were the case, it would, of course, likely become a privilege of the rich).
Maritza knew as well as anybody that this would be impossible. California, for as much as it championed nature, simultaneously worked to decimate it. Its greatest treasure was the very thing that its “way of living” served to destroy. The yin and the yang, the light and the dark always working to counteract one another. Not find “balance.” There were days when Maritza vowed that she would not drive to work, but inevitably, she woke up too late to avoid it. Any form of public transportation was bound to take roughly two hours. Who had that kind of time to spare when there were already so few hours in the day to oneself? What did the government think was going to happen? Well, in the beginning, what they knew would (and wanted to) happen was that everyone would buy a car. Thanks to that anti-Semite Henry Ford, who essentially got in bed with the Woodrow Wilson-era government to create legislation like the Federal Aid Road Act of 1916. It was a momentous occasion. The first bill of its kind in terms of “federalizing” infrastructure funding. And, as everyone knows, few states are as reliant upon what the federal government is willing to fund than California.
The governmental nepotism toward the automobile industry quickly led to a myopic view of the future. Refused to foresee that the car might not be forever the way. Or that it might have as-of-yet-unknown ramifications. But such was the fashion of “enterprise.” Make the money first, think about the consequences later. And God knows there was plenty of money to be had by allocating federal funds to highway-building. The contracts, the industry, the land development!—it was enough to make any capitalist splooge uncontrollably.
California might not have been the only state to benefit from such federal funding, but it was the true champion of making “being one” with the car a “normal” part of existence. Case in point, Robert O. Peterson. A.k.a. the founder of Jack in the Box. The first location being in San Diego, Peterson decided to designate himself as the pioneer in wielding the then-innovative two-way intercom system that would allow drive-through sales to be emphasized (eventually becoming the fast food standard practice). In fact, Peterson was sure to limit indoor seating, eliminate carhops and stick to a highly specific menu—all of which served to vastly cut down on overhead and maximize profits. Additionally, originating in Southern California and all, Jack in the Box would transcend into the only mainstream fast-food chain to parade tacos as a primary menu item (no wonder, then, that the corporation would end up “acquiring” Del Taco). Indeed, Maritza was on her way to get some now… well, that would be one of the things she got. For there is no amount of food that can fill the black hole of post-modern dissatisfaction. Plus, her lunch break was all she had to look forward to in a day of office drudgery. Might as well “live it up” by stuffing her face. And though she told herself she would cease to use her wheels so frivolously and whimsically by not taking unnecessary trips (and therefore, also getting in some kind of exercise), she found herself, once again, crunched for time. The car was still quickest. Even despite the occasional traffic congestion during the journey. So how was she to be blamed? Everything conspired to render the “auto” as the sole means of “getting around”—while ultimately getting nowhere. Fast, and in the name of “commerce.”
After pulling away from the drive-through, where a pimply-faced plump girl handed her a sack of synthetic food, Maritza found a parking spot in front of a Big Lots! and proceeded to resentfully eat her car-centric slop. It was while finishing her sriracha curly fry burger—usually reserved as part of the “munchie meal” menu (in other words, the menu geared toward the “late night” [i.e. all hours of the day] stoner crowd…because: California)—that an epiphany began to dawn on her. Each and every person on this Earth must ask themselves what they’re doing here. Do they have a purpose? And how and why did part of that “purpose” become getting from point A to point B in such a destructive manner?
In the future (if there is one), photos and videos of people driving will be as scandalous as images of people smoking. The stigma should already be much graver than it is. But it can’t be, because it’s still “necessary”—not just to the masses, but the governments that control them. Maritza wished she actually was high to justify having these thoughts. Then again, if she were, she likely would have experienced nothing more than the blank numbness that usually comes with driving soberly for long periods. As it is said in Repo Man, “The more you drive, the less intelligent you are.” And the more of a fossil fuel-emitting cunt rag.