18 November 2010


Every time I see cars stop and start at traffic lights, or I'm driving
and find myself constantly pulled up by red lights, I have a recurring
I imagine all the cars of the world (nearly three-quarters of a billion
of them at last count) melded together into one enormous block of metal
and plastic, miles high. Imagine this huge cube of metal, surely rising
into the clouds, visible on the horizon. You get closer and closer,
speeding along the massive strip of bitumen that leads towards it. In
its shadow the air is colder. You have to crane your neck to see the
top. Giant wheels, hundreds of metres high carry it along - their scale
daunting, but at least comprehensible in comparison to the monolith
groaning along above you. Deep inside is an enormous engine, each pulse
of its hidden pistons consuming Olympic swimming pools of petrol, a vast
exhaust belching smoke and haze from the rear.
So when I pull up at the lights, or I'm walking and see a line of cars
pull up next to me, I imagine this stupefying behemoth of metal in my
imagination stopping, starting, stopping, starting all day long. I
imagine all our ingenuity and resources pouring into this ridiculous
monster, the enormous amounts of energy needed to overcome its inertia,
get it moving, accelerate it for the length of a football field... and
then slow it down and stop it. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.