I’ve just taken my car through the wash. You don’t see many people wash their own cars these days, with a bucket and sponge, on bright Sunday mornings, little rivulets of soapy water trickling down the driveway, dancing with every colour of the rainbow, a pet dog just sitting there looking at them like they’re a fucking idiot. People don’t do that kind of thing much anymore because why would they bother when they can drive down to the car wash and get it done by someone and something else; a surly Lithuanian with a pressure washer and a conveyor belt to cruise you from sloppy spray to industrial toilet brush to enormous hair dryer. Easy. Too easy.
Before the car wash I popped to the shops and picked up a £10 deal at M&S. Two fat pizzas and three sides. That’s an awful lot of food for a tenner. Statistics tell us that as much of a third of it will go to waste but I reckon me and wifey will get through it alright. No, seriously, £10 for all that grub and with billions starving: it’s enough to make you think. It’s almost enough to make you sick. And what about all that water at the wash, what if all that could be put to better use? I mean, is it really that important to have a nice shiny car? Apparently so, but also definitely not. We sure have got our priorities wrong; half the world have too much of everything that they don’t really need and the other half have marginally more, or worse much, much less than the very simplest things that they simply must have.
So as the water dribbled down my windscreen and I finally got payback on the little bastard spider that lives in my driver’s side wing mirror and keeps on replacing his web every night, I started to count, not an actual count but an imaginary one because the numbers, if you could ever calculate them, would be fucking terrifying. Every drop of water in a drive through car wash; every half finished bottle of Diet Coke; every bite of every steak, every day, everywhere. Every last bit of bread that you just can’t finish and every scrap of a vegetable medley that you didn’t really want but were too polite to decline. Come to think of it every drop of oil and spike of metal and shard of glass that goes into making every driver’s side wing mirror on the planet.
Every pointless card that you’ve ever sent and every one you’ve received as well, plus all the other ones flapping their way around the world. Every gallon of jet fuel and every pint of cold lager drunk and peanut abandoned at every hotel from Santiago to Singapore. Every flower that’s been bought to apologise and every wedding dress that won’t see the light of day again until one of you is dead. Every single component that goes into making the very laptop I’m using right now along with the billions of other computers and phones and consuls out there and the ones that we’ll buy to replace them. Every scrap of paper that gets used to write every failed essay in every exam and all the other paper that every Billy used to draw a crap stick picture and Mummy and her new boyfriend that probably won’t end up stuck on the fridge with every awful fridge magnet sold on every market stall you’ve ever strolled past on a clammy holiday evening, looking for other cheap, meaningless shit that will magically disintegrate before you even open your suitcase.
And don’t forget every piddle of milk you throw away because it doesn’t smell quite right and every buggered fridge that gets piled up behind every rusting metal container by every grumpy bastard at every dump and everything else at that dump that could have been saved but nobody bothered too because we all know how good it is for the soul to declutter. And we also know that every dying African child has the wellbeing of our souls very close to their heart. It’s so sad and I’m an horrendous, complicit hypocrite but all it takes is a few minutes to yourself once in a while; a moment to look around and see all that we’ve got. All that we’ve done and all that we’re doing and eventually, very possibly sooner than we’d hoped, all that cannot be undone, ever.
I feel very grateful for being born when I was. I’ve been able to enjoy a time of relative peace and growth and technological comfort and I was born in a country and given an education that means I have access to every thing I need and most, but not all, of the things I want. Not that I’d want everything I want; I can’t imagine how empty a life would be without anything left to aspire to or make an effort for. But the tragedy is that we’ve gone too far and now, rather ironically, we can’t see the wood for the lack of trees.
You can have all the summits and conferences and treaties and signatures and empty, doughy, sweaty handshakes, as lying eyes lock together in a sordid tango of insincerity, that you want but when you give some people all that they think that they want then it’s very hard to take it all away – we, the lucky one’s, are the fat kid in the sweet shop of the world and if you try to show us the salad bar we’re definitely going to cause a scene. Look around you and enjoy it because, hey, you’ve probably earned it or at least you think you have and because it really won’t last forever. I doubt the dinosaurs would have been good at teaching a trigonometry evening class but they’ve done a very good job of teaching us that nothing, ever, ever lasts forever. Oops.
G B Hewitt. 08.08.2019