Wednesday, September 9, 2009

No more machines

Scene: Harriet, Mr. Spy and AJ are sitting on the beach by the river. AJ is digging in the sand. We are listening to Motown blasting from a house on the opposite shore and watching boats go by.

AJ: Mom, how come when people talk about the future they always talk about technology?

Harriet: In what way?

AJ: Well, they always say how technology is going to make things better and better. I don't think that's true. I think the opposite is true.

Harriet: You might be right. I think more and more, people are starting to agree with you.

AJ: I was reading in Boy's Life about how some people are trying to build a car that doesn't run on anything.

Harriet: How do they make the engine go?

AJ: I don't know. But they're not having a very good time. Maybe I should invent a car.

Harriet: Maybe you should.

AJ: And then, no more machines.

* * * * *

When I was a girl, we saw a lot of filmstrips and projected movies (on actual film! There were no video tapes, let alone DVDS back in the Stone Age) about the efficiency of factories and the mechanization of farms, about the amazing developments of modern medicine and the godsend of pesticides. But the message AJ's generation is getting is a lot different. He still wants to be driven to school when at all possible and will fight about it every single day, but it was nice to realize the message that I try to give him when we walk or bike places is sinking in.

We had ridden our bikes down to the river where we had that conversation. On the way home, we passed a couple on bikes with headlights on, as it was starting to get dusky. AJ was fascinated by the lights. He'd never seen lights on bikes before.

"That's a really good idea. Then you can ride in the dark."

"My favorite thing about lights like that is that they're powered by the bike. They don't need batteries or anything."

"They don't?" AJ asked skeptically. "How do they work?"

"There's a little machine that uses the power of your feet making the wheels go around to generate a small amount of electricity, enough to turn on a lightbulb."

"Oh, I noticed that when they stopped pedaling that the lights got a little dimmer," AJ recalled.

"That's right."

"That's a really cool idea."

It is a really cool idea. And then I told AJ about someone I used to know who had hooked up his television to a stationary bike instead of an electrical outlet. In order to watch television, he had to pedal.

"So you have to get exercise, even when you're watching TV."

"That's right."

"That's like what my gym teacher said we should do."

"What's that?"

"We should do jumping jacks or pushups or something during the commercial."

"Well, that won't generate electricity, but it's a great way to get some exercise."

"Do I have to do that?"

Well, we're not there yet.

1 comment:

FreshHell said...

Don't tell AJ, but the bike lights are actually powered by hamsters. It'll be our little secret.