Saturday, September 5, 2009

On Necessities and Luxuries

We got a propane fridge at the cabin this year, and when it stopped working on the one time we were up for a week, it was really hard to go back to the cooler - to smelling the questionable milk before using it every time, and trying to keep the cold cuts from swimming in the water at the bottom. At home a fridge is a luxury I'm not ready to part with, unlike this blogger who unplugged it and deals with the consequences. Up north for a week, it's possible the propane we use for a small fridge might be similar to the gas we would otherwise use to go back and forth to town for ice, so I don't feel too guilty. As a good backwoods camper, I can survive without milk on my cereal or cheese on my nachos, but the kids aren't as accommodating. After years without, the fridge has become a necessity.

It's curious to me what we can live without. The blogger I linked can live without a fridge, but still uses a dryer. I haven't used our dryer for years. It's there in the basement for an emergency (like a flood??), far from the washer two floors higher - upstairs where all the clothes are kept. Without kids, I could manage without the washer too. I hand washed in first year university - too poor to go to a laundromat - and it wasn't so bad. But I like to know my perishables are safe to eat.

I know many people who won't put a glass of water under a tap and drink it. They've been convinced that bottled water is better. Even if they tell me they understand that our municipal water is much more heavily regulated, they insist the bottled stuff just tastes better. Even after blind tastes tests at our school showed students that most of them preferred the taste of tap water, they still walked away thinking bottle is best. Advertising is some powerful stuff.

Many friends with a strong environmental bent can't believe I survive the summers without air conditioning. We close the doors and windows and curtains when it's hot out, and open them all at night IF the temperature outside is cooler than the temperature inside. In these parts, I don't remember a heat wave ever lasting more than three weeks. After that long the house might get sticky, so we sleep outside. And maybe we don't get as much done during the heavy humid days, but that's okay. My kids have acclimatized to the heat; they didn't have a choice. And relatively speaking, it's barely a heat wave. This is Canada after all.

I've actually never lived anywhere that had A/C, so it's really easy for me to do without. That's the thing, really: once we get something, we can't remember how to cope without it. Yesterday's luxuries and all. I've also never owned a car, and I manage my in-town trips easily. A colleague once saw me at a mall about 10 k from home and insisted I couldn't have biked the whole way - as if someone must have dropped me and my bike off somewhere. The city grows smaller when you walk and bike everywhere.

If we can stop adding more and more luxuries to our lives, we can stop thinking we actually need them to cope with temperature changes and distances and dirt. But all those commercials and all those TV people and neighbours and friends that have all the new stuff are very very compelling.

If covetousness is a sin (it's right there in the top ten list), and tempting people to covet is even worse, and our laws are based on judeo-christian morality, then shouldn't advertising be illegal?

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