A reader writes … By Thomas Johnson

May 28, 2001

If I were rich, I could buy six countertop refrigerators and use a different one for each type of my favorite foods. I'd have one for milk, one for cheese, one for butter, one for bread, one for tomatoes and one for peanut butter.

I'd have to have extra counter space and I'd need a lot of new wiring, but what the heck, I could afford it. I could get either six different colors or all different colors, or even custom colors, so I could match them to my décor.

General Electric used to say the future belongs to the efficient. Whether you believe in evolution, efficiency is the key to survival. Some of us believe in a divine creator and the fittest are the provident. Adaptability and random selection are creations, not creators.

The 100 or so generations of the American automobile have seen many evolutionary developments, such as the automatic transmission, power windows, seats, locks, padded everything and air conditioning. But gas mileage hasn't improved a whit; it's gotten worse.


Efficiency (provident usage) was tossed aside about 14 years ago when gasoline became bargain basement and speed limits zoomed to 70 mph.

Now that other American institution, the mortgaged home sweet home, is threatened. Our housing, like our transportation, encourages wasteful duplication of systems.

This is not only grossly inefficient, it's not very social. We are isolated from our neighbors, urban-sprawled in single-family housing units like rows of countertop refrigerators. Instead of neighbors, we have competitors, so we need window bars and power garage doors and we don't need sidewalks except for poor people who can't afford gasoline for their cars.

With an occupancy ratio under two persons per house, we are heating, lighting and cooling a house full of furniture every 60 feet or so or any residential street. This, courtesy of the Baby Boom and the FHA-sanctioned single-family financing market, was helped along by the oil companies and auto factories to skyrocket their sales to a growing market.

Now we're all hooked on growing markets. If growth slips a fraction of a percent, we get depressed and worry that we'll lose our jobs. If we weren't supporting a car that needs insurance and gasoline, and a house or condo that needs everything, we could get by with part-time work and four-day weekends.

Our people are living in dollhouses full of doll furniture, driving Barbie vans and SUVs. These single-family homes and condos become forests of various degrees of outdoor storage of personal goods, everything from jet skis and boats to motor homes and other view blockers. The matching tile roofs aren't really preferable to open horizons.

When the parents of the Baby Boom generation started their families, they needed housing, so there was a housing boom. They needed transportation, so roads and cars to drive them were built. These were good ideas taken to extremes.

Maybe it's time to go to the opposite extreme.

We are very amusing to our allies and antagonists, but we're too destructive and wasteful to be allowed on any committee about rights.

Bush says we must make the world safe for SUVs. Real men don't conserve, don't recycle and don't apologize.

Whatever happened to boarding houses? There are a few in the Valley, and you can bet that at mealtime, everybody shows up around the big table on time if they want to eat. The kitchen is closed to boarders, food is not allowed in the rooms and the only television is in the living room. We need more boarding houses, inns and liveries — where we could keep our horses.

With four-day weekends, we could have time for the grandkids, too. Amen.

Thomas Johnson is an El Centro resident who at last report was planning to head to Texas this summer to spend time with family.

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