It’s the future, and I’m on my way to Georgian Bay in a SunCar rental.

SunCar was called Autoshare when I first rented a car from them back in 2008. In those days, there were keys to be picked up from and returned to key boxes, entries to be made in a pad, and gas tanks to be left half-filled. None of that’s necessary, anymore. SunCar’s entire fleet of cars are solar-powered and smarter, by far, than most of their drivers. When you arrive to pick up your vehicle, you simply grip the door handle, say a few words, and Presto!—the doors unlock and the seat, steering wheel, and mirrors all adjust automatically to remembered settings. You get in, belt up, press a button, and away you go. Very convenient.

I booked an Elonis8 this time. It’s such a treat to drive, and so economical. Most cars are, these days. Breakthroughs in the harnessing of solar energy have brought us to where an hour of sunlight can add as much as 12 DH (driving hours) to a car’s PowerBox, so cars collect far more energy than they need and redirect the excess to PowerSats (satellites) for redistribution. Once a big part of the problem, cars have become an important part of the solution.

Traffic is heavy, today, but well-spaced and moving at a good clip. For several years, now, all vehicles have been equipped with DriveMates, which debit drivers’ accounts for highway use based on a combination of distance and speed traveled. Provided you do so safely, you may drive at any speed you like, though if you drive at speeds above or below a posted range, you pay extra. The more outside the range, the more you pay.

Detection of dangerous driving prompts a DriveMate to lock the doors, take control of the vehicle, and drive it to the nearest PoliceCentre. There were coding glitches, early on, that saw a whole lot of angry people trapped in their cars and driven to PoliceCentres by mistake, but upgrades have all but eliminated this and other problems and, while there’s still widespread opposition to DriveMates, the facts speak for themselves—highway fatalities are way down. The next generation of DriveMates, we’re told, will respond to dangerous driving by simply switching the car into AutoDrive, pretty much eliminating police involvement altogether. This may help appease its critics.

You rarely see a gas station anymore and, in a year or so, you won’t see any. I’m nearing where the big service centre at the junction of Highways 400 and 9 used to be. In its stead, there’s now a beautifully-landscaped picnic area in the woods overlooked by my favourite roadside eatery of all times, HeidiHanks, which is owned and operated by a couple of Holland Landing families and a nearby cattle rancher. Their food is exceptional and business is booming. As temperatures warm, the picnic area stays open longer and longer and, the way things are looking right now, it may not close at all this year. Though you never know, anymore—last September, middle of the month, it snowed nonstop for the better part of three days.

Back when the service centre announced it was shutting down, McDonalds had first dibs on the space but, along with a growing methane problem had come a growing and relentless pressure to veganize, as a result of which, hamburger sales had taken a dive and were the lowest they’d been in 20 years. Having to dramatically cut costs, McDonalds opted out of this and many other prime locations. Big mistake! Within months, GenFarm America announced, with great fanfare, that they had successfully engineered a breed of cattle that farted oxygen rather than methane and, though we were still years away from reaping any benefits, hamburger sales took off immediately.

Then, just a few weeks after that, came the discovery that plants scream in pain the same as animals do but at decibels inaudible to the human ear. In a roundabout way, this was more good news for the hamburger community. The vegan community, however, were devastated. Having sworn off meat out of compassion for animals, many were now feeling sorry for their vegetables, as well, prompting an immediate spike in eating disorders.

Within days, vegetable prices plummeted and, with them, the livelihoods of nearly everyone involved, from farmers on through to greengrocers, and the livelihoods, as well, of everyone involved with them, and with them. You forget, sometimes, how interconnected everything is.

Thankfully, the worst of it didn’t last all that long. Having no other option but to eat or die, most vegans were not long finding ways around their dilemma and, within several months, things returned, more or less, to normal—though a new normal, one with a much higher rate of eating disorders.

For many, it will always be an issue. Just this morning, on the radio, there was an interview with a member of the JesuVegs, a group who believe we’re mandated by Scripture to eat only what we can’t hear. To make her case, the woman quoted a passage from the Bible that could have meant nearly anything you wanted it to. Whatever gets you through, I suppose. I was hoping the interviewer would ask if deaf people were the only ones who could eat whatever they wanted, but he didn’t.  

As it happens, I can’t hear hamburgers and would love a HeidiHanks FarmBoy right now, but I haven’t the time. My friend’s cottage-raising is scheduled to begin in an hour or so and I’ve a long way to go, still. His will be the third cottage-raising I’ve been to in as many months. The rising Atlantic, raising, as it does, the level of whatever feeds into it, is slowing the eastward flow of water through the Great Lakes system and, as a consequence, water levels throughout the system have been steadily rising and are the highest, now, they’ve ever been. If you’re a cottager, you adapt or walk away. Some are building dikes. Others are raising their cottages on stilts.

When we finish up, today, there’s to be a big party—upwards of 100 partiers—and life’s been quieter than I like, so I’m more than up for a big party—the bigger, the better. I’ll have the car drive me home afterwards. "Home, James," I’ll say. And off we’ll go. I’m sure to be three sheets by then, so will lie down in the back as authorities advise. I wish everyone in those circumstances would do the same. I’ll never get used to cars driving around with their drivers passed-out at the wheel.

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