rising waters

It’s the future, and I’m heading north to Georgian Bay in a SunCar rental. They were 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, trip diaries to be filled out, and gas tanks to be left half-filled. None of that’s necessary now. The entire fleet are solar-powered and smarter 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 door unlocks 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. SunCar now has over 2500 vehicles stationed throughout Toronto, 6 of them right out front in our parking lot. The number goes up every year.


I booked an Elonis 8 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 adds anywhere from 8 to 12 DH (DrivingHours) to a car’s PowerBox, so cars collect far more energy than they need and redirect the excess to power-collection 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 we’re moving along at a pretty good clip. Highway speed limits are a thing of the past in most jurisdictions. All vehicles, nowadays, are equipped with DriveMates, which debit drivers’ accounts for highway use based on both 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 unsafe driving prompts a DriveMate to lock the doors, take control of the vehicle, and drive it to the nearest PoliceCentre. There were equipment failures, 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 couple years, 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 probably won’t close at all this year. Though you never know, these days—the weather can turn on a dime.


Back when the service centre announced it was shutting down, McDonalds had first dibs on the space but, with the methane problem and the growing pressures on all of us to veganize, hamburger sales had been slumping badly, so they opted out of this and many other prime locations. Big mistake! A couple of months later, it was announced that a team of scientists at GenFarm 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.


And 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. Many had given up eating meat out of compassion for animals and were now feeling sorry for their vegetables, as well, prompting an immediate pandemic of eating disorders. By now, thankfully, most have learned to cope, though it hasn’t been easy and, for some, never will be. On the radio, just this morning, there was an interview with a member of the JesuVegs, a group very much in the news, these days, who believe we’re mandated by Scripture to eat only what we can’t hear. The woman quoted a passage from the Bible which, to my ears, 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 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’ve no time. My friend’s cottage-raising starts in a couple of hours 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 either walk away or adapt. 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.