Visible through a glass sliding door on a high rise apartment, an expanse of concrete city laid vast, studded with megalithic monuments and edifices wrought from human pride and avarice. Winding roads snaking through the buildings were choking with an endless stream of cars. It’s an ordinary working day in a typical metropolitan city.
Inside the lofty abode, dreary morning light spilled from a sallow, sick sky, suffusing the interior with a soft smoggy colour. An arm rested on a table, holding a semi eaten Pau. It belonged to Jenny, who, chewing nonchalantly was gazing at a newspaper, reading with curious interest.
“Look at this,” she said. “German man doesn’t own a car, opens his apartment window for ventilation, and reads the news online instead buying a newspaper. He suggests we do the same, and take the train to work instead of cars.” She looked up expectantly at a man whose back was facing her at the kitchen counter. “Do you think we can do that?” she asked, and after a moment of no response, “George?” she said.
The man turned round with two steaming mugs of coffee in his hands. He placed one near her and sipped the other. Oval shaped face with eyes that tapered pointedly, George lowered his mug and leaned back against the counter. “Us? Giving up cars? Taking a ride using the trains?” he said. “If the company lets us use their electricity to iron our clothes…sure,” he sneered, eyes narrowing. Ignoring the sarcasm, the woman continued reading.
“He said the world cannot satisfy the demands of every human individual on this planet. It’s under a lot of stress with overpopulation and everyone leaving so much carbon footprints. Earth’s resources are verging on depletion. Sooner or later the world can’t provide for the whole population and we’ll be having a major crisis. Our children will suffer for our greed.” She stopped reading from the paper only to see George’s disinterest face. “He’s right. The country has never been so warm like these days.” Jenny exhaled ruefully, taking a bite of her Pau before sipping her coffee.
“Carbon footprints huh?” George sat across her, a hint of boredom in his tone.
“Hmm.” Jenny nodded, swallowing. “We drive our cars, use electricity, and so on, and they emit carbon gas like carbon dioxide, whatever — it’s all technical,” she gabbled, “bottom line is, the world is getting hotter because of these trapped gases, and we’re causing the polar ice to melt, which causes a chain reaction of events, like animal extinction, the rise of sea level or something, you have to read this to understand.” She had stabbed a finger on the column, looking expectantly at George. “We’re causing the draught or flood that’s plaguing people on the other side of this planet.” Her eyes never left him as the Pau reposed on the plate unfinished.
“So what do you think we should do?” George asked, barely containing the sneer in his tone. “Stop driving to work? Don’t use electricity?” He smirked. “The man’s an alarmist. Or an attention seeking expat. He was a nobody in his home country, and now, seeks a name in our white male-glorifying society. I mean, I was watching this drama series, and there is this Malay woman, supposedly the last genuine Malay woman,” he gestured with rabbit fingers, “because she was so graceful and modest and was always staring into space with this aggravating content smile, which is suppose to make her remarkable because she was blind, and the whole drama revolve around this Mat Salleh falling for her. I think the scriptwriter fetishise this kind of fantasy or something. Anyway, there’s another Malay guy vying for the blind girl as well. And he was obviously not going to be the one to win her, because he was made to sound really antagonistic, all possessive and grouchy like there’s something up his–”
“You weren’t listening!” Jenny’s brow had furrowed. “I was talking about the saving the planet!” she added tetchily with her arms crossed.
George scrambled a rueful look. “I heard you,” he said. “I was just trying to make a point”.
Jenny, scowling, didn’t respond.
George gave another second to the silence before sighing in resignation. “So what are we going to do this time?” he sagged, exuding a familiar air of despondency.
Jenny promptly glowed with excitement. “We should pick at least one day to not drive our cars,” she said, smiling with a grin that could ruin her makeup..
“Uh huh,” murmured George. He was slouching dispiritedly now, his eyes staring blankly past the coffee at his lips.
“Then we can pitch a car pool day at our colleagues,” chirped Jenny. “But first we must settle on No-Car day”. She finished her Pau, mind rapt in eager thoughts.
“Right,” George drawled monotonously. “Better not be Tuesday. That’s sending the goods to the recycling centre day.” George gulped down his coffee with glazed eyes.
Jenny’s eyes perked up. “Yes. Oh about that honey–”George’s head rotated towards her.
“Suzie is borrowing my car tomorrow, so you’re going to have to pick me up after work. And — you have to send the stuff to the centre.”
“What?” George exploded, his chair scraping as his back straightened. “You know I can’t use the car to transport things. It’s –”, he frantically searched the right words, “abuse!”.
“It’s a car. It’s supposed to transport things.” said Jenny airily, downing a cooler coffee.“Person. Not things. What would people say if they saw a bulky thrash bag beside the driver?” whined George. Jenny furrowed her brows as she mulled over the situation. “The three bags would fit in the trunk. If not we could take two trips, but that would just be wasting gas, and leave more carbon footprints” Jenny was mumbling more to herself now, apparently oblivious to George’s growing frustration. “I won’t be going with you,” she decided.You’re just going to have to put them in the front seat. Just one trip is enough.”
“Why must we do it this Thursday? Why not tomorrow? Or next week?”
“We’re sending the pet food to the animal sanctuary tomorrow remember? And let’s not make procrastination a habit.”
“The car’s not meant for thrash. Thrash is not style!” George said, exasperated.
“That’s why I told you not to buy that two seater Celica. It’s useless” Jenny spoke in such a sagely manner, George’s eyes bulged. “You can’t speed in our infinitely congested roads” she said. “Your work doesn’t require you to travel, and you don’t have relatives up North to drive the car to…” At Jenny’s every word, George seemed to swell considerably like an expanding balloon ready to burst. “The car’s not even fuel effic…”
“I might go to Thailand, have you ever think about that?” George erupted, though not as assertive as he dared to be.
Jenny stilled. Moments prolonged as she stared at George, her brow slowly knitting. “Why would you want to go to Thailand?” she asked, distinct iciness in her voice.
“I was just trying to make a point,” George sputtered, glancing nervously at her. “The car’s too precious for me to be conveying thrash. It’s my pride. I worked my butt off paying…”
“I was just trying to make a point,” George mumbled, staring after Jenny, wincing as the door thundered shut.
Miscommunication. It happens.