History tells of epiphanies arriving in the most mundane of places: Newton under an apple tree, Archimedes in the bath, so why not at a car-wash in Vanguard Street?
I soon had the startled dog hitched to the tub and lathered up. I can't tell you how delightful it was to watch the filth and dog hair spiral down someone else's plug hole. The blow-drying was a bit more problematical: the dog has a mortal dread of vacuum cleaners and the roar of the blow-dryer spooked him completely. A wave-drenched child trembling on the deck of the Titanic couldn't have looked more piteous.
The car-wash/dog-wash boasts a coffee-cart during daylight hours and as I transferred the wet, blanket-wrapped dog to the car I found myself wondering about the efficiency gains and energy-saving potential of adding even more do-it-yourself services to the mix: human-washing obviously, but what about manicure, dentistry and dry-cleaning, plus a handy tax return calculator and a slot for the return of overdue library books?
That’s when the epiphany hit – wave after wave of paradigm-busting ideas on energy production and conservation guaranteed to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels:
A: DON’T DO ANYTHING – JUST STAND THERE
1. Stop wasting energy on housework. The late, great Quentin Crisp, that famous "Stately Homo" of England, was an early adopter of this environmentally-friendly inactivity. "After the third year" he declared, "the dust doesn't get any worse". Until now most people, have ignored Crisp's advice for fear of social ostracism. But think of the energy savings if we were all brave enough to ignore the ring around the tub, ankle-deep drifts of dog hair and dust bunnies under the couch.
2. Armour-plated shrink wrapping should be banned in all supermarkets. Dual benefit will be reduction in energy expended in manufacture and disposal, and the number of householders presenting at A & E with knife and screwdriver wounds incurred in the attempt to extract contents from packaging.
3. The energy expended by channel surfing TV viewers searching vainly for a decent programme to watch could be reduced by:
- Banning all TV programmes which involve competitive singing, cooking or home decoration.
- Banning any programme featuring the mutilated corpse of a woman sprawled naked on bed or bathroom floor.
- Restricting TV advertisements by Briscoe’s and other big box stores. New regulations would allow them to advertise only if they are NOT having sale.
- Banning any advertisement which involves shouting.
4. Initiate research into naturally occurring instances of energy conservation. For example, a teenage boy who has been asked to tidy his bedroom is able to enter a state of tuatara-like immobility within seconds. We need to know how teenagers can slow their metabolisms so dramatically, while also ingesting large quantities of energy drinks.
5. More research. This time into human hibernation. The fat-tailed dwarf lemur of Madagascar is the only primate known to hibernate but this doesn’t mean that Homo Sapiens couldn’t learn the trick. The energy-saving potential is obvious - hibernating animals consume very little energy for months at a time - however there would be other significant social benefits too:
- The fair-skinned and melanoma-prone could elect to hibernate during the summer. People like me who are sensitive to the cold and suffer Seasonal Affective Disorder, would take their Big Sleep in the winter.
- If a certain percentage of the population was always in hibernation, job vacancies would increase and unemployment would reduce.
- Recidivist drunk drivers would be kept safely off the roads during hibernation and would be completely detoxed by the time they returned to consciousness.
- Hibernation would provide a welcome respite to Christchurch residents still waiting for their homes to be repaired. Ditto anyone on a long waiting list for elective surgery.
B: DON’T JUST STAND THERE - DO SOMETHING
We desperately need to develop the technology to harvest and store all the human kinetic energy which currently goes to waste. Gym bunnies, mountain bikers and rugby players, even children at play, are potential human dynamos. Think of the number of treadmills and excercycles spinning unproductively all over the country right now. Or the childish energy being wasted on swings, trampolines and Bouncey Castles.
Domestic activities such as egg-beating, tooth-brushing and ukulele-playing could also be harnessed with the new technology.With the right technology, even a stadium of larger louts could contribute power to the national grid. Alcohol plus body heat plus aggression adds up to a lot of wasted energy.
Ironically, I arrived home exhausted after all this energetic thinking. The dog slumped into a damp and reproachful heap in his basket. Drifting off to sleep in my own bed, I barely had the energy to wonder why a perfectly clean dog still smells bad when it’s wet … and why dog’s ears always smell like warm meat pie.