Justin Skolnick lives and works in Portland.

Simple Economics

Originally posted to blockquote.org on in Chicago, Illinois

Chicago, this is your Sumatra Blend. This is your paper cups and napkins, your wooden stirrers, even your biodegradable corn-based silverware. This is your Equal, this is your turbinado with the natural molasses. This is your refrigerated plastic bottle of Diet Coke. This is your Tribune, Sun Times, RedEye, and the weekly rags. This is your compacted trash, your recycling — your paper, your plastic. This is your Amazon order, as well as your interlibrary loan. This is your Netflix. This is your five copies of Juno at the corner place. This is In Rainbows on vinyl. This is your iPod, Sony earbuds, Bose dock. This is your new laptop, and this is the new hard drive for your old one. This is your new tires. This is your city parking sticker, plate renewal sticker, the orange self-sealing parking violation envelopes. This is the chain to replace the one you wore out. This is your New York chain to replace your U-Lock to replace your worthless cable. This is your concert posters, and tickets, and band t-shirts, and the water bottles, and the trash bags for the water bottles. This is your bike map, street map, CTA map. This is the sod in your backyard. This is the flowers lining the sidewalk patio of the restaurant you like, the one that makes the neighborhood so great. This is your year-round fresh produce — your Salinas Valley lettuce, Sonoma grapes, Michigan blueberries, Georgia peaches, Florida oranges, not to mention your Mexican tomatoes, corn, peppers, and avocados, your semolina and rice noodles, your pork, chicken, beef, shrimp, tofu, your beer, vodka, your tonic water. This is your soap, deodorant, razors. This is your shirt, pants, socks, underwear, and shoes.

This is your three-day shipping, your overnight, your get it here yesterday. This is everything you buy and everything you make with the things you buy, everything you produce not from seed and by your own hand. Sometimes even the seeds. This is your Just in Time with machines measured by the ton steered by fallible beings tempted a few miles more before turning in, if not also by chemicals to enhance or dull or deaden. This is your desires and your demands careening off the Dan Ryan through a bus shelter and part-way up an escalator.

This, then, is your shock — short lived as shock is — and brief sympathy, and caution. They were people just trying to get somewhere. This is, still, complete oblivion to the role our own stupid, impatient little lifestyles played in two deaths and at least 21 injuries one Friday night in April in Chicago. This is our material lives trucked over the road at inhuman speeds to ensure whatever we order is available when we order it. This is us at the wheel a mere two or three times removed.