Friday, January 21, 2011

Comfort, Safety and Other Illusions That Are Bad For You

According to my halfway reliable sources, the temperature when I left the garage Thursday morning was fifty one degrees Fahrenheit. After a couple weeks of temperatures in the thirties, it felt pretty good.

As I was walking in to my office, another gentleman followed me in, and made a comment along the lines of "chilly morning for a ride." I told him that it was actually nice out, all things considered.

He said, "I'm a wuss, I can't ride in this cold weather."

I laughed politely and hurried away, worried I might catch a nasty case of total pansy.

Encountering admitted slaves to comfort freaks me out a bit. You can spot them because their reasons for not doing things can always be distilled down to "I might have to tolerate discomfort, so I'm not going to do that."

Comfort is nice, in moderation, but it shouldn't be the motivation behind every action, nor should it be an excuse for not doing things. Comfort becomes a distraction, and a trap. Looking a little harder, perhaps this need for comfort is actually a thin disguise for a desperate desire for safety. If it isn't comfortable, it might not be safe, and if it's not safe, I'm not doing it seems to be the logic behind this excuse.

Sometimes in our modern life, however, comfort actually masks a very real and very close danger. Consider, if you will, the comfort of the modern automobile. The seats hold the passengers in remarkable comfort, with modern climate control systems ensuring the perfect temperature. They're so quiet inside it becomes unsettling. Luckily, modern automobiles have excellent stereo systems to block out all that silence. Driving a modern car is, in every way, a very comfortable experience.

It's so comfortable, in fact, that it's boring. And it's so comfortable that it's easy to forget that driving is inherently dangerous. People feel safe in their cars, when they're anything but. A lot of people get killed or injured due to automobile crashes. Chances are you've known several people killed in car crashes. But it's easy to forget about all that danger in a modern car. After all, they're comfortable, and the manufacturers are happy to tell you how safe their new cars will keep you.

So we get people falling asleep, texting or talking on their cellphones and otherwise not paying any attention to the fact that they're still supposed to be controlling a ton or two of fast rolling steel.

Maybe if they were a little less comfortable, they might notice driving is anything but safe.

Safety, security, and comfort are all illusions. You can have some safety. You can have some security. You can have some comfort. Sometimes you can briefly have them all at the same time.

But if you're doing anything worthwhile, chances are these states are temporary at best. So embrace discomfort, take safety into your own hands and while you're at it, forget about security because there's no such thing.

But I'm probably just talking crazy.