Stuck at Home in Suburbia
I have a friend, currently living in a great house Central City, Wellington. You can walk anywhere in town and the Midnight Expresso is just a stones throw away. My friend is going through a combo-crisis. She is approaching 40. And she is about to move to suburbia.
This frightening tension says a lot about the mid-life mystery. When multiple bathrooms, double garages, lawns that need to be mowed and room to park the Stabicraft replaces the urban alco-club induced hedonism of our 30s. Symbolically she is faced with letting go of her youth in two short punches.
People don't choose suburbia, it chooses them.
Not only has the hyper-suburbanisation of the cattle-class over the last 20 years essentially propped up the New Zealand economy but you can accurately measure the suburban fiasco by the number of other happy motorists interfering with your commuting pleasure. Suburban life isn't much fun in Auckland if you work in the city.
Our entire fucking economy is based on continued creation and maintenance of suburban sprawl and all the insidious bullshit (recreational shopping at the local Warehouse) that it entails - we're at the end of the civilisation cul-de-sac. The far flung exburbian outreaches of society will be the first to implode in the severe vacuum that will accompany disruptions to the oil markets that they depend upon thereby seriously impeding the 80k a day commute. All the morbidly obese brain-dead infotainment zombies and desparate soccer mum housewives who live in their three bathroom "internal access" McHouses will find themselves cut off from work and midweek tennis dates.
The suburbs are the slums of the future. Some won't have to wait that long. The story goes something like this. Gross devaluation accompanied by wholesale denial - what Kunstler terms the pyschology of previous investment will be dictate behaviour. Default, foreclosure, repossession, bankruptcy. And for some, attempts to fly out of office block windows as the reality dawns.
Cheap oil subsidised our way into sprawl, but cheap oil is gone. My advice to those not currently comatose, make plans to get out now. By the time you're spending a third of your weekly wages filling the Ford Explorer it will be too late.
For my friend worried about the suburban choice - the intuition is right. However, suburbia has a knack of quickly dulling the senses.
...but don't take my word for it