There are over two million people in this country currently serving time. For exercise, they lift weights all day. They get angrier and more frustrated, angrier and more frustrated angrier and more frustrated. And when they’re released, they are angrier and more frustrated and bigger. We don’t want them just getting bigger; we also want them to give back to society. As part of my comprehensive alternative energy package, I am suggesting that every prison cell in the United States be equipped with an exercise bike, hooked up to a generator, generating electricity, with a very long cord going to the home of the prisoner's victim to help him out with his electricity bill.
We could have another long cord going to the local public school, hooked up to a video screen showing the guy in his prison cell on an exercise bike, as a deterrent, like a modern Scared Straight’, only this would be called Bored Straight. If pedaling is good for prisoners, I say it’s good enough for us, too, especially if it’ll improve the envi- ronment. Here's my idea: Forget hybrids and electrics. Why can’t Detroit build cars that we pedal? Like the Flintstones? I would pedal, my wife would pedal-even my l3-year-old son could pedal.
“But, Dad, I’m tired.”
“Quiet. I’m taking you to soccer. The least you can do is pedal.”
Cars that we pedal would help combat obesity, get us in shape, tighten up our abs, tighten up our butts, and bring back something that has been missing from American culture for at least 30 years: hitchhiking. No one picks up hitchhikers anymore. On your way home from work this week, if you see some big biker- looking dude with long hair and a leather jacket by the side of the road hitchhiking, you're probably not going to pick him up. However, if you needed someone to help you pedal....
“Excuse me. Are you a Hell's Angel?”
“Why, yes I am.”
“Get in! Help me get this up to 35.”
We can also learn from other countries. In China, people used to pull their compatriots through the streets in little cart like chariots called ' rickshaws. When I suggest the rickshaw as a means of transportation here, people look at me as if l am crazy. “Jim!” they say. “Where are we going to ﬁnd Americans to run through the streets pulling other Americans?"
How many times has a person come up to you and said, “I jogged nine miles today!” Good. Pull somebody with you. My brother Gary has run 24 Boston Marathons. Why can't he pull our mother to the supermarket? He could drop her off, run ten miles, come back, and pull her home. He could build lower- and upper-body strength while spending quality time with the family.
My friends, what I'm trying to say is, the solution to all our energy needs lies in tapping into America's historic can-do spirit with creativity, innovation, and optimism, even in the midst of disaster. Eight days after the Gulf of Mexico sprang a leak, the federal government gave its approval to build a wind farm off Cape Cod. The bad news: It took nine years to get that approval. Nine years to get approval to build a wind farm? This is America; there are many windy places. Why can't we put some of the windmills in the breakdown lane on the highway? Look at all that untapped wind! Think about it: using wind, created by cars running on foreign oil, to engage windmills, to generate electricity, to reduce our dependency on foreign oil! And that's not all.
I suggest that every trafﬁc light in America be equipped with a little windmill to generate the power to run the trafﬁc lights. Of course, the naysayers attack my idea. “But Jim, what happens if one day the wind doesn't blow?” Easy. You don’t stop! Do you know how much gasoline we waste waiting for the lights to change? “But Jim. shouldn't we encourage people to take mass transportation?” Sure, but there’s one huge drawback to public transportation: Cars are more comfortable than subways. If the average American had his choice of going anywhere, do you think he would choose driving a car or standing in a moving cylinder chugging through the pitch blackness of a tunnel built in 1901, while holding on to a metal pipe that one million people grabbed that morning, as he tries to balance himself between a homeless person, a bicycle, a baby carriage, and a folksinger? People banging into him, asking for money, crying for a bottle, singing a ballad...of course, the average person will choose the car.
Therefore, we need to start building trains that are as private and as comfortable as our automobiles. We have to start building trains of automobiles. Detroit has seven million cars lying around not doing anything.I say string those babies together.
Imagine it: You go down into a subway station and a train of automobiles pulls up 900 automobiles all attached bumper to bumper. Americans could have the privacy of an automobile in the realm of public transportation. You could sit there on your way to work and listen to the radio, talk on a cell phone, drink a cup of coffee, read the paper. put on your makeup, and text your friends all at the same time just like driving. See? Saving energy is easy, and it won’t affect our lifestyle one bit!
Jimmy Tingle, a stand-up comic, is a graduate of Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. Find him at jimmytingle.com.