Last time I was in the River, there was a log fire burning in its traditional fireplace. How long before those become illegal?
“The smoke from a fire smells very nice,” said Diane Bailey, a senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council in San Francisco. “But it can cause a lot of harm.” The tiny particles, she said, “can cause inflammation and illness, and can cross into the bloodstream, triggering heart attacks” as well as worsening other conditions.
Yeah, yeah. Heard it all before. But what’s wrong with bottled water and big houses? The American Lung Association chipped in too, naturally.
How long before burning anything anywhere becomes illegal? Not just wood or coal fires, but candles, incense, and even matches? Can’t be long now.
Ms. Soucy, 46, blames fumes from a wood fire for sending her to the emergency room 25 years ago with a severe asthma attack. She had been staying at a friend’s house in Stowe, Vt., for about a day, she said, when her lungs seized up. She was taken to a hospital in an ambulance, and got two shots of adrenalin; the doctors blamed her friend’s cat.
“It was only later, working with a team of allergy doctors and pulmonologists, did we determine the culprit to be the wood-burning fumes from the various fireplaces,” Ms. Soucy said.
Now her husband scouts out any place they go in advance, to be sure it’s free of fireplaces, and she passes up countless dinners and parties. “I’m the one who feels guilty for always being the one to decline invitations or for making people go out of their way to clean their home,” she said. Even then, she added, “the smell lingers on everything.”
Associate publisher at a nonprofit environmental magazine? Well, what else would she be? And pity her poor husband, always a day or two ahead of her, like a private detective snooping round people’s houses, or checking for telltale signs of coal or wood or smoke or ash through his binoculars from the roof opposite.
And how was she so sure that it was wood smoke, and nothing else, that triggered her asthma attack all those 25 years ago? Did she have samples of the smoke that she’d kept in a bottle? Or of the wood they’d been burning?
More than anything, why the heck would anyone want to invite someone as professionally hypersensitive as her to a dinner party? Wouldn’t the simplest thing to do to just not bother? And wouldn’t it be the wisest thing too? If she came, you’d be eyeing her warily all evening, afraid that she’d suddenly start gargling and coughing, and 25 years later her army of doctors and pulmonologists would finally determine that it was your egg flan that nearly killed her.
Why not tell her to just stay at home? After all, it seems to be okay to do that with smokers. Why not just phone up and say, “Hey listen, Karen, we’re having a party but we’re not going to invite you, because we’re just sick to the back teeth of bending over backwards to try to accommodate hypochondriacs like you with their laundry lists of things that make them ill, and because we’d just like to have an evening where we relax and eat hamburgers, and drink beer, and smoke cigarettes in front of our blazing log fire with the cat and the dog curled up next to it.”
And, of course, “the smell lingers on everything.” But you knew that.
And before I forget, what about that cat? Why haven’t cats and dogs and pets of any sort whatsoever been banned everywhere yet? Lots of people are allergic to them, it seems. Can’t be long before they’re all banned.
And it all works through generating paralysing guilt, it seems.
Sally Treadwell, a 51-year-old public relations executive in Boone, N.C., said nothing makes her happier than building a fire on a cold winter night. But most of the time she doesn’t, she said, because she feels too guilty about the damage it may do to the environment…
Sue Duncan, a 52-year-old landscaper in Austin, Tex.,.. Every time she builds a fire, it causes “inner conflict,” she said. “It’s a guilty pleasure.”
It’s all come from showing consideration for other people, I suspect, and for being “inclusive” of people who’ve been “discriminated against”. And so allowance was made for all the asthmatics and the disabled and the young and the old and every species of the lame and the halt. And it was the fit and the able who were asked to make way for them. And as more and more of them arrived, each with their own special requirements, the fit and able gradually made way, and made way, and made way, until they finally ended up shivering outside.
In this manner inclusivity bred exclusivity. And one kind of discrimination gave way to another, and anyway discrimination of one kind or another never went away for a single moment.
It was better the way it was before. At least it was no worse.