I found a distinct connection between a front-page story in today’s San Francisco Chronicle and the “Dear Abby” column.
The story is about a growing obesity problem among kids in California–which I suspect isn’t as bad as it is in a lot of other states. It’s a fairly long story, with some folks blaming food, others pointing out that there’s a lot less physical activity than there used to be. Since most obese kids grow into (even more?) obese adults, this is a long-term health issue of considerable proportions.
Then there’s the “Dear Abby” question. Some person’s niece, who lives next door, got a job “half a mile down the road” and this person is driving her to and from work–and would like to get $5 a week toward gas. Dear Abby gave one of those “is the family hassle worth the money?” answers.
I was saddened that she didn’t raise another question: Is there some reason the kid can’t walk ten minutes “down the road” and ten minutes back? (OK, for me it would be 8 minutes, but most reasonably-fit people can walk faster than 3 miles an hour.)
Maybe there is–maybe “down the road a piece” is in a terribly dangerous neighborhood–but those facts were not in evidence in the letter.
Have we really gotten to the point where it’s a wonderful thing to drive everywhere, no matter how short? Where a teenager can’t be expected to walk half a bloody mile?
If so, then there’s little reason to wonder about the obesity epidemic.