Letter: Reporting on idling issue deserves praise

Posted 1/6/22

To the editor:I want to praise the Warren Times-Gazette for having hit the trifecta in its Dec. 29 edition: Lucy Probert’s excellent reporting (“Stop Your Engines!”) on Sharon …

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Letter: Reporting on idling issue deserves praise


To the editor:

I want to praise the Warren Times-Gazette for having hit the trifecta in its Dec. 29 edition: Lucy Probert’s excellent reporting (“Stop Your Engines!”) on Sharon Gold’s dauntless campaign to curb engine idling brought to light a serious problem; the exemplary individual committed to curbing it; and the editorial decision to highlight the piece so that readers wouldn’t overlook it.

The figures that Probert cites are staggering: idling engines burn/waste 6 billion gallons of gas a year and produce 30 million tons of carbon dioxide in the process. The impact on the environment, including damage to human health and its associated costs, should make engine idling a matter of broad public concern. Local governments that don’t have strict idling policies should look at setting some (and enforcing them) for vehicles under their control (and taxpayer funded).

A vast amount of idling occurs privately, though, at the drive through window, which more often than not is the creep-through window. I don’t know what Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts are selling, but it’s not uncommon to see idling cars and trucks backed up into the street in order to slurp some of it. Perhaps companies with drive through windows could create some incentives for those who can to actually park the car and enter their shop – old school.

There is a flip side to all this, to not simply shutting off the engine rather than letting it run, but to the benefits of getting out of line entirely. I cannot speak for neighboring towns, but in Warren we have an excellent coffee house – The Coffee Depot – that has no drive through window but which has many tables and chairs where people come to meet, chat, debate, read, people watch, eavesdrop, linger; where they come to put the demands of life on pause for a half-hour and enjoy the company of others, directly or indirectly.

It takes more time and effort than sitting on line in one’s car, scrolling through one’s phone, but something important is lost when people remain enclosed inside the metal box of their car inside the digital box of their phone. What’s lost is the potential for community, to feel a part of one, to perhaps contribute to the development and well-being of one.

Psychologists and sociologists will tell you that Americans, despite our devices, despite our so-called social media, feel lonelier and more disconnected than at any time before. To the serial idlers: If not for the environment, if not for general human health, if not for the simple financial reward of not burning your wages, consider shutting off your engine, going inside (wherever inside is, the coffee shop, restaurant, drug store, etc.), and not only partake of your community, however briefly, but, by your mere presence, contribute to it as well.

Jerry Blitefield
Beach Street

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Scott Pickering has been on the East Bay Media Group team for more than two decades, since starting as a reporter for the Sakonnet Times. He's been editor of most of the papers, was Managing Editor of all the papers for many years, and became General Manager in 2012. Today he can be found posting to EastBayRI.com, steering news coverage, writing editorials, talking to readers, working with the sales team, collaborating on design, or helping do whatever it takes to get the papers out the door. Reach him at spickering@eastbaymediagroup.com.