So, I’ve been very busy, working on things like house renovations, keeping the laundry at bay, and of course, solving the world’s energy problems.
For the latter, I believe I’ve hit upon a solution. All we need to do is come up with a device that can tap into hobbyist power.
I say this because I was recently taken (read: dragged) to the National Train Show. An event put on by the US National Model Railroad Association, it was a huge display of model trains, Lego, layouts, accessories and more. And because I’m married to, and have apparently given birth to, train enthusiasts (darn defective genes!), we visited all 188,000 square feet. Twice. Slowly.
It’s not that I didn’t enjoy myself. Indeed, I learned rather a lot about what is modestly dubbed “the world’s greatest hobby.” For example, I learned that a proper train “layout” (read: play area), includes not just a track and a train, but model buildings and houses, model people, simulated topography, signals, switches, software, sounds and controllers. Given the amount of excited gawking and pointing my eldest did, I also learned that anything I would consider “disposable income” has already been disposed of, well in advance.
I discovered that model trains come in different scales. “N” scale, for example, looks just as painful to step on and as easy to lose as Lego bricks. “G” scale trains are for the backyard, just in case your resident enthusiast(s) feel the need to take over both the entire house and the whole garden.
It also turns out that when train model manufacturers say they build authentic pieces, they really mean it. I am still trying to wash the smell of oil and smoke out of our clothes.
Finally, I realized that I have a new business and marketing god: whoever the genius was at Lego who decided to launch both train and Star Wars-related product lines. Lego already had a cult-like following, so putting it together with other cultish pursuits was like creating a license to print money. Indeed, in the display at the show, just one skyscraper had more pieces in it than I’ve owned in my entire life (although I sense that’s about to change).
This brings me to my point. The entire building was practically crackling with enthusiasm and creative energy. As I listened to two men talking very earnestly about the best methods for creating a realistic granite cliff, I realized that train layouts involved a lot of thought, effort and care. Each one of them must have 1000s of micro-inventions and clever ideas to solve problems. The same can be said about many hobbies, crafts and pursuits.
I don’t know what compels us to devote this much of our time to such things, but I think if we could manage to siphon off even one percent of that personal energy from hobbyists, we’d have enough to power the entire eastern seaboard in North America.
Or at the very least, enough power to keep all those model trains running on time.