In one of the state-of-the-art housing units in the community, thirteen-year-old Valerie Carstairs is eagerly waiting to take her first three-month educational cruise along the restored waterways of America. The cruises are part of her schooling, designed to allow students first-hand exposure to the diverse qualities and peoples of other communities – and of course, in a society where money is no longer needed, free of charge and available to all.
“Moth-er, please! You know the shuttle will be here in five minutes.” Valerie plunked down in one of the contoured chairs in the living room and pulled out her checklist. Everything she required would be provided on the study ship, but one always had to have a few mementos from home.
Eloise Carstairs appeared in the doorway, pulling on a shoe. “All right, I’m coming, I’m coming,” she said tersely. She had to throw it in. “You know, we wouldn’t be running late if you had your clothes ready for pickup when I told you to.”
Laundry pickup, and most other delivery services, was provided by the fleet of drones that operated out of Central Services. Disposal of waste – what little there was, with most packaging being biodegradable – was handled by a network of pneumatic tubes that directed the various types of waste to processing or recycling centers, eliminating the need for foul-smelling garbage cans and trucks. At the Laundry Center, items were cleaned, dried, pressed, and delivered to the doorstep within an average of two hours.
Thanks to the centralized services, homes did not require kitchen or laundry appliances – a tremendous savings in raw materials and energy – unless, of course, people preferred doing their own cooking, where a fully-equipped, professional kitchen was available to anyone, twenty-four-seven, a short walk to the city center from anywhere. People who liked cooking worked in the central kitchen, where meals were prepared, hermetically sealed, and sent on their way, either to the residences or to any number of bistros that lined the streets.
Eloise stood in front of her daughter, hands on hips. “We could have called for a car, you know.”
She shot a glance at the street and the neatly trimmed front lawn, unbroken by cold concrete. The homes had no driveways because all cars were kept at a central garage, where one could be checked out at any time and delivered immediately. Not having to produce millions of vehicles that sat idle most of the time was yet another huge piece of reclaiming and preserving the earth.
Val leaped to her feet and fanned the air with upturned palms. “You know I want to ride to the port with the rest of the girls, Mother. You know how much time that would take, running here and there?”
“You could have had them pick you up at a central location.”
Val delivered that time-honored signal employed by every long-suffering adolescent female to signify that the older generation just didn’t get it, the eye roll. “What, try to get Meghan there on time? You know, she was even born later than they expected.”
Eloise drew a breath, then exhaled it through puffed-out cheeks. She was a youthful forty-five, a with arresting eyes capped off by a close-cropped, almost boyish do. She stood five-four and a half, exactly the same height as her rapidly growing daughter. But although they stood eye to eye, there were times that they didn’t see things that way.