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Plastic or Paper? by Gene Myers

Plastic or Paper? by
Article Posted: 07/16/2011
Article Views: 1211
Articles Written: 196
Word Count: 1162
Article Votes: 7
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Plastic or Paper?

Current Affairs,Environment,Humor
I had just returned from a long bike ride on a humid, sunny day with a hot wind blowing out of the southwest. The weather conditions and the exertion from my closing “speed run” gave me a monster case of cotton mouth, and I was sweating like an overweight prostitute in New Orleans after a busy August night. After I chug-a-lugged a liter of water, hunger pangs announced themselves in a big way. The 40k ride had been preceded by a 10k run and a 1500 meter swim—an out-of-sequence triathlon, and my breakfast some six hours earlier only consisted of a bowl of cereal.

Images of freshly chilled mangoes, oranges, and watermelon danced in my mind, but when I opened the fruit drawer of the refrigerator there were only a few apples, some blueberries, and two withered limes. Rats! I shoved a handful of berries down my gullet, chugged some more water, and hopped back on my bike for a short spin (a bit over a mile) to the closest grocery store. Note that I did not drive one of my two vehicles…

The cool air of the Kroger store felt refreshing, but of little comfort with my stomach insistently demanding attention. I grabbed a few oranges, a “personal-sized” water melon, some grapes, and a liter of coconut splash, a hydrating concoction consisting mainly of coconut water with a bit of mango nectar thrown in for flavor. My plan was to guzzle down the liquid as soon as I exited the store.

The self-service cashier stations were all busy so I got into a “15 items-or-less” line.

“Plastic or paper?” asked the cashier after ringing up my items. She was in her early thirties with dark brown hair pulled back into a pony-tail. There were no smile lines around her eyes and she had a severe, serious demeanor. She looked humorless.

Since I had neglected to bring a backpack, and my bike had zero carrying capacity, I needed bags with loops to hang over the handlebars. This was not the most efficient or comfortable method of transporting the goodies, but I had no other option plus the ride was short.


She sighed. “You know, plastic is not good for the environment.”

“Um, okay… Do your paper bags have loops?”

She looked at me like I was daft. “Of course not!”

“Oh yeah? Trader Joe’s has paper bags with loops.” I gave a so-there, smart-ass look.

Well, whoop-tee-do, her returned glance said.

I paid, put my items in two plastic bags myself and turned to leave.

“Think about the environment!” she called after me. “We have a huge problem because our parents, grandparents, and Republicans tried to ruin it.”

“Yeah, just like the Kennedy’s who think wind farming is wonderful as long as it doesn’t show up near their property and obstruct their view,” I retorted just to be a wise guy. The cashier had shown herself to be a lock-step, narrow-minded ideologue. I intensely dislike ideologues from right or left, but find those on the left to have a superior demeanor, a look-down-their-nose attitude, and be quicker to call names when they get angry. Whatever, I abhor any group that puts politics before principles.

However, on the ride home I did think about those who spoke the words (politics) and those who lived the principles; and concluded the earlier generations were far more “green” (albeit unintentionally) than the present group of holier-than-thou, effete, impudent snobs that comprise the “new-and-improved” human race.


Growing up I was a paperboy, and there were legions like me peddling our asses all over town delivering the latest daily news in print. Today newspapers are delivered by gas-guzzling automobiles or trucks.

My friends and I rode our bikes all over town. Wherever kids congregated there were hundreds of bicycles. Today’s children are driven everywhere because (whine) it’s: a) too far or b) too much effort or c) too boring or d) too hot. We either walked or biked everywhere, and so did many adults. Families typically had one vehicle versus the minimum of two today.

School buses were for kids living outside the city limits; the rest of us walked and/or biked even in inclement weather. We had maybe one kid in class that we called “fat”. Today, fat describes about half. I have a flabby neighbor who refuses to walk out her front door to collect mail from 20 feet away—literally! She crawls into her SUV, backs from the garage, and drives to the mailbox.

One of my weekly chores was to mow the lawn, and I made some extra money mowing lawns of neighbors. I used an old-fashion, manual, push lawn mower; not a gasoline-powered machine. Many of my present day neighbors have riding lawn mowers for lawns no bigger than those I mowed as a boy.

The milkman came to our house every morning. The night before Mom set out the empties that she rinsed out, which were taken back to the dairy, washed, and reused. (Sounds like recycling to me.) Same with soda pop bottles…we’d gather ‘em up and take them back to the closest store and collect the deposit. Those bottles were also washed and reused. Some of the Coca Cola bottles (because of raised printing) looked like they had been reused for decades. Hey, we even recycled clothing. I had two younger brothers, and we often chuckle at family pictures that show each of us (though the years) wearing the same suit.

Mom had a washing machine that featured two rollers that made-up a device called the ringer. She’d run the washed clothes through the ringer, put them in a basket, and hang the washing on a series of lines in our yard to be dried by wind and sun. Today we toss our damp clothes into a dryer that consumes thousands of volts of electricity.

So far, who is greener?

We had one 21-inch television and two radios, not a giant screen TV with numerous peripherals in every room of the house each consuming massive amounts of power. Air-conditioning was uncommon. Mostly we opened windows and used several floor fans to push the air around.

We drank water from taps instead of purchasing it in billions of plastic bottles.

We disposed of Gillette blades after shaving not the whole damn plastic “disposable” razor.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy all of the new conveniences as much as anyone. However, I am pretty freaking tired of these shrill environmentalist activists projecting blame where it doesn’t belong because of some political agenda.

Oh, wait a minute. I get it. It’s probably Bush’s fault, right?

Copyright 2011 by Gene Myers. All rights reserved. Don’t mess around with me, slick.

Author of AFTER HOURS (2009) and SONGS FROM LATTYS GROVE (2010).

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