We Didn’t Have the Green Thing

I copied this from a post on SlingShotForum.com.

Checking out at the grocery store recently, the young cashier suggested I should bring my own grocery bags because plastic bags weren’t good for the environment.

I apologized and explained, “We didn’t have this green thing back in my earlier days.”

The clerk responded, “That’s our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations.”

She was right about one thing — our generation didn’t have the green thing in “Our” day. So what did we have back then…? After some reflection and soul-searching on “Our” day here’s what I remembered we did have….

Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles repeatedly. So they really were recycled. But we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

We walked up stairs, because we didn’t have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks. But she was right. We didn’t have the green thing in our day.

Back then, we washed the baby’s diapers because we didn’t have the throw-away kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling machine burning up 220 volts — wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days.

Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing. But that young lady is right. We didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house — not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the state of Montana.

In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn’t have electric machines to do everything for us.

When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap.

Back then, we didn’t fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity. But she’s right. We didn’t have the green thing back then.

We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water.

We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull. But we didn’t have the green thing back then.

Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus, and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service.

We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn’t need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest pizza joint. But isn’t it sad the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn’t have the green thing back then?

 

Robert Found Some Money

This is from my Panama Newsletter in 2008.

Robert is a neighborhood character. He makes a living of sorts doing odd jobs. He used to live in the US, but the story is that he killed a man there and fled home to Panama. Everyone in my neighborhood, regardless of economic circumstance, gets treated with respect, but
Robert may command just a bit more than others. Whatever the truth about what happened up North, Robert is a good worker and keeps himself busy doing the hard, dirty jobs that others don’t want to do.

Last week Robert came to my house and wanted to talk about something he had found. There had been a burst water pipe just up the street from our house, and when IDAAN finally (after 6 weeks) got around to fixing it, they dug a very large hole, leaving a big mound of dirt and clay in the street. Each rain since washed away a bit of that dirt, until a plastic bag with some coins and the remains of a chicken were exposed. Robert found the bag and removed the coins, but was afraid to spend them so he had come to me for advice.

It is quite common in Panama to make a sacrifice before moving into a new home or remodeling. The sacrifice usually consists of a chicken and a few coins, and is believed to appease the evil spirits who can cause any number of bad things to come into your life. Such a sacrifice is what Robert had found. I suspect that if one dug up every yard in my neighborhood, a large number of coins and chicken bones would be found. Robert lives a hand-to-mouth existence, and any found money is welcome, so I knew what he wanted to hear, but also knew what he needed to hear, so I advised him to return the money to where he found it. Of course Robert already knew the answer, because while I respect the belief, he believes it. He said “I knew you were going to say that”. Then he went to get a second opinion, and was again told, this time by a Panamanian, the same thing I told him. So Robert very reluctantly compromised by giving the money (74 cents) to a friend who doesn’t believe in evil spirits. 74 cents may not seem like a big deal to you or me, but in Robert’s world it can mean a full meal today instead of not quite enough, or a couple of cold beers at the Chino’s.

Not unexpectedly, Robert dropped by the following day to “borrow” a quarter so he could get a cup of coffee. I told him I was fresh out of quarters and he would have to settle for a dollar, and remarked that God had probably arranged it that way to reward him for doing the right thing with the found money.