Learning to text, to ask our phones for information, and to instruct our cars to give us directions (and scold us for wrong turns) have been manageable. Throwing a perfectly good plastic storage bag into the garbage has been more challenging.
People my age have had to learn a lot and deal with a lot.
Photocopiers may have been the first modern marvel we encountered. Most still don’t understand them or fax machines or how CDs and DVDs work, but that’s OK. Pop top cans came along for soda, later for soup. We’ve taken it in stride.
Peeled “baby” carrots were a novelty at one time. Now a generation doesn’t know what a carrot-peeler looks like.
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Still, that’s nothing to sit around the coffee shop and whine about.
Nobody likes a whiner.
In fact, it sometimes appears it weren’t for documentaries whining how awful humanity is, PBS would have nothing to do except ask for money. We’re causing climate change, eliminating species; we’re indifferent to hunger and privation of others. As sure as an invitation hymn in a Baptist service, every great public television documentary will, at some point, lecture us about how our species is a real pain to Mother Earth.
So the point today is not to whine about “back in the day” or to relay statistics about how we’re burying ourselves in our own garbage. The point is objective: what makes sense and what doesn’t. Plastic bags are one of the things that have come about in our lifetimes. Pitching a perfectly good one is nonsense. Think about it. “Resealable” appears on the label of every brand.
Now I know in Mississippi some people use the bags for fish guts and shrimp heads and such. The idea is to contain the stench until garbage day. And it’s fair to mention some people put disposable diapers in disposable plastic bags to dispose of them — for much the same reason as the aforementioned fish guts and shrimp heads.
This isn’t about saving bags used for purposes that make perfect olfactory sense.
This is about a bag that, say, was used to keep fresh some Tootsie Rolls or the leftover cornbread from last night.
The Tootsie Rolls were individually wrapped, you know, and unless it was especially greasy, the cornbread left no trace (except maybe a few crumbles) of ever being in the bag. In any event, even if there is some residue, the bags are perfectly washable and can be draped over spigots to dry.
What brought this topic on was a recent visit to one of those mammoth warehouse stores that sells stuff in mammoth quantities. For those of you who (like me) don’t get out much, they sell mustard by the gallon and toilet tissue in bundles that won’t fit in many cars or light pickups. (Saw one lady with four kids heft one of these bundles onto her basket/dolly. Unless this family came in a dump truck, pretty sure at least two of the kids had to stay at the store for later retrieval or take the bus home.)
Anyway, the store had a similar bundle of boxes of plastic bags — something like 8 million snack, 4 million sandwich, 2 million quart and 1 million gallon. We bit, with me thinking “lifetime supply” (as long as we live to 120 or so). We can put the rest in our wills.
It isn’t working out that way.
Now I’m seriously trying not to channel my aged aunt who daily “stored” the rubber bands from her newspaper around a doorknob. When she went to glory, it took a crew of us hours — using power tools — to chip away the hardened mass. We scraped enough rubber to melt and make into one of those loud mud grip tires rednecks are required to have on their trucks. Maybe a whole set of tires.
I’m not this generation’s version of her. Swear. Just doing what’s right.
When a bag has barely been used, is perfectly good and not perfumed in any way, I give it a rinse (if needed) and, when dry, put it back in the bag drawer.
Mysteriously though, we are eating through our lifetime supply at what seems to be a rapid pace, and when I open the drawer to get a used bag to reuse, they have vanished.
It seems someone in our household (and there are only two of us) has not thought about this topic as carefully as it deserves.
I’m calling PBS. Maybe they need to make a documentary about her.
Charlie Mitchell is a Mississippi journalist.