I'm Not Green; Paper or Plastic was Never an Option



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All it took for me to realize I am not ready to “Go Green” was a two-mile walk that was completely based on necessity, not pleasure. Felix needed an essay printed for school–and as luck would have it, our printer was not working–I told him to wait until morning and I’d run to Kinko’s and print it.

Next morning I woke to a flat tire. And so the walk began. Normally, Kinko’s is a mere five minute drive–there and back, on foot it was 25 minutes–each way. My breathing became labored as I trudged up hill and I realized that I was not ready for the “Go Green” campaign everyone else seems on board with.

There is frankly not enough time to get all the things I need to get done in a day without my Betsy. Sure she’s a gas guzzler, and emits poisons into the air, blah, blah, blah. But, Betsy gets me where I need to go and she does so in a timely fashion.

She has a nice trunk that holds all the things I bring home from my many errands I run on a daily basis. Her back seat offers a comfortable place to sit for the hooligans I run here and there each morning before school and each evening after school. Betsy is my friend. A fantastically reliable friend; except for the occasional flat tire, but she doesn’t pull that nonsense often.

I do not care if the carbon footprint I’m leaving is too big. Surely I must care what the world will be like a hundred years from now when my great, great, great grandchildren are doing God knows what, right? No, quite frankly, I don’t. The more I meet the green people and learn of their cockamamie ideas, the more I become quite proud of my steadfast need to remain anti-green.

I recently went to an after-work function with my husband. We were seated with one of his colleagues; Mitchell Fleckenstein and his clueless wife Rita. Mitchell is a tree hugger, bandwagon jumper, and as a bonus–a complete idiot all rolled into one. Mitchell jumped on the “Go Green” wagon years ago when he began recycling in the garage of his solar powered five bedroom, three bathroom home in the Western Suburbs.

He has all the containers necessary to make him “Recycler of the Year” on Knucklehead Lane. He told me how he had to buy an extra big barrel for his empty water bottles. I questioned why an expert “go greener” like him would find a need for plastic bottles and quickly realized I shouldn’t have. Seems recycling isn’t the only bandwagon Mitch has jumped on, he’s also currently on tour with the “I hate germs club” as well.

“Each bottle is hygienically sealed and offers a germ-free beverage alternative for the drinker”, he stated with a straight face. I personally enjoy a challenge, so I began to ask him if he saw the same hypocrisy in using plastic bottles that I did, and that’s about the time I felt a kick to the shin under the table. I’m sure the husband was regretting bringing me along to the wedding of a guy he works with. I welcomed the kick because it opened the door for Mitchell’s story about his new “semi-electric” car.  Like I said, Mitchell is a tree hugger, bandwagon jumper and you’ll understand all too soon why he’s a complete idiot as well.

Mitch once had an SUV in his garage; he’d purchased it about 18 months prior. Seemed his sister and brother-in-law had purchased the same model about two months before Mitchell. It drove poor Mitch crazy to know his sister had something he didn’t. So he traded in his wife’s six-month old car and his year old pick-up truck to buy a model just like his sister’s.

Rita had recently delivered their first born and would be on maternity leave for the following twelve weeks, so, at least as Mitchell saw it, the wife didn’t really need a car. And, besides being able to mirror his sister’s life with an auto, SUV’s were the latest craze in America. The only way Mitchell would be able to keep up with his sister Judy Jones would be to buy the SUV–the only way he’d be able to afford an SUV like the Jones’ would be to trade in the Fleckenstien fleet.

 Mitchell saw this as a complete win/win. The fact that a growing family would soon be adding car seats, strollers, baby equipment, and supplies to their ride never entered Mitch’s small mind–all he was willing to admit was everyone seemed to have one…and because of this he, too, needed one. Well, as you might guess, twelve weeks passed and Mitch’s wife needed to go back to work. Car payments aren’t cheap and the cost of gas to fill this guzzler wasn’t going down, you know?

Mitchell figured he’d drop the baby at daycare; drive and drop Rita at work; and then head downtown to begin his day. Rita suggested dropping him off at the Metra lot, dropping baby at day care and then continuing her drive north, but Mitchell was having none of that. That SUV was “his” car. The first day, Rita got called into a spur-of-the-moment meeting that lasted two hours after the time she should have been punching out.

Mitchell soon found out that a hungry, tired baby was a real screamer as she waited in a hot car for her mom. The next day, baby had a slight fever and enough diarrhea-filled diapers to warrant a call that asked for baby to be picked up early. Mitchell had planned to check out the tulips on display near the train station after lunch that particular day. He never seemed to have time to do the things he wanted to do when he wanted to do them.

Even the weekends were really starting to suck. Can you believe he had to give up his Saturday morning hike in the forest because Rita needed to grocery shop? Poor Mitchell, being the selfish clod that he was, did not appreciate the intrusion on “his” time. So the very next Saturday, he skipped the hike AGAIN and the family headed out to shop for a second car. They ended up buying a model exactly like Rita’s old car–the six-month-old model they just traded in twelve weeks prior.

I was dizzy just thinking about the complete waste of money that was going down the drain, but not surprisingly, Mitch didn’t see it that way at all…he thought he got quite the deal…talked the salesman into knocking $1000 off the sticker price…he even got a set of floor mats thrown in along with the killer deal.

His Rita looked at him with the “lovey dovey eyes” and patted his cheek and let everyone at the table know that she was so fortunate to have married such a financial genius. I leaned back and laughed to myself–Rita married a complete tool. I wondered how long it was going to be for Rita to wonder why she didn’t let this clown get away.

Well, as the months passed, gasoline prices rose. Mitchell had a five minute ride to the Metra station where he parked his SUV and hopped aboard the 6:05 each morning. Rita had an hour’s drive to Waukegan each morning give or take a half hour thanks to traffic. Mitchell pored over the Car and Driver magazines, “googled” hottest car trends in America–(according to tree huggers), and of course checked with his sister to see what type of car was next on her list of the ones she longed to buy.

It was unanimous. Mitchell and Rita were soon the proud owners of a semi-electric car. It was electrically powered–he proudly showed me the “key” that started “Precious” up. He gave me the lowdown on the 50+ miles he got to the gallon, mentioned that once they became owners (following the seven months spent on the waiting list), gas prices began to tank. But, it was still cool regardless. He was impressed with the looks he got when he stopped “Precious” at the stop light. I had other ideas as to why he was getting the stares, but kept my opinions and pain in my bruised shin to myself.

I asked Rita if she enjoyed driving Precious to work each morning, seemed to me the car was pretty small, how did it handle on the highway? Mitchell interrupted. Precious was “his” car. He drove five blocks to the Metra station each morning and parked her in spot 2415 then hopped aboard the train for his daily commute to the loop.

Rita explained to me that Mitchell explained to her that semi- electric cars are not meant for highway driving…just around town driving…it is essential to stop at the red light otherwise the car would not be able to recharge–it was at that point in conversation, I believe Rita saw my eyes roll. I became convinced when I got another kick to the shin underneath the table.

 About a month later my husband called from work laughing hysterically. Seemed the “genius” was driving to the Metra station that morning in the height of the winter’s current blizzard and did a complete 360 in the town’s busiest intersection (no chance of Precious charging at that corner). As soon as Rita got home from work he was sending her to the dealership to trade in Precious.

It was entirely the salesman’s fault, too. He should have told Mitchell the “economically efficient semi-electric” car he was buying did not handle well in the snow. Ya think??? Like I told you–a complete idiot.

I’m not sure what my Carbon Footprint looks like. I doubt it looks any different that Rita and Mitchell Fleckenstein’s, people who prefer to bike or walk rather than pollute with car exhaust but will hoof it to Jewel to buy crackers made at the factory on Archer Ave. that chugs black smoke out of its pipes into the air I breathe. It certainly must be bigger than Al Gore’s, right? Truth is, I don’t care how big it is; in addition to choosing not to participate in the “going green” wave that’s crossing the country, I choose not to be a hypocrite.

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