Thursday, February 28, 2008

Oprah's extra

Yesterday on Oprah, she had on people who made the conscious choice to dumpster dive. This was the first, according to Oprah, that she’s heard of people doing this practice who didn’t need to. One woman used to make “six figures” until she saw that the only reason she kept working to such a degree was to fill her life with things that she didn’t need. And Oprah asked the poignant question, why are the corporations throwing so much away? The woman brought of the legal issues that they just don’t want to get sued. I have heard that argument when groups like Food Not Bombs have tried to get things from "super"markets. True, laws exist and they can get sued but the real question for me is why the overproduction in the first place? Surely they know how much people buy of their product - but that's not the point though, is it? Because some corporations instead of serving a need create a need… And now it's gotten to a point where food companies are selling food with enzymes in it to help us digest our over-produced food. (If we didn't kill the enzymes needed to digest milk products in pasturization, would we need these yogurts with the bacteria added back in?)

So we wonder why there is so much crap at the end. I didn’t study business but if I were to consider it logically, businesses who over produce probably factor what’s wasted in their bottom line – so on one hand, their creating the need for us to consume based on overproducing, however, if they don’t sell all that’s produced, they still profit because they’ve gone above and beyond the natural need.

And they don’t give away the extra. Why should they? If consumers knew they were giving away what they didn’t sell, who would buy? Wouldn’t we all just wait until we got it free? So they throw it away – and by the act of discarding it, it becomes useless. Until another person looks at it another way and sees the value in the trash. So is that how we solve the problem of overproduction – valuing trash? Reusing, not consuming…

And how then the recycled movement would thrive. And how Goodwill and Salvation army would need to expand their parking lots for all their extra customers…. If only.

I saw today that they’ve put up a mall near the birthplace of Walt Whitman. So as a testament to the iconoclast that railed against consumerism and beheld the natural wonder of life, they’ve erected a mall. Perhaps that’s why the Whitmans moved away from it in Walt’s early years – knowing the kind of people who lived there… (If you want a mug depicting his birthplace, you can get it here). Couldn’t they have put up a Goodwill instead?

Monday, February 4, 2008


Now that I work at home, I plan journeys out so I don’t completely lose my sense of the outside world. And now that one of my headlights is broken, they are usually in the middle of the day before the “witching hour” of dusk rolls in. I’m living vampire hours in reverse. Of course, fixing the headlight would remedy this but that’s a day excursion without my car and I haven’t worked my way up to it yet. I will though. In the meantime, I’m off to Trader Joe’s.

Here I am at Joe’s trying to get to the soy milk refrigerator case but it’s blocked by the empty cart belonging to the couple at the coffee grinder. It’s stuck out, not thinking about who it is blocking. Is this really enough justification for me to throttle these two? I can’t go around it because another woman is at the adjacent refrigerator case with the door open blocking the way in. So I stand there waiting without any acknowledgement from the couple grinding away. Finally the other woman finishes and I squeeze in only to see that the kind I want is the last one in the row – and it being on the very top and way back, my 5’3” frame can’t reach it. Stuck again. I normally prefer being self-sufficient but in this case, I need to reach out for assistance. I go to the TJ employee at another refrigerator case where he puts away yogurt. “Excuse me, can you help me?” No acknowledgment. Is my ask too meek that he can’t hear me over the TJ musak? He seems rather slow as he puts the yogurts away and I wonder if he’s actually a “special” employee. Maybe I shouldn’t be bothering him and should ask someone more “mentally capable”. However, I finally get his attention and his only challenge may be his youth. He goes back for the soymilk. It seems a few minutes have passed and I go back to my first conclusion of his mental faculties. "Maybe he didn’t understand me?," I think. Finally he comes out. “You wanted a box right?” “Um,” I stutter. “Just kidding,” says youthful employee. Ah, humor. Perhaps it's a generation gap and I have a different view of work ethic (meaning he's into taking his time) but he is sweet and got me what I needed. So happy now, I leave him to put the rest of the organic, no sugar soymilk out for others to enjoy. (You'd think this version would be the least popular but it's not....)

I continue in my normal clockwise turn around the store but the throng of people curtails this and I dare to go the opposite way, stopping my usual routine of having to get all of my things in the store clockwise. (No I don’t have OCD – there’s a time-efficiency factor to this.) By the time I reach the frozen food section, I’ve already fended off the temptation of the “snacking” isle. However, above the frozen food bins, there are even more temptations (does TJ’s do this on purpose?) I see the lady of the coffee grinder picking up the savory crackers. Ah, my favorite! For some reason I wanted to tell her, “yes, aren’t they wonderful,” but then I thought, “why would she care?” So I didn’t. But she saw me take them right after her and she looked at me with a smile and I smiled back. She was no longer, the lady of the coffee grinder but the lady of the savory crackers. This totally outweighs for me any annoyance I had felt earlier. You'd think my ultimate message here would be, I learned patience in Trader Joe's. It's not. It's more about the awesome bonding power of food, in particular savory crackeres. And thus ends my adventure out for at least that day….