Well, it has been some time, hasn’t it? First off, it is my distinguished privilege to inform you that the third and final installment of my Chinese Revolution (Good Thing, Bad Thing?) video lecture series is nearly completed and should be available soon.
Second, and far more importantly, I would like to tell you about what happened to me at the sandwich shop the other day. Wait until you get a load of this!
Every so often, and especially if Gladys is out of town, I do enjoy a tasty “submarine” sandwich from a little local chain we have here in the Midwest.
I think it’s called Jersey John’s or Jimmy Mike's or something like that. Odds are you’ve never heard of it, it's quite a small, non-descript, establishment.
Anyhow, I approach the counter and flag down the nearest, least derelict clerk – a lithe, lanky figure with perfectly coiffured hair and artsy tattoos, who probably uses the words “folkx” and “throuple”, and who I strongly suspect prefers the company of men after dark (this may come into play later).
Now then, I order my usual – ham on white, no cheese, no vegetables, and no “juice” as they call it – and pace over to the register. Much to my surprise, the previously vacant sandwich monkey exhibits remarkable gusto in the exercise of his office. He whips up my order in a flash and hustles down to my end of the counter.
Perhaps I’ve misjudged this fellow, I thought, as I reached into my back pocket to retrieve the crumpled-up paper bag I’d brought along with me. I lay it on the counter, as I always do, and prepare to pay, whereupon something indescribably horrifying occurred.
For the moment that over-eager sandwich peasant laid eyes on my paper bag, his face altered into one of nervous anticipatory joy – like it was his goddamn birthday or something – and I tried not to express my intense discomfort.
“Wait… Did you bring that bag from home?” he asked.
“Um… Yeah, I guess so,” I muttered in reply, at which point his face broke into a broad euphoric smile, and again, I tried not to betray any discomfort.
“Oh, man!” he gushed, “That’s so awesome! Wow, just wow! You’re a rock star!”
“Look, that’s really not necessary.”
“Nobody ever brings their own bag! Man, I’m so glad somebody else around here cares about the planet! Do you bring your own bags to the grocery store too?
Now, here I had to pause, seeing how I’d inadvertently struck up a conversation with the kind of person I’ve spent a lifetime trying to avoid. But what could I say? Alas, it’s true.
As it happens, Gladys and I keep a small stack of lightly to moderately used paper bags on top of the fridge for whenever we go shopping. We’ve been doing this for as long as we’ve been married and I’d never once thought about it before. In fact, I also keep an extra stash of old grocery bags in the trunk of my LeSabre – the Cutlass has, regrettably, gone to the great junkyard in the sky – but that doesn’t make me Jesus Christ or anything. A point I attempted to make through various "um" and "hmm" sounds as the clerk spat out his interminable babble.
And why do I do these things? Well, I’ll tell you. I was born in 1936. And do you know what was going on then? The Great Depression. My parents experienced the worst of it, and you'd better believe they hammered into my skull (among other things) one clear and concise dictum: Never let anything go to waste.
Yet nary could I perceive the tragicomedy those words would bring me to, years later, as I stood dumbstruck before that jabbering sandwich hippie inside that increasingly weird and unpleasant Jersey Michael’s.
“I can’t believe how many bags we give out,” the clerk prattled on, “and do you know what? Some people… They ask for extra bags! And I’m all like, ‘Dude! You just need one!’ Can you believe that? What’s with some people?”
“I don’t know…”
“It’s like, ‘Dude! Do you know how many trees it took to make that bag?’ I bet we’ve, like, killed an entire rainforest by now.”
“Somehow I don’t think that’s quite accurate…”
“I mean, we gotta protect mother earth, right?”
“You know what, sir. You really made my day. I’m so glad you came in!”
This conversation was getting extremely dangerous extremely quickly. You have no idea how close I came to telling this clerk straight-up that, frankly, I don’t give a rat’s ass about the environment, and that, moreover, I find the whole concept of “Mother Earth” to be a detestable pagan substitute for the one true God, a sin for which I hope he and all his commie friends burn in hell for all eternity.
But then it hit me… It hit me like a ton of bricks dropped from a passing airplane. Have I been an environmentalist all this time without realizing it?
I thought back. Besides re-using old shopping bags, I have other habits one could easily mistake for those of a godless eco-clown. As a teacher, I insisted my students write on both sides of the paper, once again on the principle of avoiding waste. To this day, I pick up stray litter off the sidewalk, this on the principle of simple tidiness. And back when plastic water bottles were all the rage – ironically among the very same people who now deplore them – I kept aloof and stuck with my trusty gas station thermos. And why? Because I’m not paying two bucks for a basic substance I can obtain for free at the nearest goddamn water fountain!
So, yes, I suppose in my own stubborn conservative way I’ve been an environmentalist all along, and this deeply unsettling thought caused me to become suddenly and violently ill.
“Sir, are you alright?” I heard the clerk say, no doubt noticing the onset of dry heaving and profuse perspiration, “Here’s your sub, sir, and by the way and I gave you a 15% discount.”
“Y-y-you did what…?”
“I gave you a 15% discount.”
“Y-y-you d-d-didn’t have to…”
“No way, man! I take care of people who take care of the planet!”
“S-s-shut it—, Mmpf—, Just—, Gimmie the sandwich,” I muttered through clenched teeth.
I thus swiped the sandwich, dropped it into my bag – which I made a point of crumpling up loudly as I hobbled painfully out the store – and evacuated the premises.
Now, I may have my pride, but I’m in no financial position to turn down a 15% discount. You’ll never see me brandishing one of those ridiculous green “tote” bag things the way some people do – people who deserve to be flattened by a Mack truck – but if that’s what it takes to screw over these green morons, then perhaps I can make a few exceptions.
Matter of fact, maybe next time I’ll walk to the store instead of driving and see if I can’t squeeze 20% out of this guy. He does seem to love the environment.
Either that or he just wants to shag my brains in. He did have a funny look in his eye. Can’t be too careful these days. Stay Rested, people.
P.S. Stay Rested is some new anti-woke slang I've been experimenting with. Feel free to try it out yourself if the occasion calls for it. Who knows? Maybe it'll catch on.