A Look On The Lighter Side: So, what’s your bag? Or straw?


Plastic is getting a bad rap, these days.

Once, it was practically a movie star! I refer to that iconic movie, “The Graduate,” (1967) and the scene where someone takes new graduate Ben Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) aside, to impart some advice for his future:

“Ben, I just want to say one word to you: Plastics!”

Of course, no self-respecting Baby Boomer would have taken such advice. Even then, “plastic” meant “fake,” which was the worst thing you could be, back in the authenticity-obsessed 1960s.

But now, plastic is even being kicked out of our garbage!

In Suffolk County, folks have just started living with a new law regarding those one-time-use plastic bags you get from stores. People are now subject to a 5 cent fine — I mean fee — for every plastic bag it takes to bag up their purchases.

That can add up quickly when you consider that bags have become so flimsy, you need two just to get a half-gallon of milk home in one piece.

Now, a similar law is being considered for Nassau County.

And it couldn’t be aimed any more squarely at me if it were titled, “It’s Time to Change your Evil Ways, Judy Epstein, We’re Talking to You!”

To which I say: Guilty. And charge me.

I am, indeed, perhaps one of the last of the Great Plastic Bag Users.

It’s not by choice, mind you — it’s just that the extent to which I think about the environment, most days, is vastly outweighed by my inability to plan ahead.

I have reusable bags already.

Dozens, probably — between the ones that look like shopping bags, but say “I used to be a plastic bottle” on them, and the nylon ones with vibrant designs that fold up to fit in a purse. I have more than enough bags for everyone in the store.

And they are all right there, waiting for me — in the trunk of my car.

But do I remember to take them with me, into the store? Of course not!

And so off I go, wending my way up and down the aisles, free from thought entirely, until ….Bam! I am at the checkout, all rung up, and the clerk is asking me if I want to buy some reusable bags.

“Oh, no, I have plenty already, thanks. But,” smile fading as the memory dawns on me, “they’re all still in my car!”

I can feel the lynch mob forming behind me at the mere thought of my going to fetch the bags. This is why I bought all the other reusables, already. So I meekly use the plastic bags, swearing to remember the reusables, next time.

Still. If instead of being free, each little bag cost me 5 cents, I’m sure it would help me remember. Maybe I need the incentive.

What changed me? It might have something to do with driving into the city recently, and looking to see if there were buds on the trees yet and being shocked, instead, to see how many dead plastic bags were flapping from the branches of a single tree. Two…three…four…. Okay stop, I’m convinced.

The few times I did remember the reusables, they fought me. It was a struggle just to get my purchases into the bag. Somehow, my arms got entangled in the bag’s handles, so that I was wrestling to get a soup can or a cereal box into the bag and then again to get my hand back out. What I’m saying is, they don’t like me.

But we’ll see if they’re still so feisty, after more time in the trunk of the car!

No sooner do I cave, on single-use bags, than someone complains about straws. Fast food restaurants, apparently, have “horrible single-use straws.”

It brings me up short. What do these extremists want — re-usable straws?

Perhaps they’d like to see straws, hand-milled from mahogany, in the dispensers? Or something made from aluminum?

It doesn’t matter. I can tell you, there is nothing and nobody that can wash out a straw well enough for me to re-use one! I should know, after many a late-night battle with the plastic tubes that formed the working innards of the water bottles my sons took to camp.

And if I couldn’t do that well enough, for two children I’m fond of, then there’s nobody going to do that well enough for you at a restaurant.

That might be, literally, your last straw.


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