Lost Causes Part 1


“Why don’t you guys recycle those?” She asked condescendingly. Like I was supposed to know why corporate didn’t participate in a recycling program. I wasn’t on the board who made that call. Putting the boxes in the trash wasn’t really part of my job description anyway.

She kept going. “It’s such a shame so much of that has to go to waste when it could be made into more boxes.” I looked at the cardboard pile I was being asked to throw into the compactor. It was a large sum, but what good was it? She complained further about how the city was doing such a good job with their recycling program.

I cut in with a comment of my own. “You know those recycling collectors go right to the dump right?”

“They do not.” She said defiantly.

“They do, I live near the dump, I follow one going right through the gates every Saturday and up the landfill who I get rid of my trash.”

No lie. I live in the country, and in the country you either take your trash to the dump or burn it. Since I like breathing, I usually take mine to the dump with my parents every Saturday. Without fail we follow one of those nice recycling trucks the city bought into the dump and watch it go up the landfill to dump all that carefully sorted recycled material.

She looked at me in disbelief. “I’m going to have to write to the county about this!”

She was up in arms, walking to her car, covered in “save the planet” and “coexist” bumper stickers. I was glad I didn’t get into how the city of Chicago pays our county to dump their trash in our landfill too, and how little a letter would do when money was exchanging hands. Much less how we live in an area with a high rate of breathing problems (so my doctor tells me) caused by air pollution from the surrounding states, which is why my fragrance sales suck so much during the summer.

I continued to toss the boxes into the compactor. Business as usual.

I want to make t-shirts for all those over zealous cult fad causes. Ones that say stuff like “Vegans want you (to be vegan too)!” Or “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and be a prick about it.” They wear their fads like t-shirts. The organic cotton ones. Besides, making shirts like that, I feel, would give fair warning to those of us who don’t care as much.

Okay, it’s not that we don’t care, we do. We care. We just choose not to fall prey to fad causes, or don’t feel as passionate about it. If your vegan, that’s cool that you are a person taking that step for yourself and the many other reasons out there. If you love to recycle and save the planet, I’m glad you’re doing your part, and I try to do mine. But please don’t assume I don’t know the facts about your personal choice. I have done the research. I understand the impact. I just don’t feel the need to go to the extreme you do.

One subject I know quite a bit about is sweat shops. I work retail. I know it isn’t pretty. But what people fail to understand is we are the reason sweatshops exist. In order for western consumerism to flourish and our demands be met, people on the other side of the world are often being forced to work overtime, because their desperate situation calls for money (sometimes in eager amounts), and our demand calls for their time…lots of it. Sometimes until they die of exhaustion. People think that it would be better if we made and bought American made products? Do you know how expensive it would be to do that? Have you not seen how much clothing at American Apparel costs? It isn’t inexpensive. And the products aren’t that much better than the ones made in a sweatshop! Not to mention how much those prices would go up if the minimum wage went up, since it would cost more to pay employees to make such items. So on and so forth.

The point I’m trying to get at, is there is a lot of time and energy wasted on minds that will not change. Money is incentive. People are greedy. Some causes are lost ones. Most of the time I find myself hopelessly quoting the Lorax:

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it’s not!”

But it doesn’t take one. Not just one person who cares an awful lot. It doesn’t even take millions who care. It takes people who have power to care. That’s the trick of it. That is where it becomes a lost cause. Since when did we have someone in power who really cared about what was happening in the world, and wasn’t so self involved in their own power?

It has been a long time hasn’t it?

When I returned to my counter and went over the situation in my head, I felt bad for shutting down the poor woman with my snide and painfully true comment about our city recycling. In part I was kind of proud of someone being passionate about their cause. In another part, I wish people who were better informed, more practical, and much more tactful, were the kind of people passionate about such subjects. The ones with the words or ideas to make change happen. Dream casters to dream catchers. A perfect web of intelligence, entrepreneurship, and spunky risk takers. Not raving lunatics with too many bumper stickers on their cars, that no one can take seriously. The ones crazy enough to care, but not tactful enough to be effective. It is unfortunate that those of us with ideas to share, are the ones who know we will be laughed at in exchange for money. Makes me wonder who the real lost cause is.

Maybe she is better with words in writing. She might change some things. I could only sit behind my counter and hope.


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