Saturday, June 28, 2008

happy (belated) fathers' day, part 2: a story about the dad

when i was growing up, we didn't have trash service. it was available in our neighborhood, and all of our neighbors had it, but we didn't. we recycled glass and aluminum, we sometimes burned paper in our wood stove (which was also our sole source of heat during the winter) or in the burn barrel out back, we composted food waste, we donated unwanted household items and clothes to various charitable causes and made rags out of the really unwanted clothes.

and the dad used those prepaid business reply mail envelopes to deal with a lot of the rest of our trash. we'd get tons of them: credit card offers, magazine subscription solicitations from magazines we didn't want, other random stupid mailings that happen to a family whose mailing address has become a commodity.

[i should stop for a moment before you get too confused/disgusted and say that we also had a trash bag going for things that don't recycle, burn, compost, donate, or rag up well. it just took a long time to fill it, that's all. the night before trash pickup, the dad would drive around looking for houses where people had bagged up their yard waste and put it at the curb. after prodding the bag a bit to make sure that it was something mulchable, and not just a few grass clippings on top of mixed trash, the dad would switch out our trash bags for green waste, at a ratio never exceeding 1:1. (even when we didn't have a trash bag or two to get rid of, he LOVED driving around and collecting green waste bags.)]

but the business reply envelopes! the dad considered it a personal challenge to fill them as full as possible. he would carefully fold junk mail or plastic bags into precisely-sized rectangles, and more than once i saw him cutting corn chip bags into strips, for a better fit. twisties would go into the envelopes, and pieces of hard plastic packaging would also end up there.

he never sent anything messy, dangerous, or mean. but his obvious delight at the pennies that a megacorporation would have to pay to receive an envelope full of useless material was fairly infectious. "they send me garbage all the time!" he'd say. "i'm gonna let them throw it away!"

happy fathers' day, fathers of all sorts. keep up the good work.

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