September 14, 2011 | 01:27 PMLarry David: "I waved to a guy in a Prius and he didn't wave back."
Jeff Greene: "I don't wave to people in the same car as me."
Larry David: "We're Prius drivers. We're a special breed."
— "Wandering Bear," Curb Your Enthusiasm (season 4, episode 38; 2004)
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Look, I don't expect to find anyone to empathize with me about this—at least not on Maui, where buxom Mana/Whole Foods-fed beach bods abound—but this Taco Belle of the Ball always feel a bit sheepish whenever I'm in a health food store.
As a former vegetarian (who even did a stint as a raw foodist), it's like being presented with the communion tray on an awkward albeit eager Easter Sunday, years after having fallen away from the church. You think it'd do you some good to partake, but you're not quite sure if you (or anyone else) believes you deserve it. (The power of brown rice compels me to amend that Down to Earth has long been a come-as-you-are sanctuary for me.)
Bodily well-being aside, I've returned to shopping at health food stores for one big reason: greenwashing. So annoying, right? As if it wasn't tough enough trying to be a conscientious consumer before eco-friendly fire, we've now got to keep our eye out for manipulative marketing spin that preys upon do-good intentions. I don't mean to say that health food stores allow you to shop blindly, but for whatever reason, I certainly feel more confident in impulse-buying 365 Everyday Value products than I do Walmart's Green Works.
Anyway, all this got me thinking about more than just what I'm consuming, but how. (PS: Good news! I suspect I'm not alone in having mastered the isle's whole plastic bag ban thing, though my arsenal of reusable bags is getting a little out of hand. I've got everything from petite boutique-sizes to provisions-stocking saddle packs; insulated, perforated, decorated—you name it.)
So, ever late to the party, I finally started carrying around one of those metal water bottle things (which also means I finally started drinking water). I scored it a few months ago after volunteering at one of Community Work Day's beach cleanups; and I'm damned thankful because I never would've bought one for myself otherwise.
See, my catawampus priorities being what they are, it's not that I didn't want a metal water bottle thing (I did), or that I didn't understand the various values of metal water bottle things (I do), but the pressure of purchasing just the right design—a design that might permanently broadcast my aesthetic sensibilities to the entire Metal Water Bottle Thing Community (neigh, the world!)—was just to much to bear. Flowers? Nope. Too girly. Flourishes? Nuh-uh. So last year. Plain? Um, what's that?!
Turns out, my cheapness trumps my consecration to color—and a patternless, plain metal water bottle thing is (ironically) perfect when it's free. But my favorite thing about it is the little aluminum climbing clip attached to its top. With that, I can hook dat buggah on anything (i.e. my purse, backpack—which is everything).
Hmm... What other rubbish-vanquishing tools can I climbing-clip to my bag? Well, if metal water bottle things are important because water's essential for survival (but one-time use containers are nonsensical), coffee's inextricable from the conversation, too. So, I clipped a ceramic coffee cup to my purse. And if 'opala-picking is a favorite pastime of mine, I ought to also attach my trash-picking tongs. (Tongs? Yep. Not just for BBQs or centipede catching, tongs are a super cheap alternative to As Seen on TV's "Gopher.")
Proudly all clipped up, I felt like frickin' Captain Planet—until I caught a clanking glimpse of myself in a store window as I walked to work. What the?! I looked like some hipster hobo; a busker gone bonkers; a Ren Faire freak who'd forgotten her era! Oh, how mordant that my effort to reduce should look so excessive!
So I thought, this world we're supposed to save can suck it. I ain't gonna think seven generations ahead if it means looking foolish. (Obviously I don't have to stick with the climbing clips, but it's sometimes hard for me to let go of an idea once I've latched on.)
Just as I was about to throw in the towel entirely (i.e. the cloth one I've been carrying around to avoid wads-o-paper), an earth angel appeared unto me. A dude strolled past—clipped to his own metal water bottle thing—and like waving at the same make and model driving in the opposite lane, he proffered a nice little nod.
It was all the encouragement I needed to soldier forth, with my clipped metal water bottle thing, ceramic coffee cup and 'opala-picking tongs jangling like Hare Krishnas from hell.
And you know what happened then? No more paper coffee cups in the rubbish. No more bottles (but for beer) in the recycling. And though I may look and sound sillier, no more feeling sheepish, either. ■
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