We Didn’t Have Your ‘Green Thing’


By Harriet Gross

A young supermarket cashier suggested to a much older shopper that she should always bring her own reusable grocery bags because plastic is no good for the environment.  “That’s our problem today,” she said.  “Your generation didn’t care enough to save it for the future.”  The elderly woman was quick to explain (in a very sweet voice, of course!) :

“You’re certainly correct.  We didn’t have your ‘green thing’ in my day.  But then, we returned milk, soda and beer bottles to stores that sent them back for sterilization and refilling.  Food markets used brown paper bags that we re-used – as household garbage bags, and to make covers for our school books. That insured that public property – our books, which belonged to the school – weren’t defaced.  Then we could scribble on those covers all we wanted.

“We walked up and down stairs, because we didn’t have elevators and escalators in every building.   We walked many places instead of driving.  We washed our babies’ diapers because we didn’t have disposables, and sun and wind dried them on lines outside.  And our kids wore their older siblings outgrown hand-me-downs.

“Back then, we had only one radio in the house, and one TV – if we were lucky.  In the kitchen, we stirred by hand, not with electricity.  The Items we mailed were packed with wadded-up old newspapers, not bubble wrap or Styrofoam ‘peanuts’.  And we didn’t burn gasoline to mow the lawn; we used push mowers that ran on human power.  That, and walking, were our exercises, not electric treadmills at health clubs.

“When we were thirsty, we drank from a fountain, not paper cups and plastic bottles.  We refilled pens and replaced razor blades instead of throwing the pens and razors away.

“Kids walked to school, or rode their bikes, or took a bus or streetcar; moms didn’t drive them, because there was only one family car, and dad had taken it to work.  We had one electric outlet in each room because we weren’t running a dozen appliances at once, and we didn’t need a computer satellite to locate the nearest malt shop.

“I’m so sorry,” she continued, “that we didn’t have your ‘green thing’ back then.  We didn’t have your tattoos and multiple piercings, either, and truthfully, we didn’t miss them.  And I also think it’s sad that you young clerks these days can’t make change when this store’s electricity fails and the cash registers won’t operate!”

A good friend sent me this – source unknown. I’ve taken the liberty of some rewording, but basically, this is how I received it – and how my life was in those long-ago days before “that green thing.”  Do you remember, too?  (Well – how could we forget!)


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