Last spring, we – meaning those of us who write Poor Impulse Control and those of us patient enough to actually read it – reviewed our many and hilarious paper product options. I promised to switch to recycled paper products and let you know how it went. So to speak. Which I did, by which I mean: I switched to recycled paper products but I got sidetracked. There was a shiny object, and I chased it! It was terrible! I was going about my business and the next thing, I woke up three months later in an eviction hearing, which I brought to a momentary halt with my irreducible ego. Watch this health film, it’s funny.
The courthouse in New Brunswick is filled with people like me, only even less polite and not at all helpful. I know. It strains the imagination. Anyway, my method of sneaking up behind men in suits and asking questions works here – sort of – because every last man in a suit over $200 has spent his life testing well. Damn it: he’s going to have an answer to any question hanging in the air if it kills him. At one point, I am lost inside the courthouse and ask out loud, “Does anyone know where we are?” A pack of men in dark suits pivot on one heel apiece and as one answers confidently, “Yes.” Okay, so talking to men is a complete waste of time. I find a woman, show her a piece of paper and she smiles. She points off to her left and tells me to go that way until I can’t, then go straight to the end of the hall. I should mention at this point my outfit: tan slacks, a vibrant pink sweater and my floral raincoat with giant pink, orange and yellow flowers. My hair is a red visible from space. Yes, I look like a department store Mrs. Roper, holding a blue, orange and fluorescent green lunchbox with a picture of planet Earth and a caption: You are here.
After about half an hour of trying to guess what’s happening, what will happen and what should happen, I find myself sitting in the back row in the courtroom with dozens of people I could mistake for neighbors and some of them might be. Nothing happens for a very long time. I can feel the clock tick. We watch a video. Nothing happens. A clerk explains something, asks if anyone has questions, then becomes very impatient when someone has one. Then this thing happens very, very fast: one clerk calls a case, someone answers or doesn’t, she says “Default” or “Dismissed.” If the landlord stands up and the tenant doesn’t, she says, “default!” If the tenant stands up, the clerk says, “Tenant or landlord?” When both stand up, the clerk tells them to go out in the hallway and make some kind of deal. Rapidly, rapidly, over and over. This set up works to the advantage of people who’ve been here before or come here often, because I use every bit of available brain space to figure out when they’re going to call my name, since the docket numbers seem coded in some way. Before my case comes up, one clerk says across the desk to the other, “Every case from [my landlord] is dismissed today.” Finally, the clerk, who may have a career ahead of her as an auctioneer, calls something like my docket number and name. I stand up.
Tata: I am Domenica LongItalianName.
Clerk: What? Are you the landlord?
Tata: I am Domenica LongItalianName.
The clerk looks across the courtroom at me, then looks at the list, then looks at me. I’m sure she wonders where I’ve stashed Norman Fell, but I’m not telling. She says, “Dismissed.”
I switched to recycled toilet paper and while I didn’t love it, the idea of loving toilet paper is too much for my tiny mind. In an upscale grocery store near Mr. DBK’s house, I discovered more brands of recycled paper products than I knew existed, which seems promising. The switch to recycled paper towels went fabulously, which might sound like exaggeration except it also provided me with occasions to drag grocery store managers through anemic paper product aisles and demand better selections, which havoc you can wreak also wherever you shop. It’s a blast, and until everyone has a decent selection of recycled paper products in their grocery store, convenience store, drug store or bodega, you can pretty much bet on world-changing havoc and hilarity wherever you go. It’s a renewable resource, like solar energy and celebrity hijinx – though, since I don’t pay attention, about once a week I wonder when Britney Spears’ husband took up championship tennis.
I was just about to declare my happiness with recycled paper towels when Karama Neal of So What Can I Do? suggested ditching paper towels entirely and going with cloth napkins. I don’t want to advocate anything without giving it a go myself, so after 10 August, I haven’t bought any paper towels of any kind. Let’s talk specifics.
1. What cloth napkins? Years ago, Auntie InExcelsisDeo gave me a hamper full of the ugliest ancestral cloth nakpins you’ve ever seen in your life and some that were just silly-looking, with the admonition that my beloved grandmother Edith would spin in her grave if I set fire to them. So I started out with a bale of cloth napkins I’d pretend I don’t know in public, which I tossed into the washer in my kitchen Sharkey describes as “the world’s largest bread machine.” I didn’t have to buy or make them. I had them – and they had me.
2. What do I use paper towels for? Other than emergency spills – for which paper towels are ill-suited – I use paper towels because I am allergic to only two things: oxygen and nitrogen, and I sneeze a lot. Tissues are flimsy, wasteful and useless. Handkerchiefs have always seemed disgusting. Are you kidding me? I blow my nose, fold my hanky and stuff it in my pocket – where I’m certain to stuff my hand eventually? That can’t be sanitary. On the other hand, my grandfather, whom I adore, has always carried a hanky. The old Cape Codders have always been very careful about their resources and creating garbage. I couldn’t deny it would be a sensible course of action, and I could diminish the Ick Factor by dropping used cloth napkins directly into the washer.
3. What do paper towels mean? We didn’t have paper towels when I was growing up. Rich people had paper towels and air conditioning. We didn’t have those. When I started thinking about the meaning of disposable stuff, the expense, the trees, the toxins, I couldn’t even argue with Me. Thus, clean cloth napkins sit in colorful piles all over my house.
My transition to recycled paper products was successful, I felt, and I was pleased there was a little further I could go. These are gentle changes, which experts tell us are more likely to stick and become habits. I’m still working out how to use greener cat litter without annoying Larry, the little black cat bent on stealing your soul. The options I’ve tried so far leave much to be desired.
And speaking of desire, I have a bicycle now, courtesy of the way-ahead-of-me-on-the-Go-Green! curve Scout. Scout had an extra bicycle in her garage, which I offered to buy and she instead gave me. Yay, Scout! It needs a bit of attention but we are fortunate in town to have an excellent bike shop. I’m sure the purists will be thrilled to see me walk a giant, antique woman’s bike across town with two flat tires. As the weather cools, I’m hoping to use the bicycle for exercise, and if all goes well, perhaps as transportation, at least to and from the family store. The path to the library from my apartment is fraught with peril for cyclists, but it would be really good for me to give it a try. Maybe. In the spring.
Okay, the score.
Recycled toilet paper: check!
Recycled paper towels: check!
Cloth napkins: more check-er-er!
Keep in mind I am a little old lady whose stuff stays pretty much where she left it unless the cat objects. If I had little children under foot, my conclusions might differ. Your mileage may vary.