By Carmen Faulkner
From nothing, became something. The stringing together of a few hundred thousand polypropylene molecules takes hold. The result is poured into molds, given form. They are cooled and hardened and slid into boxes with thousands of others. They are taped, stamped, addressed, and shipped. For days there is movement on trucks or in trains or on planes. Landscapes fly by them; grasses and trees, whole cities. They arrive in other facilities and are unwrapped, placed on shelves, put behind bars or on tables.
That’s where I am now: behind a bar. I’m mixing a cocktail and because it’s top-shelf liquor the consumer is paying at least $9 for it. I want to make sure it is perfect. I measure my liquor, muddle with gusto, stir instead of shake. But still, I want to be certain. So I pluck one of my friends from its box, set it down in the drink amongst the ice. I place my finger at one end, trapping a minute amount of the cocktail inside, lift it out, and taste. Success. I turn around and throw my friend, the skinny black straw who traveled across the country to be here, in the trash.
This moment, it is a blip of time. It is nothing, though perhaps it is everything. It happens every day, in every state, in almost every country around the world. This nothing moment though, this use of straw does not turn into nothing. That tiny piece of plastic will last until my kids have kids who have kids who have kids, who eventually die (if we are so fortunate to carry on that long). It will go on for generations after that. It will actually never go away, not in the span of time we are able to understand in any tangible manner.
I hate politics. I hate the polarity of them. ‘Pick a side!’ they yell. ‘Red or blue! Or green, I guess… Though that doesn’t really count’.' Yes or no. Black or white. Ban or lobby behind. No one benefits from these conversations. We are human. We dig in our heels, we fight. Rarely do we change our minds.
So I hate the straw conversation. I hate the way people laugh and say, ‘we have bigger problems,’ when I ask them to consider going to strawless. I use that word, consider, on purpose. We do have bigger problems, certainly. But why not start small, tackling one problem after another, picking away at parts of the whole?
Straw or no straw. Paper or plastic. For here or to go. I think of those moments, those blips of time often, and how they add up to something. It is easy to ignore because I can’t see it. I live in a place rich in natural resources, where a truck with smiling men and women haul my forever garbage away. The problem is me then, and my lack of awareness, lack of consideration. It’s about my ironlike need for convenience; I cling to it, convenience, and snarl at any person who tries to take it away. It’s about wanting to taste that cocktail I made, instead of reading the instructions properly. Or buying a bottle of water, when perfectly clean water flows from my tap. Or asking for a hard plastic to-go box, when I could have remembered my own.
Maybe there is no right answer. But what I do know is millions of blips of time will write the story of my life. I have been and will continue to leave forever stamps wherever I go. I can decide to take control of my moments and not write a forever buoyed by plastic. I can try to avoid those moments driven by convenience and keep plastics out of noses of turtles, out of the stomachs of birds, off beaches, out of the fish that will be forked into the mouths of my children’s children. I will start small. I will say it. No straw please.
Note: My fight is against convenience, never necessity. This blog is written with understanding and respect for those whose health, well-being, or livelihoods depend on plastics, including straws.
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