I love all the cool stuff that comes with being in a First World country.
I love the big cars, the expensive but plentiful gas that goes in the big cars. I love the fatty foods, and the huge portions of fatty foods. Just the concept of leftovers is enough to make me smile.
And I love disposable stuff. I especially love disposable versions of stuff that never used to be disposable. Like disposable Tupperware. Remember when Tupperware was worth something? You coveted Tupperware, like a family heirloom, and you wrote your name on the bottom with an indelible marker. I was sure Tupperware was going to be the currency of the post-apocalyptic future, after the bomb, or Y2K.
Nowadays, there’s no need to hang onto anything. We have the privelage of throwing out the stuff that used to be valuable. Our children have no need for our air-tight heirlooms, our fried chicken time capsules, our precious plastic household hand-me-downs, or our time-honored wisdom. So we make even Tupperware a thing to throw away, to use once and bury, like a prophylactic, or a diaper, or a prom date.
Yes, the things that we once thought had value are now disposable garbage. Mind you, we could nevertheless buy some good “permanent” Tupperware, and use it for decades ourselves. Or give it to the Goodwill when we no longer need it. But the beauty of our new disposable Tupperware is that we still get to participate in our culture of consumer excess, yet not be bogged down with owning “things”. We aren’t really enraptured with our “stuff”, you see, we aren’t really addicted to our “crap”, and we can prove it by throwing it away. And we don’t feel guilty, because, of course, it’s intended to be thrown away. To give it to someone else is to give them our trash… and how offensive is that?
Or so I thought. Today, I found myself at Mr. Chau’s Chinese Fast Food. Don’t ask why.
Are you familiar with Mr. Chau’s? Mr. Chau’s looks tempting. The campy little animated Mister Chau entices me from the television with promises of tasty fried rice, chow mien and sweet-and-sour pork baking under a heat lamp behind a sneeze guard in a converted Dairy Queen. So I loaded up, once I finally got there, on a huge steaming pile of boneless beef ribs, or pork ribs, or chicken ribs, or cat ribs, in sauce the color of something for which there is no color in nature, sauce the color of a traffic cone.
It was pretty, mind you, but it wasn’t natural.
The smell sucked. The sauce sucked. The rice sucked. And the meat, if it was meat, sucked. Sauce the color of a traffic cone, it seems, is warning you to eat elsewhere.
Now as it happens, while I’m trying to force this crap down, I observe this homeless guy come by the garbage can outside the restaurant two or three times, checking for anything anyone else may have had too much of. He didn’t have a sign, and he wasn’t sitting on the ground outside a coffee shop, but he didn’t pull up in a Lincoln Navigator, so I know he must be homeless.
So in a fit of newfound humanitarian empathy, it occurs to me that since this food is virtually inedible anyway, I could leave it in a disposable ozone-safe Styrofoam take-out container with a new spork, a pair of plastic chopsticks and a half-empty envelope of brown salty sauce on top of the garbage can for this guy to find when he comes back around, because while I may not have a lot of spare change, I do have plenty of crappy Chinese fast food.
All of us, somewhere, have too much of something we don’t need. There is, in general, an obscene amount of crap. We are a country of excess.
It’s just a distribution problem.
The point is that I learned that I can fulfill my humanitarian obligations and address the issue of distribution by leaving behind the inedible leftovers of crappy Chinese fast food in disposable Tupperware on top of a dumpster. One man’s inedible leftovers are another man’s 3 square meals. You see, while it is indeed possible for one of us to have too much crappy Mr. Chau’s Chinese Fast Food, we cannot, collectively, have too much crappy Mr. Chau’s Chinese Fast Food.
And no matter where I am, no matter what kind of crappy half-eaten entrée, used sneakers or tattered blankets I leave behind, there will be someone out there who can use them. How awesome is that? I get to participate in our capitalist consumer culture, I get a meal, I get to complain about the quality of my excess food, I get to not finish the meal, and I get to feed a homeless guy. I can do my part simply by giving away the crap that isn’t good enough for me, and I won’t even notice.
There really is enough for everybody. And even disposable things, sometimes, are worth passing on.
Is this a great country or what?
That’s it. That’s all I got.