Saturday, January 17, 2009

2 Things Challenge – Paper/Plastic

The challenge this week is Paper/Plastic. My past entries have been basically a photographic entry. This one has photos also, but since there are no real rules to this thing, I decided to write a mini essay on the topic to go along with them.

These are two of the bagpersons (can’t really call them bagboys anymore since they aren’t always boys) at our local Piggly Wiggly here in the small town of Columbiana, Alabama.

What’s the connection to Paper/Plastic? These are the only people I know who still say it that way, “Paper/plastic?”

In 1964 when I was 16 years old and working at the local Colonial grocery store in Macon, Georgia, there was never a question of paper or plastic. It was paper. I’m pretty sure plastic had been invented back then, but it was not nearly as prevalent as today and all grocery bags were definitely paper. Bagging the groceries in such a way that the customers, most of whom were women, could get the groceries from their cars to their kitchens without straining a muscle or ripping a bag and spilling all the contents in the trunk or over the sidewalk was something of an art form. We bagboys prided ourselves on doing a good job of it. We even carried the groceries to the cars for the customers. When I moved up to working in the produce department, it was still paper. For instance, potatoes came in fifty pound paper sacks and the produce workers would have to break them down into five pound and ten pound paper bags, individually weighed and stapled closed. You couldn't see the actual potatoes you were buying, you just had to trust that I hadn't put any rotten ones in there. Customers would pick out their other produce and we would weigh it, put it in a paper bag, staple it shut, and write the cost on the bag. The cashier usually had no idea what she (and they were all female back then) was ringing up, just what the cost was. I remember circling the price if the item was especially crushable, like tomatoes or bananas.

Later in my life, and I do believe it was perhaps a decade or more later, the little plastic bags began to show up in grocery stores where I lived in Birmingham, Alabama. I presume they began to appear in the rest of the country, maybe even the world, about the same time. This was the first time I ever heard the question, “Paper or plastic?” I developed a rather flip answer. I would say, “Paper, we can grow more trees but we can’t make any more dinosaurs.” Even though I was an engineer who really did have concerns about over population and over consumption of natural resources, especially energy producing ones like oil, I actually think my answer was more because I liked the paper bags better. When you loaded them into the trunk of the car they didn’t just collapse into a little puddle and let your groceries roll all over the place as you drove home. The paper bags would actually stand up and lean against each other. You might actually arrive home and not have to re-bag all your groceries to get them from the car to the kitchen.

As time marched on, the question migrated from, “Paper or plastic?” to, “Plastic okay?” I think this must have been because the plastic bags had become so much cheaper that even though they still gave the customer the choice, the expected choice had become plastic. I hung on to my desire for paper bags for a while, but eventually I gave in and just responded, “Whatever.” Now, they don’t even ask, except maybe out here in our small little town and our historical little Piggly Wiggly. They just start bagging your groceries in plastic bags and if you want paper ones, you have to catch the bagboy/girl and ask for paper before they get started. If you shop at Wal Mart, though, and I’m sure many other stores, there is not even a choice. Heck, there’s not even a bagboy at most grocery stores anymore, and if there is one, he’s jumping around trying to handle five or six cashiers simultaneously (Publix and Piggly Wiggly being the local exceptions). Even at Wal Mart where the cashier does the bagging, we still have to load them into the buggy ourselves to get them out to the car.

At Wal Mart and some other stores you do have the option of purchasing and re-using the little cloth bags. There are no paper bags, however. The cloth bags are probably a good idea, environmentally anyway, but when my wife and I do go to Wal Mart to buy groceries, it usually takes between twenty and forty of the little plastic bags to pack all the groceries. Who wants to haul twenty cloth bags into the store to carry your groceries out? They would probably stop you on the way in to put a little return label on each and every one of your twenty cloth bags to ensure that you had not just picked them up and not paid for them yet.

Enough of my ranting, but I think I’m about to change my answer back to, “Paper, we can grow more trees but we can’t make anymore dinosaurs.”
Do they even make the plastic ones from oil anymore?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Frosty Moring in Shelby County

It was a frosty morning in Shelby County today. I was up early and had to scrape the windshield to see as I left the house. I spotted some beautiful things on the way back about an hour later and rushed to get my camera. As I lay on the driveway beside the road for this first shot, people stopped and asked if I was alright. They were afraid I'd slipped on the frosty stuff and hurt myself. No, I laid down there on purpose, no other way to get this macro. The things we do for the shot, huh?

Frosty Morning in Shelby

These geese did not mind the cold, but I did. I don't think I'll be out Friday when it's supposed to be 17 degrees F.

Canada Geese Enjoy a Chilly Shelby County Morning

Saturday, January 10, 2009

2 Things Challenge - Partial Whole

This week's 2 Things Challenge is Partial/Whole. Since tonight is the night of the full moon that is the largest and brightest full moon of 2009, I thought I would show the moon in both the "Partial" and the "Whole" condition. This is something we'll never see, but hey, that's all right.

No, this full moon picture was NOT taken tonight in Birmingham, Alabama. The best full moon of the year and it is completely overcast, foggy, raining, and in general yucky tonight, so I used a couple of older photos.

2 Things Challenge