are handcuffs hanging from the inside of my car.
I don't drive a 1978 Camaro that cranks Bad Company and Kiss from
its car stereo at stoplights. I drive an unassuming gray Volkswagen
Jetta with a booster seat in the back. The handcuffs are plastic,
and are hanging from the handle on the door next to the booster
seat. My three-year-old son put them there. The handcuffs are part
of a package my father-in-law picked up for him at the dollar store.
The package is, and this is really just too good to make up, a Homeland
Homeland Security Kit also features a plastic police badge, some
giant '70s-styled plastic-framed sunglasses that scream not-so-undercover
undercover cop, and a plastic gun that shoots suction cup darts.
One evening, upon coming home from my part-time teaching gig, my
son shot me in the face with one of the plastic darts, presumably
another episode in a Worldwide Make-Believe War on Terror, with
me in the role of the stealth Al-Qaeda operative.
of course, was horrified. I was hoping to avoid the whole boys-with-guns
rite of passage for at least a few more years, but when your father-in-law
is a Marine who fought in World War II and Korea, that's probably
too much to ask for.
perhaps more significantly, I was also hoping to not add to the
mountain of plastic crap piling up in my son's room, but in this
day and age, it's unavoidable.
have a menagerie of plastic animals and a plastic natural history
museum's worth of plastic dinosaurs. We recently acquired two light
sabers over the holidays, and I see us moving to a point on the
timeline where my son will use his $15 Target-bought talking Yoda
light saber to break the dollar-store light saber knockoff, dubbed
a "light sword" because they couldn't get the necessary
copyright clearances from Lucasfilms. We have several plastic infant-sized
riding vehicles that our son has outgrown but can't bear for us
to donate to charity. There are also toy cars and bats and bath
toys, all fashioned from molds that originated overseas and will
eventually end up clogging an unmistakably American landfill.
time we buy a McDonald's Happy Meal, which my son would have for
every meal if he could, we become the proud new owners of yet another
piece of plastic crap. There's usually some insidious movie marketing
behind whatever treasure we pull from the bottom of the bag, and
though we've judiciously thrown some of them out within hours of
receiving them, some of them end up at the bottom of plastic toy
bins underneath plastic items we've actually purchased. From the
exhausted eye of a parent who has spent hours picking up a toddler's
room, the individual toys merge together into one indistinguishable
tangled mass of plastic. It has the resilience of a hydra: pull
one piece out of the mix, and several pieces magically appear in
its place. Or, at least, that's how it seems.
imagine that I'm alone in all this. Spend enough time in this great
country of ours, and it'll happen to you too. Having a small child
accelerates the intimacy with plastic, but the love affair happens
to all of us.
visit to the American Plastics Council website tells you more than
you have probably ever need to know about how plastic came into
your life. In 1862, Alexander Parkes debuted a moldable form of
cellulose at that year's Great International Exhibition in London,
and it was christened Parkesine. But Parkesine does not roll effortlessly
off the tongue, so Parkesine begat celluloid, begat Bakelite, begat
vinyl, begat polyethylene -- eras in plastic strata somewhat analogous
to Jurassic and Mesozoic and all the other dinosaur ages that bore
the countless species of nigh-impossible names that my son, who
is perhaps a budding paleontologist (assuming the rock and roll
career doesn't pan out), is perfectly capable of rattling off.
really, how did we come so far without plastic? It manages to be
all around us without us ever really seeing how it is made. It pervades
every aspect of our day-to-day: the snooze button we slap on the
alarm clock, the toothbrush, parts of the car, numerous items at
work, on workout equipment at the gym. Avoid anything plastic in
your life, and you will be avoiding lots and lots of life.
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