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I’m a china and silverware kind of guy. Like Field Marshall Rommel. He loved the clink of sterling against porcelain. So he carried them everywhere, even over the Alps (Okay, it was his flunkies who did the lugging).

Then there’s plastic and paper. Rommel would have had nothing to do with those. And, to me, they spell trouble. There’s something about sitting down at my desk to a seared bluefish steak, pesto blackened polenta, and kale cobbler with whipped cream, all thrown haphazardly onto a textured pink cardboard plate that turns my stomach. Not the food. The cardboard. And when I dig in with the white plastic fork and shatter the middle tine, I heave a sigh.

Eating is supposed to be fun, elegant, inspiring. And back in the day, Limoges® and Reed & Barton® made sure of that. Add a tablecloth. A bottle of wine. In the 23rd floor conference room with the client and your colleagues around the table. What could be better?

Here’s the rub. Cardboard and paper are cheap (should I say “cost effective”?). So firms everywhere long ago ditched stylishness and switched to Dixie® and more Dixie®. Whole hog. That’s why the sound you hear in their lunch rooms is that familiar nasty rustle of polyethylene cutlery on cellulose fiber. And the occasional twang of a snapping plastic knife blade, followed by the swoosh of the freed shard of plastic flying toward the wall.

When you’re done wedging the lunch into your petite mouth, it’s time, of course, to discard the entire place setting along with the leftovers glopped onto them. Ugh.

It’s then when you discover that you’re stuck with the obligatory sorting and recycling charade. That farce may be eco-friendly, sustainable, green, and LEED certified.

But it’s not simple.

Back in the day, the detritus of law firm life was handled in round tinplate wastebaskets. They sat on the floor. In the corner of the conference room. Whatever was no longer wanted went into them. That could be the unfinished half of a ham sandwich, a brief on appeal, or dead flowers from the vase on the conference room credenza. No one cared much about sorting any of this mix. They would have snickered at the thought. Happily, everything that was tossed into the wastebasket was gone by the next morning, no questions asked.

Then some wiz bang do-good architect figured out that you could put the garbage into drawers in the credenza instead of storing pencils and staplers and paper clips in there. Those desktop tools had fallen into disuse with the demise of sheet paper, and something needed to be done with the freed-up space. In fact, there was so much empty room that when the garbage drawers were designed into the credenza, there were two or three of them at least. The drawers usually didn’t have labels, until discrete markers were taped onto the front of the credenza by the local recycling police. Before that, you were expected to figure out on your own which drawer was for “trash” and which was for “recycle.”

The distinction between “trash” and “recycle” may make perfect sense to you. But not to me. In my world, garbage is garbage no matter what you call it. And I could rarely guess which drawer was for the cold limp pale-green fried potato dregs and which drawer was to receive the crumbled damp paper cup. In my universe, paper cups are trash that gets recycled or recyclables that get trashed. Who cares. And leftover spuds are trash but they also get recycled if you compost them (as any self-respecting earth lover would do).

So I just put stuff in any drawer that seems handy at the moment.

All and all I’m fed up with this state of the world. Sadly, it doesn’t have to be this way. Believe me. Back in the day, afternoon tea on china was de rigueur in a big shot law firm. And a biscuit or crumpet, too. The garbage was removed silently by someone else without a comment. You felt civilized. And when you finished, you lit up a cigar. Terrific.

Just my two cents.

 

Written by thinker

November 23rd, 2015 at 9:36 pm