He’s that friend we all have. You know, the one who could bore even Al Gore with his dinner party monologues about phantom energy this and fluorescent lightbulbs that; the guy who always remembers to bring the canvas bag; the guy who does a shift at his local co-op; the guy who makes you feel like you should do more. To make matters worse, he — let’s call him Dick — is not just aware of all things eco, but after one too many wheat beers, gets spitty and table poundy while making his point. So there are certain things you assume are environmental absolutes with the Dick.
But as the old saying goes: When you assume, you make an ass out of (yo)u and me. As it turns out, old, self-righteous Dick isn’t hip to that obscure, little environmental concept called recycling. One afternoon, I stop by his place to borrow the DVD of the second season of the tragically defunct comedy Arrested Development. (I am always a few years behind the zeitgeist.) I walk up the steps of his crumbling brownstone on Saint Marks Place while finishing off a perfectly tart Granny Smith apple. To get rid of my apple core, I tap the opener on the bottom of Dick’s kitchen trashcan and find … a pile of beer bottles and cans mixed with old porn magazines and coffee grounds. I shriek in horror.
“What?” Dick says to me, afraid I might go all schoolmarm on him.
A paralysis overcomes me as I stare into the domestic landfill he has created. Finally I choke out the words, “I can’t believe you have this in your trash.”
“Are you gonna judge me with some neo-feminist rhetoric about porn’s ghetto-fication of women?” he counters. I might if I weren’t so blindsided by the bottles and cans. “The bigger problem here is that you don’t have separate containers for glass, plastic, and, um, magazines,” I point out while waving my apple core around.
Realizing he’s busted, Dick tries to backpedal. “I had some buddies over last night, and they probably threw their stuff in there by accident. I didn’t notice it. I’ll pull ’em out later.”
“Did your buddies throw your copy of Double Ds Do the Darndest Things in here by accident, too?”
That doesn’t go over so well. Dick starts in on some lame tirade about how the bottle-can mix-up was an honest mistake and how he didn’t want his neighbors to know he enjoyed a “laddie mag” now and again. His argument renders me speechless.
But then my inner eco-therapist, Dr Glasshouses, kicks in. Dick is a reasonable man, and so with the right argument, he will understand the error of his ways, Glasshouses assures me.
Still hanging on to my apple core, I make my case. “Look,” I begin slowly, “I’m no pillar of the environmental community either. I have some habits that many would say are as bad as owning a Humvee dealership. I don’t care about your interest in magazines featuring female contortionists who” — wait for it, it’s pretty bad — “look good on paper.” He’s still listening, so I continue. “But maybe when you are done, you could shred her?”
It’s all awkwardly phrased, I admit, but Dick starts to get the point. “At the very least, can’t we all make sure, no matter who comes over to visit, they separate their cans and bottles from the rest of the trash?”
A calm comes over the room. Dick realizes I’m being reasonable. I remember that I like Dick, so I should call him Richard. I toss my apple core — which by now is close to the color of cardboard — in the trash. Together we separate the cans, the bottles, and the magazines. After we’re done, Richard and I head out for a couple of beers. And for once, he’s less spitty and table poundy.
Lizz Winstead is the cocreator of The Daily Show and former cohost of Air America’s Unfiltered. She currently stars in Shoot the Messenger, a satirical review of the media world running in New York City (shootthemessengernyc.com).
Story by Lizz Winstead. This article originally appeared in Plenty in August 2008.
Copyright Environ Press 2008.