Crying Over Spilled …

We try. At Typecast Press, Mary and Shop Boy use as responsible and earth-friendly a solvent as we can find to clean the press rollers and the ink plates. If the color is caked on after a long run, we use corn oil to loosen the ink first, then wipe on just a little solvent to finish.

As I mentioned last time, we use paper that’s at least partially recycled when we can. That’s when we don’t use cotton paper, perhaps the least planet-wrecking stuff on the globe. Every so often, we haul the cotton paper scraps over to the Maryland Institute College of Art’s paper makers.

Are we perfect? Heck, no. But we feel like, if everybody does their little part, even picking up one wrapper from the street, say, and dropping it into a trash can, we can keep the world a bit cleaner. They taught little Shop Boy that at Daniel D. Waterman Elementary School. And that offending wrapper? Probably blown out of somebody’s hands, racing away in the wind, no way to catch up to it. Happens to us all.

Oh, to still be young and naive.

Want to know what bugs the bejeepers out of Shop Boy? People in Baltimore who stop on a tree-lined neighborhood street, open a car door, set a McDonald’s bag full of trash down or dump out an ashtray full of cigarette butts, then motor onward. I could scream, “Hey, get back here!” But I don’t.

Mostly, I’m just shocked into silent resignation. And I go pick up the mess. Mary does the same thing, only she then proceeds to spend the next 45 minutes doing a trash sweep of the whole block.

So it’s hard for Shop Boy to put into words how numb and helpless it feels to read about and watch the news on this oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Yes, I’m always intrigued by the possibility for innovation that accompanies such previously unimaginable disasters. Closet science geek. But … dear god.

Many younger Americans have probably never heard of Joseph Hazelwood, the Exxon Valdez or Alaska’s Prince William Sound, still contaminated 20-plus years later from an oil spill much smaller than this one. That one happened in the middle of nowhere. This one is right at the nation’s doorstep. Could it take 30-plus years to clean up? Longer? Can we ever really convince ourselves that more offshore drilling is the answer? That drilling on Arctic wildlife refuges is OK?

No. We are wrecking our planet through our lust for oil.

Look, Shop Boy’s no tree-hugger. (Well, mostly not, anyway.) I drive a small pickup truck with a stick shift, gently enough that it gets about 30 mpg highway/25 mpg city. Mary? Her Volvo, driven — ahem — a bit less gently, is probably 20/18. Just two more American consumers of gasoline. And Shop Boy feels the oil on his hands, along with the blood of all those the dead and dying animals along the Gulf of Mexico.

Like the other day, when I noticed Mary’s tank was on “E” again, and drove over to the gas station nearest the printshop. Among its many flaws, Mary’s jalopy has a deal where, if you fill the tank beyond, say, 12 gallons, the smell of gasoline fills the trunk and begins to seep into the main cabin. Hence, “E” — again. But she loves the stupid car.

So, Shop Boy watched intently as the spinning gallon counter neared the magic cutoff, reholstered the pump handle, grabbed my receipt and … saw the logo on the gas pump.

BP. I had never noticed it before. It was just the gas station.

Suddenly it felt as though I might as well have been pouring the gasoline directly onto the ground.

I mean, why do we even try when the richest companies in the world can distance themselves from their catastrophic messes? Why pick up after slobs so callous that they can’t be bothered to simply hold the Dunkin’ Donuts refuse in the car until they come to a trash can?  (What are the public schools teaching these days?) Why go through the annoyance of properly discarding that old microwave oven rather than, say, throwing it over the fence that backs onto the railroad tracks?

Because it’s right. And because if there is a God, He’s gonna want to chat about that Big Gulp you left in the middle of His street.

Just saying.

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One Response to “Crying Over Spilled …”

  1. Crankybaker Says:

    Righteous post, Steve. There can’t possibly be a silver lining to the immensity of this mess and the likelihood that it could basically wipe out the livelihoods of thousands and cost the economy billions and billions just makes me feel worse. But maybe we’re all finally waking up to the extent to which failing to protect the planet will screw us all over in the end. But, wow, way to little recognition way too late.

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