Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Not needed "fluster"

(I've talked before about the mock-German tradition in my family of "flusters" - I think this is 100% something made up somewhere in my family as no Sprecher der Deutschen I have ever spoken to has heard of it. Anyway, it's a small gift* you get in return for doing something well or suffering through something unpleasant).

(*In my case, when I buy them for myself, they are usually not so small....)

Well, the semester is nearly over: I survived the summer with small classes and teaching a class in the summer for the first time ever (soils) and dealing with reduced pay and all the angst tied up with getting to the meetings/logistical issues.

And I had to run to Mart of Wal this afternoon - needed a new A/C filter, and also was out of a couple of small but vital food items (the lower-fat cream cheese I use as a snack food, for example). So, as is my habit, I took a run by the toy shelves, just to see what was new. Wound up at the clearance shelves.

This was there.

Yeah, the big stuffie of Judy Hopps. Marked $15 which seemed fairly cheap for a big toy (Her head is almost as big as mine, though the rest of her body is disproportionately smaller). They had Nick Wilde, too, but Judy is the one I really love and I admit I had looked at stuffies of her on Amazon a while back....so I dithered back and forth:

"You don't NEED this."

"But I WANT it. It will make me happy. It's not that expensive. I get paid the end of  this week."

"You don't have enough room on your bed for any more stuffies."

"I can MAKE room. Or I can get a shelf and put it up."

"You really, really don't need it."

"But I worked really hard this semester."

I put it back a couple times....and then the third time I pulled her back off the shelf, I sighed and put her in my cart. So yeah. And yes, it's a 100% frivolous and unjustifiable expense (but then again, "non trash fruit**" could be called frivolous and unjustifiable, or salmon instead of tuna,  or an extra pair of shoes over and above the one necessary pair....) And dangit, she is so CUTE. Those eyes.

(** "Trash fruit" is my appellation for the new idea Wal-Mart is talking about: bagging up the blemished/bruised/otherwise unattractive produce that would be composted or thrown out and selling it. At a cheaper price, granted - but at my local Wal-mart, the produce is SO badly treated that the top-price variety is already kind of banged up, so I'm scared to see what they will pass off as "Imperfect but still fine" And I don't know, there seems to me to be a metaphor for what's going on in this country that a major retailer is boasting about selling banged up produce now....) 

I think a lot of my toy-buying-as-an-adult is directly traceable to having almost NO allowance as a child, growing up in a time and a place where it was hard to get to shops that sold toys, and that my parents tended not to be the indulgent sort who would buy toys "just because." So I'm making up for it, sort of, as an adult, by spending my money on toys instead of the things "normal" 47 year old women spend their disposable income on.

(And yes, on the whole "trash fruit" thing: not wasting food is a commendable thing and people should be encouraged to do so. Apparently this is going to be one of the new moral topics out there soon. However, I have several problems with how the wal-mart is choosing to go about it.

First, as I said, my local one treats its produce BADLY. I have gotten punnets of berries that were just put out and were already moldy. I have gotten bruised fruits and vegetables. So to make a virtue out of selling "blemished" fruit cheaper when all your fruit is blemished, and it is perhaps traceable to not hiring enough people to restock/unload in good time, bothers me.

Second, the whole shaming-people-for-food-waste would bother me less if it were possible for singletons to buy small quantities of certain foods without having to go through major efforts....like having to ask a produce manager to open up the large bag of apples so you could buy just a few. Or having to "buddy up" with other singletons and THEN negotiate what food you are going to buy and how to split it up. Already I rely v. heavily on canned and frozen things just because sometimes it's hard to get decent fresh produce in quantities small enough I can use it before it spoils. And the idea of the "blemished fruit" is that it's going to be sold in three or five pound bags...inconvenient for those who live alone, unless it's SO blemished you will have to cut out and compost half of what's there, which then means you're not saving anything.

But most importantly? The idea that the blemished fruit is a "second prize." That it's the cheap stuff people economizing will buy. Really, people need to get used to accepting slightly imperfect produce all of the time - so the producers can use fewer chemicals in its production! I'm not saying ABUSE the produce, but one thing I've learned is that the big shiny red "Delicious" apples are woody and tasteless, and the smaller, misshapen ones tend to be better.....and at any farmer's market you're going to get less-perfect produce. And the idea of "Hey, we're saving food from the landfill by selling it cheap to "po' folks," which is the spin some news stories have put on it, is more than a little offensive.

But the other thing is, there are other ways: my grad school, back when they actually had a functioning university farm (with cows and everything) would collect a lot of the food waste - the uneaten salad and the like - and boil it up and feed it to the cattle. And I remember learning in, I think it was Economic Geology? About a city somewhere - I want to say it was in Colorado - that gave its residents an extra waste bin and asked them to put expired produce and peelings and stuff in there, and the stuff was then boiled up and sold to a hog farmer, who fed it to his animals. And so the city made a bit of money - staving off price increases in garbage collection, food didn't go to waste, and the farmer got a cheap and abundant source of pig food.

And there's always composting at home. I don't compost food, I admit it, because my yard is very small and I still have memories of the rat problem some very bad neighbors caused by throwing fast-food waste out on to their lawn and I don't want that again. But I do put what I can down the Insinkerator, assuming, perhaps incorrectly, that it essentially gets "composted" at the waste treatment plant.

I don't know. But to me, there seems to be something very "2016" about walking in the store, seeing a big bag of bruised-and-dented produce, and being told to buy it because it's a good thing and this is what we merit as consumers, anyway...that the New Normal means we need to be satisfied with the increasingly less-good.)

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