Every once in a while I threaten to go to graduate school. Each time, my very supportive husband who’s in the midst of getting yet another graduate degree affirms, I could totally go back to school if I wanted to.
“I think I want to go to law school. Do you think I could do it?”
“You could do it. Go for it.
“ Why not?”
“Accounting? I always kind of wished I was an accountant.”
“You hate math pretty much more than anything, but if you really feel like that’s what you want to do, I’m sure you could.”
“I think I heard somewhere you can get a Masters Degree in Pop Culture. What about a Ph.D? I could be Dr. Pop Culture. I’ve pretty much already done the research.”
Unfortunately, none of these forays into higher learning would help me in navigating the disposal of our lunchtime waste at one of our fine San Francisco malls.
The trash/recycling/compost complex loomed behind us as the boys and I enjoyed a leisurely lunch of room-temperature poststickers (“there are delicious potsitickers around the corner from our house! Let’s get conrndogs!” one of us usually argues.) I noticed that since our last mall visit, the recycling powers-that-be or the mall powers-that-be had the bright idea of adding a waste disposal instructional video that was now playing on a loop on a flat screen TV right above the waste bins.
Perhaps they filmed this video after watching security camera footage of our family confused and arguing at the bins about where to put our corndog sticks.
When the potstickers were gone, and the cookies were pillaged for their fortunes, we gathered our mountain of wrappers, utensils, cups, and plates, and stood in line at the waste disposal annex that, I’m pretty sure, occupies the space where Chess King used to be. I looked back and forth from six straw wrapper halves to the examples posted in the display cases above Recycling, Compost, and Trash, or as they call it, “Landfill” to make sure you think three times before you put your cherry lemonade cup in that hole.
The panic set in when I saw the kind of plate I had was not represented on the wall of examples.
“Do I pour the sticky potsticker sauce in compost before I recycle the cup? I have a different fork than the one on the board; mine might be made of potato or corn. We do this fine at home; why is it so difficult at the mall? The mall’s supposed to be fun! What kind of paper is my cookie’s fortune written on? Is it coated?”
“You’re not keeping your fortune?”
“I’ve had enough adventure for one year, thanks. I’m not thrilled that more ‘awaits.’ Anyway, crummy fortunes aren’t covered in this video, and now there’s a line behind us.”
“Mom, I’ve had lots of practice at my new school; we have this same set-up,” said the middle schooler as he adeptly took over. “It took me forever to do this my first day, and there wasn’t a video,” he continued as he buzzed around me in a blur of recycling, “but then it got easier.”
The soon-to-be 2nd grader piped in as he composted his napkins. “My teacher gave me a garbage buddy to help me after lunch on my first day.”
Planet Earth might be happy to know our malls and schools are, at this moment, assigning garbage buddies and hosting a generation of whiz kid Reducers, Reusers, and Recyclers. Just wait until they get THEIR graduate degrees.
*I still do not know which bin the corn dog stick goes in