New Horizons


Thus gainfully employed, I am now having my true “New York experience”, consisting of long public transit rides (2 trains and a bus) in the wee early mornings, people scattered throughout the trains in all manner of exhaustion (you know, when you pass out on a seat and your neck is all bent and floppy like a dead chickens), working with a diversity of youth and old local folk with heavy accents who hold conversations that could only be held in NYC (I couldn’t even begin to characterize it yet; read Don Delillo‘s Underworld to get an idea: terseness, machismo, and tangential reference are its defining characteristics).

After having been stationary for so long, being actively on my feet for 10 hours each day on top of 3-4 hours of transit time has been debilitating to my aging body. I wake up sore all over, barely capable of moving. But by the end of my 1st week, the muscles have been slowly adapting, and I have been surprisingly not as tired as I would have thought during my shifts except at the very end, which is either due to the influence of the eternal florescent lighting, or to 14 years of running. In addition to honing my body, I also seem to be developing an accent and the ability to declaim aggressively in an ironic and self-mocking manner.

It’s interesting to see the other side of the grocery retail world, and to realize just how much hard work goes into supplying the spectacle that is the consummate consumer experience. Behind the facade of colorfully arrayed specialty products lies constant labor and activity. All for your convenience, for your grazing pleasure. You walk somnolently through the diversity of choices demanding your attention, picking and choosing wantonly or stringently depending on your personal restraint and desire. It’s a disturbingly unconscious yet powerful aspect of our industrial daily lives. It’s beautiful and terrifying.

One thing is for sure: you can bring in all the tote bags you want, you environmentally conscious people, but take a look at all the plastic packaging that went into the little convenient product that you just purchased. Our lives are built a little too much, perhaps, on expediency. But who am I to talk? I like having the power and freedom to wander through international markets choosing at will just like anybody else. I suppose the question is whether or not we can sacrifice, as a culture and society, a little bit of convenience in order to reduce the amount of waste created in bringing us the exotic products we desire. But who would want to give up the global market? I love exotic chocolate, fruits, nuts, and other fun and delicious items. The crux of the matter boils down to transport efficiency and product packaging, in addition to sourcing locally, seasonally, and organically as much as possible.

But in the meantime, keep on using your tote bags. I’ll be taking a hard look at the packaging waste issues as I become more deeply embedded in my position.

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Author: manderson

I live in NYC.

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