OAP means Old and PROUD argues Richard

Monday 20 April 2015

There’s an email pinging around the planet giving succour to oldies; 60-somethings-plus who feel plagued by a blame game that pins most crimes against the environment on them.

You name it - global warming, wastage of natural resources, reckless pollution - the baby boomers’ thoughtless betrayal of Earth’s eco-future is a given. Their post-war generation were about as un-green as you could get, right? They left a right mess behind them, didn’t they?

Er, no, actually. I don’t know who the email’s author is, other than he or she is probably an American of a certain age with sharp intelligence and sense of irony. The following is an edited version.

A 70-something shopper is at the supermarket checkout and asks for some plastic carrier bags. The young cashier chides her for not bringing her paper shopping bags back from last time.

“Plastic bags are NOT green. They are NOT good for the environment, ma’am.” The pensioner politely apologises. “I’m sorry… we didn’t have that ‘green thing’ in my day.”

The checkout girl scowls at her. “Yeah, that’s why we’re in the mess we are now. Your generation screwed the planet for your own selfish ends. We’re the ones paying the price for that today. Thanks, ma’am. You’re damn right. You didn’t have that ‘green thing’”.

The old lady coughs. “No, dear, what I meant was, we didn’t call it that. Actually, we didn’t call it anything.

“But I can tell you what we did. We returned glass soda bottles to the store for a few cents refund. Those bottles got sterilised and used again. Same with milk bottles. We washed them and left them out for collection. I believe this is what you would call ‘recycling’ today. But no, we didn’t have that ‘green thing’.

“Our school text books lasted a very long time because we had to make covers out of old brown paper for them, so we could write our names and class numbers on the front without damaging the original.

“We didn’t have disposable diapers. We had cloth ones, and washed them, and used them again and again. Oh, and we didn’t dry them in electricity-guzzling machines. We pegged them out on a line with all our clothes to dry in the breeze. Do you dry your clothes that way, dear?

“We walked up and down stairs because most stores and offices didn’t have escalators. When we packaged a fragile item for posting, we cushioned it with screwed-up newspapers, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble-wrap. But we didn’t have that ‘green thing’.

"Our men replaced a blunt razor with a fresh blade. They didn’t throw the whole thing away and pull a new one from a plastic-wrapped multiple pack. Oh, and they cut the lawn with a hand-pushed mower, not one that uses gasoline or electricity.

“And if they got thirsty, they drank from the tap or a fountain, not a plastic bottle they’d dump when it was empty. But our men didn’t have that ‘green thing’.

“We refilled pens with ink. We didn’t discard them when they ran dry. And we discovered restaurants and eateries and hotels without having to use electricity to consult a satellite 23,000 miles up in space sent there on a massive rocket-fuelled, energy-guzzling rocket.”

The checkout girl is now staring, her mouth forming a perfect “0”. The old lady turns to leave, smiling sweetly.

“We don’t much like being old in the first place, dear – as you’ll discover – so it doesn’t take much to p*** us off.

“Especially from a tattooed, multiple-pierced smart-ass who can’t give change for 10 bucks without an electronic cash register telling her how.”

Read Richard and Judy's Daily Express column in full here.
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