Wednesday, September 2, 2015

An Open Letter to the Passive-Aggressive Note-Passer We Encountered on Vacation at Bullards Beach, Oregon

I understand you don’t like the “noise pollution” produced when I set my car alarm at the beach parking lot. That half-second “fart” – as you describe it – probably made it momentarily difficult to hear the crashing waves, the screaming seagulls – and the foghorn hooting at least ten times a minute just up the beach. I do apologize.

My concern is not in your anonymous note, but in the fact that you used a paper note to express your concern, rather than the far more environmentally-friendly method of talking to me face-to-face.
First of all, I did not read the article included with your note on the ineffectiveness of car alarms, so at least half of the 8 ½ by 11 sheet of paper you slipped under my windshield wiper was wasted. Why didn’t I read it? I was more interested in your personalized note (reproduced obviously on a photocopier; you must have dozens of these sheets in your vehicle, ready-folded to slip under offenders’ wiper blades). 

Let me tell you something about your note.

I could have walked up to your beach and tossed it into the water. Or left it on the beach itself. Or thrown it in the nearby toilet. Or made a hat, a brooch, or a pterodactyl out of it before doing any of that or simply ripping the paper into little bitty bits and leaving it in the parking lot for the seagulls to eat. See, once you put that paper under my wiper blade and walked away wrapped in the cloak of your own smugness, you lost control of that paper. Not the responsibility for producing a bit of waste paper that someone else has to recycle or throw away, but the method of its disposal.

I choose to recycle the paper. Lucky you.

That is, after I drive it home, a distance of roughly 1,000 miles. Your note is part of the roughly 450 pounds of carbon dioxide my 2005 Honda Pilot (you remember, the one with the farting car alarm) produced on that return journey.

Here’s the calculator I used, if you’re curious.

But because scrap paper is bought and sold on the open market, I have no idea where it goes once it’s put into the recycling bin. Your note’s journey isn’t over.

It could end up at the mill closest to me (Lewiston, Idaho; about 500 miles distant) or as far away as Palatka, Florida, a distance of 2,300 miles – and that’s if it stays in the United States. It could conceivably go even further. And it’s going to be hauled wherever it goes by a diesel truck – and by boat, if it goes overseas – transport options which spew a lot more carbon dioxide into the air per 1,000 miles than my SUV (about 1,600 pounds, to be exact, for your standard diesel-powered truck).

Then there’s the recycling process. Granted, recycling paper is more environmentally-friendly than producing paper from virgin fiber, but there’s still an environmental cost to paper recycling that could have been foregone had you talked to me face-to-face about my farting car alarm or, if confrontation or human interaction isn’t your schtick, just sucking up the half-second interruption my car alarm activation introduced into your morning’s enjoyment of waves, seagulls, foghorn.

Instead, consider the hydrogen peroxide and sodium hydrosulfite that went into bleaching your note for re-use and the ink sludge that’s disposed of in landfills. That’s the cost of fighting noise pollution using the passive-aggressive note method, after all. A face-to-face conversation would have produced zero pollution (aside from mutual bad breath and a little carbon dioxide) and perhaps a personal connection that would have more seriously affected my injudicious car-farting than would an article from the American Automobile Association and an anonymous note from a beach asshole, but as it is, you were probably worried I was an axe-wielding homicidal maniac who would not take kindly to a reasoned conversation about noise pollution. And the feeling is mutual – because as I left the parking lot, I looked at everyone there wondering who the slack-jawed, half-second-car-fart-intolerant loon was. We both did our part to make Bullards Beach a more peaceful place.

So, by way of apology, I’m sorry my half-second car alarm fart upset you. I will, in the future, be more judicious in its use – as long as you promise to cut down on the amount of paper you foist off on my brother farting offenders. Consider how much pollution you’re contributing to with your notes before you copy and place the next one, please. It’s for the Earth, after all. The next time I’m at the beach and forget and make my car fart, come talk to me. I’ll listen. If I can hear you over the foghorn.

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