Dear Uptight Seattleite,
For the last several months I have been siphoning the gray water out of my bathtub with a hose into buckets and using it to water my vegetable patch. I often have enough extra to toss some water on the lawn as well. I'm saving like mad on my water bill and am proud of my slightly smaller "footprint." My problem? As we enter the last days of summer, the neighbors' lawns are all a uniform, righteous, crispy "I wouldn't waste precious water on a patch of lawn" gold, while mine remains conspicuously soft and green. Whenever someone compliments the yard, I of course quickly explain that the water is recycled, but you know how we Seattleites are. Sometimes we pass our judgments silently. Do you think it would be too boastful to post a small, tasteful sign on the front gate explaining that I'm not a water-waster? Any other ideas for how I can negotiate this delicate situation?Green Gardener
Good morning, Gardener!
Your only "problem" is you need to wake up and smell your own freshly brewed strength. Racing down the path of ecological awareness on your commendably teeny, birdlike feet, your mind as sharp as your prose, you've traveled so far ahead of your neighbors that you've come up behind them. So what if they don't realize they've been lapped? Let this fact shine out at full strength from your nimble soul to their numb skulls.
Go ahead with that sign, but not in the meek manner you described. You've got the power, Green, and it's time to make a power move. Grab the biggest Sharpie you can find, reuse the back of a Joe Szwaja yard sign, and write as follows: "Hey Neighbors! Want to learn how to move beyond your wasteful habits? Want to get a thank-you card from Mother Earth and enjoy a lush new lawn? Join me for a workshop on gray-water recycling. My backyard, 6 a.m., this Sunday."
That's the kind of full frontal assault that'll make you a figure of "shock and awe" on both sides of your block. Later, it's time for the mop-up operation. When you spot any workshop absentees on the way out to your Prius in the morning, fix them with a friendly grin and say, "Missed you on Sunday!" As you drive away, roll down your window and playfully call out, "gurgle, gurgle, GURgle!" This onomatopoeic stone cast in the pond of your neighbors' minds will bring their own lavish water consumption rippling onto the shore of consciousness.
And I promise, Green, should you invite me to the block party they eventually throw in your honor, I'll make no attempt to usurp your place in the bright center (even if I inspired you in some small, infinitely mysterious way). You'll instead glimpse me only intermittently, a contented satellite orbiting the farthest ring of your admirers, smiling with quiet pride like Morgan Freeman in Million Dollar Baby.
Dear Uptight Seattleite,
Just curious: Are you into the little ankle-biters? My best friend just had a baby, and seeing as there are more dogs than children in this town, I wondered how to lend her the proper support.Single Income, No Kids
"More mouths, bigger foot; more mouths, bigger foot." This phrase—meaning that every additional mouth results in a bigger human footprint on the earth—is not something I would mutter under my breath while staring at my friends' children. Because there are plenty of non-creepy ways of communicating the same idea, such as singsonging it while I push them on the swing.
Seriously, though, regarding your friend—and other people who choose to have kids instead of a dog—I don't think there's anything weird about it at all. Sure, sometimes those kids bother my Kunio when we go to the park. But I'm patient with the fact that the little ones are still learning how to coexist with dogs in public places. Respect a dog's space when he's nosing around the slide, OK, kiddos? In the interest of humans and animals sharing the park on an equal basis, don't make any sudden movements.
As for what to get that new tyke in your life, I have an unusual, but fun, suggestion: a mini-landfill kit! Your friend could set it up in the backyard and fill it with poopy diapers and other trash produced by her baby, so she can see firsthand the bigger footprint she's helped create. It would also be terrific for the child, when he's old enough, to see the mountain of garbage that resulted from his birth.
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