Last updated: February 18. 2013 3:28PM - 116 Views

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I waved to my buddy Alner as I spotted him putting out bundles of newspapers for recycling day.
He‚??s a good environmentalist, but what he said next started me thinking.
‚??If people had begun doing this 100 years ago we wouldn‚??t be in such dire straits,‚?Ě he said.‚?Ě
I nodded and smiled. ‚??Alner, old friend, it‚??s great that you‚??re recycling, but we folks of 2012 can still learn a few things.‚?Ě
‚??Yeah?‚?Ě he said.
Well, to make a long story short, within a few moments we were taking a little walk down a street in Wyoming Valley back in 1948, courtesy of my powers of metaphysical travel.
It‚??s a handy thing to have. We no sooner arrived when a small truck pulled up to the curb next to us and out jumped a uniformed man with two wire carriers holding glass bottles of milk. Alner watched, transfixed, as the milkman went up to one porch after another, dropping off a quart or two, and picking up the empties.
‚??I can‚??t believe it,‚?Ě said Alner. ‚??We toss cardboard cartons in the trash.‚?Ě
I flashed him a knowing grin. ‚??That‚??s how they manage free garbage collection. Their soda‚??s in glass bottles too. Just think, everybody recycles and the word hasn‚??t even been invented yet.‚?Ě
‚??Beep beep,‚?Ě came a youthful voice.
‚??Hush, Bobby, you mustn‚??t be so rude,‚?Ě said a mother to her child as they walked past us, pulling a coaster wagon containing two cardboard boxes of groceries.
Waiting until the folks were out of earshot (mustn‚??t betray us as time travelers), I said ‚??There‚??s shopping day, 1948 style. Folks go down to the neighborhood market and load up the week‚??s order in the kid‚??s wagon. Not a teaspoon of gasoline is used.‚?Ě
Alner couldn‚??t take his eyes off them. ‚??Where do they get the boxes?‚?Ě he asked.
‚??Stores hang onto them when their stock comes in,‚?Ě I replied. ‚??The plastic bag that takes forever to disintegrate is a couple of decades in the ‚??enlightened‚?? future.‚?Ě
A passerby carrying a black device strapped to his back nodded to us.
‚??What‚??s that contraption?‚?Ě asked Alner.
The man walked onto a nearby front porch, where a woman holding a scissors and some knives beckoned to him. Unstrapping the device from his back, he turned a crank and a raspy sound came from the machine.
‚??That‚??s the scissors grinder,‚?Ě I said. ‚??He‚??ll sharpen your knives, scissors ‚?? anything you need to cut with, so ‚?? you don‚??t have to throw them out.‚?Ě
Alner sighed. ‚??OK, I get it. That‚??s how my grandmother always kept the cutlery she was given as a wedding present.‚?Ě
I nodded. ‚??You‚??re catching on. You know, if we were here in the winter we‚??d see a guy coming around to pick up tubs of ashes from the coal furnaces. They‚??re thrown on icy roads.‚?Ě
Just then a horn sounded.
‚??Look, down the street,‚?Ě I said. ‚??That guy in the horse-drawn wagon is the ragman. He‚??ll take any old fabric you‚??ll give him and turn it into cleaning cloths or who knows what else. He announces he‚??s here by blowing a little paper horn, a neat tradition.‚?Ě
‚??I‚??ve been tossing my old shirts in the trash,‚?Ě said Alner in a subdued voice.
Alner looked at the guy in the wagon and gave a thumbs-up. The ragman answered back ‚?? with a little toot on his horn.
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