The Reluctant Recyclist

I went to my local hardware this week to speak to someone about building a nuclear fallout shelter. There was a lot of head-shaking and shrugging until someone suggested Tom. Maybe Tom can help, they said. Tom was clearly the go-to guy for difficult customers. Tom looked as if he might have advised the ancient Romans on what they’d need for an aqueduct.

“Don’t get up,” I said.

“I am up,” croaked Tom. “If it’s aqueducts you’re after …”

I began explaining my need for a nuclear fallout shelter, briefly sketching the consequences of a Trump presidency and why there was a very real chance of millions of people dying in a giant thermonuclear fireball before the month was out.

“Good man, that Trump,” said Tom. “Damn good man.”

I took him by the sagging folds of his filthy throat. “Listen to me, you demented old troll,” I shouted. “Trump is not a good man. He is a bad man. Say it. Say Donald Trump is a bad man. Say it or I swear I will …”

He made some sort of rattling sound in the back of his disgusting throat. That was good enough. I dropped him and hoofed it out of that toxic hotbed of rightwing zealotry.

Back home, I opened a half-jack of Klipdrift and continued researching my academic paper on health and safety issues surrounding the increasingly popular sport of tribadism. I’m doing my Masters. Doing my Johnson, too. It saves time. Things were going swimmingly until I noticed something called Miss Earth South Africa trending.

Like the malignant narcissist Donald Trump, I do all my research on Twitter and Facebook because I can’t concentrate for longer than 30 seconds at a time. My brain is like the Large Hadron Collider but instead of atoms, I have billions of images of talking dogs, sleeping cats, sloths, butchered rhinos, babies of all species, goals being scored, cars being crashed and other people’s dinners careening into each other at supersonic speed. Trump is extreme. He’s thrown Fox News into his mental Hadron Collider. Now and then his brain accidentally cobbles together a half-formed thought which he then acts on by signing an executive order before getting sucked back into the berserk fantasy world he mistakes for reality.

I took a break from my research and went off to investigate Miss Earth South Africa. It sounded promising. Great things can come from beauty contests. Donald Trump, for instance, owned the Miss Universe pageant for ten years. Now look what he is – the world’s most powerful madman.

I rather like my women earthy. I don’t mean they should be covered in mud with spiders nesting in their armpits, but there’s something about a woman with flowing skirts, untamed hair and the soul of a gypsy (without their penchant for thievery) dancing barefoot beneath a full moon. Throw in a bit of howling and I’m finished.

I imagined Miss Earth South Africa to be of this mold. Someone sensitive to the needs of the planet but, ultimately, more sensitive to my needs. It wouldn’t do to have the earth coming before me, so to speak. Nor would it do to have a girlfriend who, on a Sunday morning, might say things like, “Hey! Instead of having sex, let’s rather convert that energy into making a mulch pit! Good idea, right?” No, it’s not. It’s a terrible idea.

I was beginning to resent Miss Earth South Africa before I’d even met her. What did she think? That I’d rather spend the morning up to my elbows in decomposing vegetation than have scorching hot bonobo sex washed down with lashings of ice cold beer? Well, she can bloody well forget about birthday or anniversary presents from me, that’s for sure.

I tried to hunt her down to offer her a piece of my mind and other parts of my body but, if her website is anything to go by, she might not even exist.

“The Miss Earth South Africa is a programme that aims to empower young South African women with the knowledge and platform to create a sustainable difference in our plight to combat the destruction of our natural heritage.”

I felt my loins cooling. Words like “empower” and “platform” are passion killers. Words like “combat” and “destruction” are quite sexy, though. Although I was a little bit turned on by the absence of spelling errors, my libido sustained a fatal body blow by “… a sustainable difference in our plight to combat …” It’s a sentence that belongs in calipers.

I care about the planet. I really do. I don’t even have an oven, freezer, dishwasher, heater, fan, iron, washing machine, tumble dryer, sandwich maker, blender or electric gate. I don’t have a bath. My shower runs off gas. I have four working lights and no telephone line or alarm system. If you’re picturing some kind of wretched, untethered misanthrope hunkered down in a wooden shack in the milkwoods, you’re on the right track.

All of my neighbours have elephantine carbon footprints compared to mine, which is the size of a field mouse’s paw, but the day they discovered I don’t recycle they began looking at me as if I were a selfish monster single-handedly jeopardising their children’s future. Please. That’s Jacob Zuma’s job, not mine.

Although I’m currently on the Cape peninsula, I come from Durban where it’s too hot to bother about separating the garbage. We sweat. We battle to breathe. What little energy we have left at the end of the day is expended on yawning, swatting mosquitoes and taking potshots at housebreakers. Or people who look like they might be housebreakers. Or visitors.

It’s different in Cape Town. People here have nothing but energy. And money. And dogs that never shut the fuck up. They had me down as the enemy the moment I dragged my bulging black garbage bag onto the pavement. They looked at each other, then back at me. Where is his bulging see-through plastic bag? Where is his little Checkers packet? My eyes narrowed. Their eyes narrowed. If we had been Mexicans, it would have been a proper stand-off. There would’ve been insults flung, challenges to duels, knives drawn, sultry women cheering us on. Instead, we shook our heads and went back inside.

A week later, some or other Prius-driving face-washing do-gooder left a clear plastic bag on my gate. Always up for new experiences, I thought I’d give it a shot.

I was surprised at how quickly it filled up with microwaveable containers, newspapers, traffic fines, mutton curry tins, beer bottles and mutilated sex toys. But what really surprised me was that I needed just one small Checkers for the biodegradable stuff. I took them both out on garbage day and stood there looking at them, raising my eyebrows and nodding, hoping for an epiphany that never really came. My neighbours seemed happy, though. One gave me a thumbs up which, thanks to Donald Trump, has become the new Nazi salute.

I gave him the traditional one-fingered Durban salute and sloped back to my warm brandy and eco-friendly shack.

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