Two tales of wanton waste |

Two tales of wanton waste

Su Lum

Last week, my daughter Hillery came over from Leadville to spend a few days visiting and making curtains for the three bedrooms in my miner’s shack, a great Christmas gift.

On the third day, late in the afternoon, I was playing bridge online with friends — a weekly indulgence — when the dachshunds started yoiking as if they were surrounded by a skulk of foxes. It turned out to be UPS rather than an invasion of terrorists, dropping off a box of considerable size, large enough to hold, say, a dishwasher.

Hillery remarked that the box hardly weighed anything at all and wondered what it could possibly contain. I — having to keep my mind on the cards — motioned for her to open it.

The top was slashed open, revealing 21/2 feet of pillows of bubble wrap the size of small loaves of bread. Hillery pulled them out one by one until she got to the bottom, revealing — ta-da — a wall calendar some 15 by 11 inches in size. It was the equivalent of an old Life magazine lying in the bottom of this enormous box.

This was an extreme example, but overpackaging is par for the course. A tiny replacement part for a ballpoint pen arrived a few months ago in a box that easily could have held a Shetland pony.

The calendar cost $11.29, and the only reason I didn’t get it at Carl’s (where they have the bigger ones I actually wanted) was because I have to steel myself to get up and down the stairs to the second floor. Maybe I should call ahead and have Chris throw the desired item over the balcony.

I figured that case was closed, but I got a call the next day from Nick, representing the seller of the calendar (Shoplet), wanting to know if I was happy with my purchase and asking if I had bought it for business or home use. Really, that’s what he wanted to know: the ultimate use for the $11 calendar, personal or work-related. What possible difference could it make to warrant a phone call?

“It came in a box the size of a coffin,” I began and proceeded to rant about the profligate waste of a huge cardboard box for an item that easily could have been sent in a Manila envelope. This was not what Nick was expecting, but he promised to spread the word back to headquarters. Yeesh.

It’s easy to get all hoity-toity about the mistakes of others. A few days after receiving the calendar in a box the size of a bathtub, I mentioned to my friend Hilary (note the different spelling — not my daughter) that since we were experiencing a cold snap, maybe my Beetle should be started because it had exhibited battery problems.

She said it was a good idea but she’d probably forget to turn it off, and we settled in for a couple of episodes of “The Good Wife,” the series we’ve been watching.

The next day, I was both determined and reluctant to start the car. Determined because you have to keep vehicles going during the winter months and reluctant to put on boots, coat, sunglasses, hearing aids and teeth, fill up my oxygen tank and saddle up. I didn’t desperately need anything, but if I was going to go that far, I might as well do a shop.

Finally, at about 2 p.m., I lashed myself out the door, preceded by dancing dachshunds, and realized, as I approached the car, that something was wrong. For one thing, there was a puddle in the ice at the back of the car. For another, there wasn’t one flake of snow on the car, while every other vehicle in the alley was encrusted.

When I opened the door, I was hit with a blast of hot air and the inconvenient truth that Hilary had indeed started the car the night before and it was still running. I thought she hadn’t, so I hadn’t tried to remember, either.

Sorry, clean-air people —it was an accident.

I had to open the windows lest the dogs suffocate on the trip to City Market.

People often ask me why I don’t get the dents and crunches fixed on my old Beetle. Really it is a new Beetle in disguise, a 2001 vehicle with only 46,000 miles on it, but it has been scratched by bears and hit grazingly by other motorists, and it has those self-induced scrapes. This proved my theory that no one will ever want to steal it even if it’s sitting there all warmed up and running.

Su Lum is a longtime local whose car radio was on, too. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times. Reach her at