Thursday, August 25, 2011

Thirst and Nostalgia VS. Styrofoam

Something that has bothered me this summer has been the internal dissonance I am experiencing surrounding Circle K Thirstbusters.

I grew up (largely) in Arizona, and Thirstbusters meant summer.  I don't ever remember buying a Thirstbuster in winter, but in summer the large paper cups of ice and sweet, sweet caffeinated cola or root beer were a special treat.  This was in rural Arizona back in the day before soda was ubiquitous, or even obligatory, at least in my house.  The Pepsis in the refrigerator were not for the kids-- they belonged exclusively to my stepfather.  We drank water, milk or juice most of the time, or in summer there might be a pitcher of Kool Aid or a jar of sun tea in the fridge.  But a Thirstbuster felt unbelievably abundant-- ice, sweet soda and a straw and lid.  Thirstbusters still say summer, but I hadn't really thought of it that way until I started to notice the current ad campaign for Thirstbusters, in which their new, sturdy styrofoam cups are featured

There is a teacher at our school who shall remain nameless (Garbe) whose mission it is for us all to ride our bikes and stop buying styrofoam.  I agree, it is good to be reminded of the simple things we can do that are good for us and good for the Earth.  And so these commercials which feature a gigantic styrofoam cup winning a race against other cups are disturbing.  We remodeled a house all summer; money was tight, and those 79 cent Thirstbusters served a purpose both hydrating and caffeine-infusing, and provided a needed respite from liter after liter of water.  However.. the STYROFOAM!

Then I started realizing that there is a whole slew of ads out right now which, really, sell the packaging, promote the packaging, even deify the packaging.

I find these commercials to be immoral, frankly. More powerfully than simply emphasizing the convenience or practicality of the packaging, they push it as a completely amazing phenomenon in itself.

Sure, most of us end up buying portion-sized pouch beverages or microwave popcorn from time to time, but should we be buying more because of how awesome the package is?  Besides the practicality of your Thirstbuster cup not becoming soggy over the hours, the only good reason I can think of for these kinds of promotions is that these companies have to fight the wave of common sense that is sweeping the country. Perhaps these commercials are actually good news, and mean that companies are feeling the pressure from consumers who are choosing NOT to purchase their whole grain popcorn mysteriously packaged insight sealed-tight bags with who knows what chemical additives, and choosing NOT to send their kids with their drinks in foil and plastic pouches for lunch at school.

If that is the case, then by all means, Americans, carry on!  If however, you become very agitated with excitement when your popcorn bag turns into a bowl, maybe you should go outside and play a while, visit a park, go for  walk.  Find something else to get worked up about.  Spend your money on bowls you can wash and re-use.

Will I continue to buy the occasional 79 cent Thirstbuster in summer?  Will I still find them irresistably refreshing, especially now that we have a whole bank of choices about how to fill them?  Probably.  But I will think twice, and maybe do it less often.

Monday, August 8, 2011

What I Will Miss about Summer 2011 (and NOT)

Let's begin with the negative, so then at the end we can get all nostalgic and misty-eyed.

I will NOT miss:
  • endless episodes of iCarly and Spongebob.
  • the whines of protest when I turn off the television.
  • the feeling of being stuck in the air conditioning
  • the financial stress and hard-won lessons of putting everything and then some into rehabbing a house as an investment.  
  • the all-consuming-ness of above project.  
  • the non-vacation, non-date nights and non-matinees.
  • nonstop Barbie fascination, especially naked Barbie fascination.
I will miss:
  • working alongside my dad and learning and re-learning skills I'd never otherwise learn (not leaving one's crowbar in the sun in Tucson, how many hits it SHOULD take to drive a nail when framing, how to use a bulldog drill to screw down wall firring, why you keep paint rollers wet and re-use them in the same colors instead of trying to clean them out each time, grout wiping techniques and procedures, how to cut in with an angled brush, why not to give the concrete guy beers while he is doing your kitchen counter)
  • the all-over tired muscles from above activities, and also from lots of sweeping, cleaning, dumping of drywall fragments and leftover concrete.)
  • working on the house as a whole family:  husband, kids, dad. 
  • my daughter being a pre-schooler.  Very cute.
  • seeing my kids learn to communicate and play together successfully on several occasions.
  • discovering a baby mockingbird in our back yard (pretty sure it lived).
  • seeing my dad help the kids embellish a train table and learn about HO scale, etc.
  • getting to sleep in a few times, surrender myself to books a couple of times... these are always welcome aspects of summer.
A new school year is here.  One that will surely be a challenge as I pursue my National Board Certification.  Although I have dubbed this summer the "Summer of Austerity," I hope that I can delve up a few fond summer memories throughout the year to keep me going.