…Until today. Today I noticed that the check-out people at H.E.B. ask shoppers if they want paper or plastic bags. Itʼs like Iʼm in the 1980ʼs!
Itʼs nice that H.E.B. gives you a choice. If you have a pet and need poop bags, you can choose plastic, and re-use a plastic bag instead of buying new bags. Or, if you donʼt want to kill sea turtles, you can choose paper, since theyʼre made from trees, which we can make more of.
Itʼs possible to make moisture-resistant paper bags. Perhaps that should be the default so we can both bag pet nuggets and save the planet.
Iʼm old enough to remember when ice cream came in paper boxes. Thatʼs how all ice cream was sold in supermarkets for the first twenty years of my life. Paper boxes. And in a few places, big plastic buckets. Then in the 80ʼs, the Ben and Jerryʼs round pints showed up.
I was in the supermarket Friday, and noticed that you simply canʼt buy ice cream in paper boxes anymore. I suspect the current fashion of rounded containers is about reducing the volume of ice cream delivered per package in order to goose profits, but I donʼt have the energy to be outraged by anything anymore.
If you listen to the chattering masses on the internet, you can be made to believe that the internet is everywhere, data is virtually free, and if youʼre not connected to everyone everywhere all day every day, you must be at room temperature.
As is often the case, reality and the internet are very different from one another.
The reality is that there are millions of people in America with no internet service. Not because of choice, or poverty, or lack of education; but because they are simply beyond the reach of the infrastructure.
People I know in the Silicon Valley bubble cannot fathom that there are places in America without broadband, let alone cell phone service. Yet right now, there are hundreds of thousands in Las Vegas who have no internet service. Even in New York City, there are over a million people who do not have internet access, and have no cellular service in their homes.
Itʼs especially hard for people from Europe to understand. They live in small countries where people are packed close together, so itʼs easy to provide cell phone service. They donʼt grasp how vast places like the United States, Canada, Australia, and elsewhere are and that cell service is not universal around the entire globe.
I ran into a British couple in Monument Valley once who were complaining that their cell phone didnʼt work. They kept saying, “But we bought it in San Francisco!” as if repeating the phrase often enough would cause a cell tower and power lines to sprout from the cracked earth. They couldnʼt be made to understand that they shouldnʼt expect a phone to work in the desert a thousand miles from the Bay Area.
The photograph above is a great example of how many places in America lack basic communications infrastructure (let alone running water and electricity). Itʼs a special pay phone in the town of Shoshone, California. The same California that gave us so much of the high-tech world in which we live also cannot connect all of its towns and cities.
There is no cell service in Shoshone. There is only dialup internet service in Shoshone. There are only a couple of radio signals that reach Shoshone. So the way many people communicate with the outside world is via this payphone.
Itʼs an ordinary payphone that also has special numbers people can dial to connect to essential, and some seemingly sponsored, services for free.
*10: Chase Bank
*12: Prayer line
*13: Payday loans
*14: Job search help
*15: Credit cards
*17: Wells Fargo Bank
*19: Social Security
Local calls are currently 50¢, and anywhere else on the planet is $1.00 for two minutes. Which seems pretty reasonable to me, since I remember when calling my high school friends could cost an inflation-adjusted $3.50 for two minutes, and they were only a few miles away.