Doug Bruns

Out of the woods too soon?

In Popular Culture on July 31, 2012 at 6:00 am

Street art by Banksy

I have a couple of gripes to get off my chest. One local, one international.

First, local:

I walked into the Whole Foods store here in Portland yesterday and came face-on against a streaming cloud of air conditioning that would freeze water. I was prepared. This store is always this way. I came wearing a fleece. But one thing leading to another, me gathering a head of steam, I could not contain myself any longer and approached the manager.

“Excuse me,” I said. “I don’t want to sound like a jerk, but how can a corporation that is supposedly so environmentally sensitive justify the air conditioning settings you use?” The young manager looked at me with a tentative smile. Behind him stood a young woman, an employee, who nodded in mute agreement.

“Unfortunately, on a day like this,” he explained, “the AC seems particularly cold.” (It was sixty-eight degrees outside. Why was the AC even on?) “Yesterday,” he continued, “it was almost eighty.” I pointed to my fleece. “I put this on knowing I was coming here. It’s always ass-cold here.” I said ass-cold. I don’t know what ass-cold means exactly, but it sounded good, giving my tirade a bit of heat.

The young manager explained that the store temperature is set regionally and that he has no control over it. I asked him to explain the logic of that and he could not.

“It seems an example,” I said, “of corporate double-speak. You say you are a good steward of the earth, but your actions do not hold up.” I thanked him for his time and left.

In all travels I have never encountered a culture so hell-bent on being uncomfortably comfortable as we are. The earth cannot sustain our pamper forever. Five percent of the world’s population–that would be us–using twenty-five percent of the world’s resources. (As an aside, I will be hard-pressed to give WF more of my money.)

Second gripe: The Olympics.

Must we count medals? Can we not enjoy competition and the accomplishments of the determined athletes without turning it into yet another venue for nationalism and chest-thumping?

I watch the games and relish in the achivements of these athletes. I grow misty-eyed over their acomplishments regardless of where they call home. They are human beings. I am a human being. That another of my species is proven so capable makes my spirits rise. It is deeply emotional to me to be reminded that I, like them, am a human being.

The spirit of the ancient games, I am given to understand, was such that differences were set aside, wars paused, arguments silenced, such that human achievement might be purely enjoyed. Is our medal counting so different from a certain dictator’s Olympic expectation that his superior breed would prevail? Did he too not preach national exceptionalism?

Metal counting as nascent patriotism is tiresome. I have seen enough of the world to know better.


Phew. Obviously I came out of the woods too soon. Pardon my rant.

  1. Here, here! (Or is it: hear, hear?) Whatever, I agree on both counts.

    You gotta love the air conditioning at the new Rosemont Produce Market on Commercial Street, a terrific option.

  2. More rants, please. We are in this mess because too many of us fail to noisily object.

    (floating in an anchorage off Hell’s Half Acre Island, near Stonington)

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