Mr. Plastic Picker’s Environmental Journey
March 6, 2020
Mr. Plastic Picker, as I have mentioned before, is also an MD. He is a specialist specialist in a speciality department. But this is my blog and I am Dr. Plastic Picker in this virtual realm and he is Mr. Plastic Picker.
The current COVID-19 news has affected us both at work, since we work for the same large HMO. I have to worry about more pressing clinical concerns and workflows since I see patients, but Mr. Plastic Picker is not as affected since he can work without actually touching or being in physical contact with patients in his specialty department.
But my husband of almost 20 years who has eschewed most mainstream media since a certain orange-hued president took office, now eagerly wakes up in the morning to check the COVID-19 news. He checks it because everyday there has been something that has fundamentally shifted in the world due to this scare. Tens of thousands of flights have been cancelled. Factories have been closed. The air pollution in China has cleared. Cruise ships are finally getting the bad press they deserve for being petri dishes of infectious agents, but also the side benefit is they won’t be spewing pollutants into rivers and our oceans. He shows me newstory after newstory of the environment healing as the world discovers how much unnecessary busyness, consumption, carbon-intensive travel we did not need and can be dispensed because of irrational fears of what will be later a simple cold virus after the population develops some immunity. China is finally rethinking those god-awful wildlife markets where the SARS and COVID-19 originated. It’s the revenge of the pangolins. We really should be like my new friend the vegan anesthesiologist.
I am not following the news as much. I think those environmental positives are tempered by real fears from the older >80 population with chronic diseases as their predicted mortality is higher. But I am a pediatrician and I take care of children. I have parents and in-laws I am worried about, and we will try to keep them safe. We have access to excellent health care here. But as Mr. Plastic Picker sits in his office clicking on news story after news story and gleefully recounting to me more flights are being cancelled and that this is good for the environment, I realize my husband needs to tone it down a bit. I have told him that. Usually I’m the bombastic one, but lately he has been quite manic and animated. But I now realize that it is because he really cares. I talk about my journey these last 6 months of daily acts of environmental activism, but he has been on his own journey as well.
Mr. Plastic Picker seems a kind, well groomed and overly polite and socially aware professional. But I can tell you that he is one of the most stubborn people and self-aware people I know. We have been together since college where we met in premed biology and were lab partners. At times I feel like we are living parallel lives. I know he loves me, but I often will be off doing my own thing with my own current passions. I feel at times he looks askance at the things I am passionate or interested in. We watch different movies. We read different types of books. I remember we were on call at Man’s Greatest Hospital at the same time in our 3rd year of medical school, I was doing pediatrcis and he was rotating I think in internal medicine, and on call on the same night. We were both overly tired and already engaged to be married. I had an extra bunk in the medical student call room on pediatrics, and I asked him just to bunk together so we could make sure to wake up on time for our different rounds and maybe get breakfast. We were too tired to be engaging in anything salacious. But he was such a stickler and didn’t want anything to do with me! I think he left after a quick dinner together to purposefully sleep on the other end of the hospital. I remember almost being out of birth control pills when I was an intern, and I asked him to write me a prescription. He said, “No. You should go to your doctor.” I told a colleague that my doctor-husband wouldn’t prescribe me birth control, and this colleague who was a co-resident replied, “I’ll write you birth control. I don’t want to cover for you.” I think he is now a PICU attending still at Man’s Greatest Hopsital. I did do the proper thing and finally went to see my doctor so both of them were off the hook.
But COVID-19 and this blog has made me realize that Mr. Plastic Picker is going on his own environmental journey. He isn’t like me hashtagging every ocean plastic picking bag for @drplasticpicker’s almost 600 Instagram followers to witness. He does it because he loves the earth as well. I’m not sure if I convinced him, or he just woke up – like so many other millions of people around the world. Let me detail for you five environmental changes he has made.
Five Changes Mr. Plastic Picker Has Made Quietly On His Own
- Brings a Reusable Coffee Mug To Work: He has a Starbucks metal reusable mug. The plastic top is partially broken but still usable. He uses it most days or another Turqoise one I bought at a local East Village coffee shop. I have asked him if he wants a new one, and he declines saying the Starbucks one he has is perfectly still good.
- Stopped Buying Keurig Coffee Pods: Mr. Plastic Picker loves shopping. I cannot tell him what to do. I suggested years ago that the Keurig Coffee Pods were unnecessary and wasteful. Nothing. And then about 6 months ago, he stopped buying them.
- Drove Us Seven-Hours to Salt Lake City: We have fundamentally changed one of the most carbon intensive activities we used to do, flying. Mr. Plastic Picker is the driver in our family. I only drive in the confines of our metropolitan area. There is a long history behind that. But we have changed how we travel, and we do road-trips now and try not to fly. https://drplasticpicker.com/food-review-driving-made-the-impossible-burger-possible/ Mr. Plastic Picker is excited about our next trip coming up to a regional National Park so stay tuned for those blog posts.
- He has Agreed to Look at Salad Tiffins: Mr. Plastic Picker eats a lot of salad especially at the hospital cafeteria and at the Soup Plantation across the street. He will often bring salad home from the hospital or Soup Plantation to complement something I’ve made at home. We are trying to cook more at home, but we are both still employed full time as middle managers and full time clinicians at our HMO so life is still busy. I’ve been looking at Tiffins so that he does not have to bring those plastic disposable ones home. Mr. Plastic Picker seems intrigued.
- He Walks With Me On the Beach: I go to the beach about 5 times a week to do ocean plastic picking. Sometimes I’ll litterpick around the block. Mr. Plastic Picker is usually walking our crazy black puppy or walking with me wearing headphones. But he goes on walks with me now occassionally when I am headed to the beach. I walk my own way looking for pieces of plastic on the shore. He’ll walk more quickly listening to his audiobook and trying to get a lot of steps in. He won’t pick up litter, but he’ll look into the waves and he’ll take his shoes off and his ventral foot will touch the sand https://drplasticpicker.com/mr-plastic-picker-had-a-headache/. He says the sand is good for his feet. He has a relaxed smile after his walks. He is going on his own journey and we meet at the steps leading back up to the boardwalk. I’ll finish taking an instagram shot of my bag, and he will brush the sand from his feet.
Thank you for going on this journey with me. I just read bits and pieces of this blog piece to Mr. Plastic Picker. He seemed amused but proceeded to take his ceramic coffee mug upstairs and waved me off. “I have to go to work.” Yes, Mr. Plastic Picker – I know you have to go to work. And you left to go upstairs with the other female in your life.