Windbreaking News: Uncle Sam’s secret recycling program


Helping you out since 2001.


Welcome to Windbreaking News, where I sniff out the news for you.


Reliable sources, who just happen to live in my head, informed me of a huge recycling effort that the U.S. government operates on behalf of its citizens. Of course, it’s a clandestine operation and doesn’t look like a recycling program because it’s more fun that way.


What the government doesn’t know, but I do (thank you, sources in my head!) is that if someone informs the American public, the recycling program will take off like never before.


In 2001, Uncle Sam set up an agency and sent its workers throughout the country to help Americans recycle. In order not to alarm anyone or alert the public to their true purpose, these uniformed helpers pretended to be angry, rude gropers at security checkpoints in airports. But underneath that façade are a host of recyclers tirelessly working on behalf of the government and us, the Mer’can people. We salute you, Uncle Sam!


Since most Americans do not understand how or when to recycle, our fearless leaders set up TSA (Taking Stuff Away) to help us. These trained professionals spend day and night going through your stuff, identifying items to recycle, which you, the great untrained, failed to properly dispose of. The shame!


Agents representing the U.S government (All Your Base Are Belong to US) remove unnecessary items from your suitcases, such as electronics, jewelry, and cloth. Few people realize that your so-called “money” is a cotton and linen blend that needs to be periodically recycled.


Does this grieve you? Are you outraged? Are you asking yourself or yourselves why your weren’t informed about this earlier so you could so something about it? Well, grieve no more and stop bothering yourself(ves) with so many questions. It’s not too late. You can help the government recycle more.


The next time you fly, put your broken electronics in your suitcase. Take that awful fake ring Aunt Ethel gave you and put it in one of those velvet jewelry bags. Be sure to place it on top so the agents don’t have to dig. It’s time to participate, people. Be creative; the sky’s the limit. We can be the world champion recyclers, crushing our contenders like so many empty soda cans.

 Recycle. It’s the American way.


Full disclosure: I support the TSA and have participated in their recycling program. A while back, agents were kind enough to recycle an iPad from my backpack at a checkpoint. Unfortunately I didn’t notice until I got on the plane so I never got to thank them. I salute you, TSA!


Warning: If the egregious use of exclamation marks (aka “bangs”) in this post causes heart palpations, nausea, or ringing in your ears, please stop reading immediately; call your psychiatrist or a friend, even if he or she is imaginary. If your imaginary friend likes the egregious use of bangs, go here.




Photo: DN-0088741, Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago History Museum.

As a child, I tried to practice safe smoking


When I grow up, I want to smoke like that.

The first time I smoked a cigarette, I inhaled. After I stopped coughing and wiped the tears from my eyes, I inhaled again. That’s what seven-year-old children do. Or at least, that’s what my seven-year-old self did. I have a strong compulsion to finish what I start; something I learned at the dinner table. (See here for that story.) Some people think I am persistent; some think I am stupid. I try to see both sides of an issue, so I agree with both.

Although I received a 25-cent weekly allowance, it didn’t usually last very long. To feed our addiction to chocolate, my best friend, Terry B., and I collected coke bottles to redeem for cash. At one or two cents a bottle, we needed just a few to buy a five-cent candy bar. That’s why I cannot speak too highly of chocolate; it made me the recycler that I am today. Persistent, with fluffy hips.

Terry and I were regulars at the local convenience store. I think it was a 7-Eleven, but it could have been a Circle-K. (Ask my sister, she’s the keeper of memories in the family.) At some point, we decided to buy some cigarettes. As impossible as it sounds today, back then children could run to the store to buy cigarettes for their folks. We either pooled our allowances or saved up coke bottle money because we had enough money for a pack. At that time, probably around 25 cents.

One of us lied to the clerk and said the cigarettes were for a parent. I think it was Terry because this is my side of the story and she’s not here to contradict me. She brought the matches and we headed straight for the ditch.

In mid-century America, everyone smoked cigarettes. Movie stars inhaled and exhaled their glamour, neighborhood gossip flamed up as their small fires burned on women’s lips, and their smoke rings floated above our heads like forgotten halos. What was not to like about smoking?

At some point in that ditch, however, I stopped inhaling and put the cigarette out. I much preferred chocolate and still do.

Unprompted, I confessed to my mother that I had tried smoking. The business about how we got the cigarettes was left unmentioned. She seemed unfazed and only smiled when I said, “Don’t worry. It was mentholated.” In my muddled mind, I thought it made a difference.

At 17, I began my five-year smoking career. My father was long dead by then, and mother said she would rather have me smoke in front of her than behind her back. In mother’s muddled mind, she thought that made a difference.

For several years in a row, I got a carton of Winston cigarettes in my Christmas stocking: my reward for being an honest child. Had I shown an honest interest in bank robbery, she probably would have included a stocking cap and possibly a small revolver.

Mother was muddled but she meant well. Like me. And maybe, like you.

(picture on loan from: