Please believe me when I say that decent conversations can start this way. I've started SO many conversations this way. Sometimes they are frustrating, and other times they are...hopeful!
Today I had a few "pastoral duties" that required me to be in my black clergy shirt and collar (visitation in the ICU, actually, where it really helps to be identifiable as clergy) and so I was bopping around town in uniform on my day off, which is to say I had on a cute blazer and jeans as well. Anyway, I arrived early for my lunch meeting and realized I was only a street away from #CommunityBakery, where they hire fabulous people and bake even better bread. And I thought, "AHA! If anyone can help me find sliced bread without plastic this Lent, it's them!" Honestly, I don't know why I didn't think of them sooner.
So in I mosey, looking for someone to begin "the conversation". I may be a pastor, but his is probably the closest I've ever come to the "do you know Jesus" sales pitch, and you might not think it, but being a woman in a clergy collar has...mixed reactions...so I realized I might want to select my conversation partner intentionally, someone who I could imagine was open minded. Luckily, that's almost everyone who works there! So a pastor walks into a bakery...
Baker: "Can I help you find something?"
Me: "Yes, but it's probably a conversation first. Do you have a minute?"
Baker: "I have all the minutes you need! How can I help?"
Me: "Thank you! Well, I'm a pastor, well obviously I'm a pastor (gesturing awkwardly at my own entire self, as if that's obvious--because it only is if you know what a collar is in the first place), ok maybe not so obvious but ANYWAY my family and I are trying to give up single-use plastics for Lent and it's much harder than you'd think, and I realized that if anyone could help me get sliced bread without plastic it might be you guys."
Baker: "No plastic isn't so hard."
Me: (aghast-- it's not?? One part of my squirrel brain runs down a hole, trying to rethink all my life's choices in light of this new information. Another part of my brain dismisses this statement as patently false), "Maybe not, but we've had a hard time with bread at least, because we eat a lot of it, and from the store at least it always comes in a plastic bag with a twist tie. Now I was hoping that if I made a standing order or one or two loaves twice a week, that I could pick it up in a paper sack or something. Could that be possible?"
Baker: "I'm sure! I just...don't know how...how we'd order that...I mean yes we can...hang on."
<<side note: this is already the most positive, welcoming reception to this idea I've encountered at a store yet. She said yes! She's not sure how, but that's a yes!>>
Baker 2: (arriving) "You want bread?"
Me: "Yes I do!'
Baker 2: "But no plastic? Ok. I mean, the really big bakeries put it in paper sacks, so that's not hard."
Me: "Many of those sacks have a plastic window."
Baker 2: "True. So bread...what kind?"
Me: (OHMYGOSH WE'RE ACTUALLY TALKING ABOUT BREAD SECONDS INTO THIS CONVERSATION--SHE'S NOT RESISTING THE PLASTIC FAST--WHAT ALTERNATE UNIVERSE AM I IN TODAY??!!) "Whole wheat? Sliced."
Baker 2: "Ok. What else? We got raisin, white, jalepeno--"
Me: "Do you have rye?"
Baker 2: "It's not the dark rye, but it's good."
Me: "Ooo, that please."
Baker 2: "So twice a week, what, Tuesday and Thursday?"
Me: (I'm going to get sliced bread! ... I have simple dreams.) "Perfect! Now, do you need me to provide the paper sacks? I can." (I have learned the hard way to help overcome any resistance to the plastic fast by offering many supportive items, like paper or sacks or existential hope or veiled threats to shop at WholeFoods)
Baker 2: "No... I think I've got...yeah... I've got a 18" sacks in the back. Hmm. No Tape then, tape is plastic." Me: (SHE KNOWS TAPE IS PLASTIC I AM IN HEAVEN, I FOUND HEAVEN, IT IS A BAKERY--OH LOOK SEE THEY HAVE BEIGNETS YUP HEAVEN) "It IS plastic, well done! Could we ...staple it?"
Baker 2: "We don't normally staple food items unless we have permission."
Me: "You do."
Baker 2: "Ok. Two loaves, both sliced, Tuesday? Nothing today?"
Me: "Not unless it's unpackaged in the back."
Baker 2: "Ah, you missed it by an hour."
Me: "That's ok. I'll take it Tuesday then. When should I come in?" Baker 2: "It's out at 10am. so 11?"
Me: (suddenly unsure--the communication between people on an order like this is always where it's gone wrong in the past) "How will whoever is packaging know to use no plastic? Like, none at all?"
Baker 2: (so kind and patient) "Right here, I'll make a note and put a big sticker on it like for an allergy."
Me: "Great! Wow, thank you. This is fantastic. Thank you. It's a bigger deal than you realize."
Baker 2: "Sure, you're welcome! Have a nice day."
<<Friends, this is a categorically hopeful and good sign for the plastic fast this year, that my first "help me here" scenario was so warmly received! It certainly beats the pants off last week's pre-lent practice run at the deli-meat counter of Kroger. "...but if I can get that packaged in no plastic at all, just wrapped in paper." "why?" "I'm giving up plastic for Lent." "Why?" "I do this every year, and every year I get to have this conversation, and I promise eventually we work it out and it IS possible." "But why? it'll go bad faster." "It won't, and I have a glass container at home. Just need it in paper, wrapped in paper, with a sticker on the outside." "I still don't see why..." MOM CAN I HAVE A COOKIE? noyoumaynot. repeat 6x. Fifteen minutes later, she hands me a half pound of sliced meat in paper...in a plastic ziplock bag. "I asked for no plastic." "Oh you meant the bag too." "Yes, I really meant no plastic at all." "I don't have paper that big." "Surely you do." "Only the meat department has paper like that." MOM CAN I HAVE A COOKIE! noyoumaynotmommyistalking. "Aren't you the meat department?" "No, I'm deli meat." "Isn't that the meat department right over there?" "I can't leave my counter." "Well next time I'll just go get the paper." "Oh you can't do that." "I assure you I can and have." MOM CAN I HAVE A COOKIE?! noyoumaynotmommyistalking. "I've never heard of this plastic thing before." "I promise, it isn't new." "I don't get it." "Well maybe I'll just go to Whole Foods next time." (Yes, I did say that, I'm sorry my patience wore out. I am not perfect. No one got cookies.) But THIS experience at Community Bakery bodes well. I'll report back on Tuesday.>>