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12/17/04 3:34 PM
Copyright 2004 David C. Loebig

Random Digressions

On Coffee Tables and Stuff


It’s All about Coffee Tables and Old Stuff

I have a coffee table. In fact, I have two coffee tables. Furthermore, I have a coffee table philosophy.

It goes like this: In the past 100 years enough coffee tables have been built that we should not need to make any more. Anybody who needs a coffee table should be able to buy one formerly owned by someone who no longer needs one, namely a dead person.

I’m no theologian or anything, but I’m pretty sure you can’t take your coffee tables into the afterlife, so we should be abounding in coffee tables, not to mention cutting boards, hammers and other useless-when-we’re-dead stuff.

So why do we end up buying so many new cutting boards, hammers and coffee tables? I don’t know. I do know that we don’t recycle enough. We end up buying new stuff instead of reusing old stuff.

Please note for the record that both of my coffee tables are used, and they’re made of big, thick wood, so they’re going to last a hundred years.

Coffee tables are the example for this philosophy, but it applies to lots of other things, too. We just don’t reuse and recycle as much as we could.

So here’s my attempt to convince you to recycle if you don’t already: please, please, please, please, please...

Okay, that’s not it. I just needed five more words to make this column long enough, and that line filled in nicely.

Anyway, I was surprised recently while visiting friends. When I asked where to recycle a bottle, they said to throw it in the trash. This couple, who is otherwise very, very connected to and involved with the local community, didn’t seem to sense their connection to the world community.

You see, the problem isn’t that just one of us uses more stuff than typical individuals in other countries, or that one of us doesn’t recycle. The problem is that we’re multiplied by 280 million.

You might say that any individual’s recycling won’t make a difference because millions of others don’t recycle, but then I might say that if the universe is such that we intrinsically owe something to humanity, then we certainly owe nothing more than our own obligation. (Wow, that sounds deep for a silly coffee table philosophy.)

That is to say that you’ll never be accountable for doing someone else’s duty. You very well may be accountable for not doing your own, and you might be held accountable for not doing what you could have done. Besides, even the smallest effort helps some, especially if we multiply it by 280 million.

Now I’ve heard some rumors that recycling programs are fake, and the material ends up in land fills. So I called the county recycling director for a statement. She was out.

So I can only hope that if I had actually spoken with the county recycling folks, they would have assured me that the cans and bottles we take to the curb are actually recycled. If they aren’t, then shame on them.

In my view it’s like buying a ticket for a charity raffle or donating money. You do your best to choose a worthy organization and you contribute in good faith. If however, somebody uses that money for something else, then they’re accountable, not you.

On that fateful day when we have to give up all our stuff including coffee tables, we won’t be asked about the money somebody else stole from charity, but we might be asked to pick up all our bottles and cans.

Dave Loebig writes and banters out of the Tampa, Fla. area. You can banter with him at



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