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There came a time towards the end of the twentieth century when most people who used to use typewriters had switched to computers. And there was a guy name of Sneed who went ‘round to people’s houses and collected up all the old jars of type cleaner. Type cleaner is a solvent, something maybe kinda like paint thinner. A solvent, see? And it comes in a jar with a real good gasket on the lid to seal the thing since solvents are hard to contain because they’re such thin liquids, they leak out easy. So you got to watch out and have a good gasket.

The other thing is that there is a stalk with a swab on the end attached to the inside of the lid so that you can open the lid and, after swabbing off the excess type cleaner on the inside lip of the jar, apply the type cleaner to the little metal letters that, on the old typewriters, were attached to arms and would come flying up and strike the typewriter ribbon where it lay against the paper. So you swab ‘em down, see, and then dab ‘em off. And whatever type cleaner was left would dry real quick ‘cause this is a solvent, remember. So that’s type cleaner.

And Sneed was very concerned for the environment. He would have liked to stop everyone from throwing away all unused or half-used household toxins, but he didn’t see how he could do that. So he decided to attack a small part of the problem. He got a truck and went door to door collecting unwanted type cleaner. Keep it simple; one toxin at a time. It was a place to start. It was well known by those who gave a damn about such things that most of the old landfills had either no liner under them or such an old shoddy one that it leaked. So these landfills drained into the ground, and a poisonous stew of weed killer and transmission fluid and silver polish and all kinds of stuff that is thrown out when a new container of said stuff is bought or when someone moves or something, all this toxic crap leaks down into the ground and often ends up in underground water sources. Everyone in Sneed’s town, for instance, knew that the Dimecox landfill out on Belton Road was leaking into the Simm’s Aquifer.

“Every jar of type cleaner I can collect will be one less jar of solvent leaking into Simm’s Aquifer!” Sneed said to himself as he went door to door. “And I’ll return all this solvent to industry, just like Governor Mathews said we should do. Industry will then put these solvents to good use, and, under the new Clean Air, Soil, and Water Laws, they will use a safe process to handle and distill and repackage the solvents.”

After a couple of months of hard work Sneed had gone to every house in the greater Elmerton area. He drove his truck full of solvent jars out to the Industrial Complex. He walked into the main office of Industry and asked who to talk to about safe and proper transfer of solvents from a concerned citizen into the hands of Industry.

“The hands of Industry, huh?” asked the guy at the front desk. “ I don’t know about no hands, but you can throw them jars of type cleaner in the big rusty bin out back by loading dock seven. Just keep your jalopy out of the way of our trucks.”

“Thank you,” said Sneed, a little disappointed that he hadn’t had a chance to discuss toxic concerns with someone at Industry who had an office and a title and who would give him their business card and say, “Come in or call any time with whatever concerns you may have. We’re always happy to work with a concerned citizen. And keep those truckloads coming!”

Sneed went out and got in his truck and drove it around back to loading dock seven. He took the bottles out one at a time and dropped them into the bin as carefully as possible in order to avoid breaking them. This was going to take a long time and some of the bottles would break. But since Sneed had already put so much effort into the project and because the rusted bin had holes around the bottom of it that a Chihuahua could leap through, he continued the weary task. Some of the bottles broke, and he knew that rain would wash the leaking solvent out the holes in the bin and into the nearby creek, causing crawfish to cringe.

A couple of Industrial Workers were on break, sitting to one side of the loading dock with disgusted looks on their faces. They sat on plastic milk crates drinking styrofoam. They watched Sneed and they sneered. They nudged each other and nodded toward Sneed with knowing looks, then shook their heads.

“Hey, MAC!” One of them yelled, “Just HEAVE ‘em in there! Let ‘em smash and break. It don’t make no difference. It’s all going to Dimecox Landfill anyways.” Sneed was stunned. He felt so defeated, and at the same time he felt like a silly do-gooder in the face of the workers’ sarcasm and laconic demeanor. But he collected himself and opposed.

“That doesn’t happen any more,” he said in a confident tone, “not since the Clean Air, Soil and Water Laws went into effect.”

The two workers looked at each other and laughed outright. They ignored Sneed after that, and when their break was over they went inside. When he was done his work, Sneed went inside and asked the man at the desk why the workers were so derisive about the new Clean Air, Soil, and Water Laws.

“Haven’t you heard? The new President of the United States got rid of that crap.”

“But these were progressive measures that had taken years to get through the legislature!”

“Look, goof-ball, you wanna bring your swab-jars in here and drop ‘em in the bin like they was precious little eggs, that’s fine. There’s nothing I can do about that. But I don’t have to listen to you gassin’ about progressive measures that did nothing but set Industry back, slow Industry down, and cost Industry money! Progress ain’t laws! Progress is asphalt, smokestacks, mining. That stuff. You go home and use coal-fired electricity to cook your food and then you moan about the smokestacks at the power plant. You can’t have it both ways. And then you got the nerve to come in here, here to the very headquarters of Industry, and say that progress is a bunch of laws meant to protect fish and mice and worms. You’re a sociopath! All you damn tree-huggers are sociopaths! You care more about a damn turtle or a frog than about one of your own!”

“Those laws were designed to protect humans and future generations of humans from the harmful and sometimes fatal effects of pollutants,” said Sneed, and took his leave. The pallor of doom was over the place.

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