Maxed Out 

Sustainability in the eye of the beholder


Oh to be sustainable now that summer has arrived.

As much as I enjoyed school when I was a child… adolescent… adult, there was an indescribable feeling of luxury when summertime finally rolled around. Ephemeral, it was nonetheless all-enveloping, like a hot shower on a cold day or, more appropriately, a cool swimming pool on a stinking hot day. Lazy, languid and unstructured, the first free days of summer were simultaneously filled with adventure, hope and potential. No more teachers; no more books. No bells, no schedules, no plans. Summer was a river of time and we were all captains of our own ships of imagination. Let the days begin; hope they never end.

That feeling of foreverness rarely lasted the entire first week. The illusion of unlimited potential generally slammed into realities of no dough and the been-there-done-that law of diminishing returns well shy of Humpday. In those days before children’s lives were scheduled and scripted, when we were encouraged to make ourselves scarce lest we pester our mothers for something to do, we mostly bobbed along aimlessly, testing the limits of both our imaginations and socially acceptable behaviour in a vain attempt to stave off boredom.

Sustainability was at the heart of our problem. We had a sustainable summer comprised of nearly identical sustainable days and weeks. What we lacked was a sustainable income. We always ran out of allowance long before we ran out of days until allowance day. Since no adult in their right mind would hire a kid to do what they could make their own kid do for free, employment prospects were dim. A day’s worth of poking in ditches might yield enough dirt-crusted empty pop bottles to buy a full one but the economics of that enterprise seemed dubious, not to mention the guy who ran the corner store was about as happy to see us coming with a load of old bottles as he was to see his bologna turn green.

Our early experiments in sustainability — our own low-hanging fruit — began with co-operation. My best friend and I recognized our allowance would go farther if we didn’t duplicate each other’s efforts. We signed a formal comicbook pact, agreeing to freely share the comics we bought with each other, thus eliminating duplication and enabling us to stay on top of both Superman’s and Batman’s exploits instead of having to choose one over the other and be reduced to furtively reading the one we didn’t buy while hiding behind the rack to keep from getting caught.

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