Empty slogan spotting at Old Navy

And now, it is time for a brief rant.

I was in Old Navy yesterday, for job-related reasons. Hadn’t ventured there in a long time. It is a big air-conditioned building that almost everybody gets to by driving. Water runs off the over-lit parking lot outside the building when it rains, taking oil and antifreeze with it.

Inside, you can practically smell the global economy. The workers with their headsets, stocking jeans and talking about when their shifts end, are connected via the clothes they’re handling to the workers on the other side of the world who sewed them in factories. Because the merchandise changes so often and is designed for such a short lifespan, it has a feeling of being one step away from garbage, even though it’s clean and new. It came in on trucks, and before that in shipping containers. It has been manufactured and transported in giant quantities for an international customer base. You can almost picture the furious pace at which these tank tops and swimsuits and teeshirts have been designed, test-marketed, sewn and pushed out into the world.

And, because they’re so cheap (two pairs of jeans for less than $30?), they function like disposable tokens of style, almost more than as physical coverings for people’s bodies. You buy the thing for this season because you saw it was trendy, and when the season and the trend is over, you’ll be done with it. But it really is a physical object, made of raw materials and poised to become another object in the endless stream of objects Americans throw away.

In the back, I was standing next to a big rack of flip-flops (made in China, two for $5!) and, although I make no claim to any sort of exact chemical analysis, I am here to tell you that they stank of petroleum. At the register, I was given a receipt printed on so much paper that I could write this blog post longhand on the back of it. And then, on my way out, I spotted a tote bag for sale with some dumb "green" slogan on it—Clean Up the Earth or somesuch.

And that’s why I never go to Old Navy.

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