I SLEEP WITH a woman who is worried about the fate of the planet and so is trying to avoid the purchase of plastic and if I dispose of a Post-it Note she fishes it out of the garbage and puts it in recycling, which I go along with because I don’t want to sleep alone. We lie in bed and I look over at her listening to the CBC and a long report on the melting glaciers, and I drift off to sleep. When I go out on the road, I miss her and so I am a slave to her every wish. If she tries to convert me to veganism and I have to sneak over to the dark side of town for a 16-oz. porterhouse and cover up my breath with Sen-Sen, so be it.

But the other day she told me that cotton is a bad fabric, that to grow the cotton to make three pairs of jeans uses more water than a person will drink in a lifetime. And dreadful chemicals are employed in the making of denim.

“What am I supposed to wear? Silk?” I said. She told me that silk is more sustainable. So is linen.

She is very conscientious, turns off lights, worries about the diminishing bird population and whether a person of conscience should fly or not, and reads every dire newspaper article about global warming.

But cotton?? I love cotton. Jeans are my uniform. I walk down the street in old faded jeans and a black T-shirt and I am 25 again, a young attitudinous writer. I am not going to take up silk pantaloons just to save on water. Linen is for old segregationist Southern senators. Not my fabric.

She tells me that science has discovered how to make a fabric that is very leather-like, using mushrooms. Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom moccasins? What’s next? Broccoli briefs? Succotash socks?

It is discouraging to contemplate the damage my generation has done to the planet. We’re the rock ’n’ roll generation, the Beat generation, the protest generation, and all those people wore jeans. They thought that jeans were righteous symbols of their solidarity with the working class. To wear a wool suit would’ve marked them as management. Wool is better, ecologically. Denim is poisoning the planet. So much for self-righteousness.

I was thinking of this Saturday as I drove around lost in the Berkshires, on little country roads on a beautiful autumn day trying to find the town of New Marlborough. I was driving a rental Volvo with a dashboard that had me flummoxed and the GPS lady on my cellphone was yelling at me to “Resume the route!” and meanwhile I was low on gas. I’d been to Yankee Stadium the night before to watch my Minnesota Twins go to pieces against the Yanks, before a sold-out crowd of Yankee fans who booed Minnesota and everything else beginning with M, including modesty, good manners, mindfulness and their own mothers.

In a just world, my team would’ve pulverized the Yanks and sent that crowd home mournful and meditative, but no. This, plus global warming, was all on my mind as I turned onto Main Street in Lenox, and there I saw the sight that redeemed the whole weekend.

It was a gas station. I pulled in, looked around for the button that unlatches the gas tank cover, and a tall skinny kid appeared at the window, and asked how he could help. I said, “How do you open the gas cap?” He reached in and did it and went to the pump and grabbed the nozzle. The last time I saw a kid pumping gas at a gas station was back during the Johnson administration. His name was Jimmy. He had a big smile.

“Regular?” he said.

I said, “Fill her up with regular.” The moment I said it, I felt the world become kinder and gentler. He told me this was his first job.

He’s sixteen. I said, “You must be the best friend of every old lady in Lenox.” He laughed. “Forty-three bucks,” he said. I gave him 50 and said thank you. One small kind deed changed my whole weekend around. Is it only coincidence that Norman Rockwell lived nearby in Stockbridge?

Anyway I feel unaccountably happy that in America, there is still a kid pumping gas. Don’t give up, folks. Wear your jeans for a week between washings and save on water. Be prepared to be unexpectedly delighted.

© Garrison Keillor