Attending a tribal funeral on the island of Celebes, racing camels at dusk in Jordan: Mary Margaret Cowhey, a vice president of Chicago-based Land and Lakes Co. and a longtime member of the board of the Environmental Industry Associations’ Women’s Council, certainly has not lived a dull life. Cowhey graciously agreed to be the subject of our monthly lighthearted Q&A, in which she divulges the details mentioned above and also fills us in on a newsprint-phobic customer and the important role that Diet Cokes plays in her life. Read on for all the entertaining details …
Waste Age: What is your pet peeve?
Cowhey: I have never understood why store clerks hand you change on top of paper bills rather than giving it to you in your palm.
Waste Age: What is your idea of the perfect day?
Cowhey: Traveling someplace I’ve never been before, eating something new, learning something entirely different.
Waste Age: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Cowhey: “A kick in the behind still pushes you forward.”
Waste Age: What was the last book you read?
Cowhey: “Masters of the Air” by Donald L. Miller. It is the story of the Eighth Air Force bomber crews in England during World War II. My dad was one of these guys. Wish I had asked him more about it before he died.
Waste Age: What is your favorite movie?
Cowhey: Don’t have one, but the final family-in-the- kitchen scene in “Moonstruck” is marvelous.
Waste Age: What is your favorite TV show?
Cowhey: That changes frequently. Currently, I’m on a “Pawn Stars” kick.
Waste Age: Beatles or Rolling Stones?
Cowhey: Beatles. Absolutely, the Beatles.
Waste Age: What is the strangest piece of trash you’ve ever come across?
Cowhey: The strangest thing was actually a call from a customer who insisted that we return to pick up her neighbor’s recycling. She was very apologetic and said she knew that the neighbor had placed her bin out too late for collection. Nevertheless, the caller needed us to come back immediately because she had a newsprint phobia and would be trapped inside her home until the neighbor’s bin was emptied.
Waste Age: Do you prefer the beach or mountains?
Cowhey: The mountains. My sister and I share a place in the Austrian Alps.
Waste Age: What is the one thing you couldn’t live without?
Cowhey: Talking. I love the art of conversation. That and Diet Coke. I’m somewhat of an addict.
Waste Age: If you could invite three people — living or dead — to a dinner party, who would they be?
Cowhey: Dinner with dead people? I prefer dining with the living, thank you. And, I could never limit it to three. Large dinner parties with multiple conversations going at once are the best.
Waste Age: If you weren’t a vice president of Land and Lakes Co., what would you like to be?
Cowhey: If I had the talent, I’d love to be a novelist.
Waste Age: What is your favorite sports team?
Cowhey: Chicago Cubs.
Waste Age: If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
Cowhey: Stopping time. I tend to run late and this would be the perfect remedy.
Waste Age: What’s the most adventurous thing you’ve done?
Cowhey: Years ago I attended a traditional Toraja tribe funeral on the island of Celebes [in Indonesia]. These are rare and amazing ceremonies. After giving the tribal head man a gift of a carton of cigarettes, I was given a place of honor sitting amid the ashes of the water buffaloes that had been sacrificed as offerings to the dead.
Waste Age: What’s the one talent you have that not many people know about?
Cowhey: I’ve ridden camels often enough that I’ve actually been able to gallop on a camel. We raced at dusk through the stone chasm at the ruins in Petra, Jordan, before the security guards could catch us.
If you have suggestions for future interviewees, send us an e-mail at [email protected]