Just a short note before bedtime. I went to do the recycling this evening. We used to have curbside pickup, but we had to pay for it, and they didn’t take paperboard, which was too frustrating for me to pay for when there’s loads of the recycle containers around the city, including a block away behind the firehouse. So I gathered up my blue box filled with “commingled containers” and went on over to the firehouse.
When I got there, in the alley in front of the dumpsters was a homeless, or semi-homeless, man with a shopping cart and a cooler strapped to the top. Huge black bags filled with presumably aluminum cans were on each side of the cart. If you’ve lived anywhere near a city or have seen Time Magazine or a news report in the last 20 years, you know what this looks like. But no guy with the cart. I approach. There’s noise, and I realize that he’s in the dumpster, which is almost empty, and tossing aluminum cans on the alley.
I put my few newspapers in the paper bin and set down my blue box heavily. He looks up and says, “Oh, you got some cans?” I tell him I have a couple, and he jumps out of the dumpster. “I’ll help you do it,” he offers. We sort together, even though everything in my container goes into that dumpster. He pulls out the 3 cream soda cans left over from our Memorial Day trip, and the rest goes into the bin..
“Hey, my name’s Larry,” he says. “I’m sure you’ve seen me around.” He has only one front tooth
“Yeah, I’ve seen you around.” I have.
He jumps back into the bin. I take my blue box and head home, thinking how things have changed. How a homeless guy pushing a shopping cart is no longer a threat. I mean, he could have been dangerous, he could have pulled a knife on me or something, demanded money or worse. I mean, anyone could. But the fire station was right there, the lights were on inside, I know how to run. And maybe I don’t need to be afraid all the time.
“Yeah, you’ve seen me around.” he repeats, throwing cans out into the alley.