On a bad day
On a bad day of picking up litter, I am not conspicuous enough. Far from taking special notice of my activity, people barely even notice my existence. As I stand waiting at a crosswalk, an unbroken chain of cars zips around the right turn through the duration of my “Walk Now” light, forcing me to wait for the next signal. A mile later, I am tending to a druggie parking lot when an SUV driven by one of the regulars comes barreling in at full speed, missing me by a couple feet and seemingly not even beginning to decelerate until it screeches into a spot 50 feet away.
On a bad day, the messes are extravagant. I cannot excuse them as “Well, maybe someone dropped that without noticing.” Entire fast food meals are dumped and smeared across expanses of sidewalk. Someone has thrown five pumpkins off the top of a parking garage. I go to lift a stack of wet paper towels off the pavement and, as it finally peels up, I immediately smell poop.
On a bad day, none of the people who smile and say “thanks” are out. Everyone I encounter is in the throes of some mental health crisis, yelling obscenities for no clear reason. I avert my eyes and give them a wide berth, hoping to escape their angry attention.
On a bad day, the whole thing feels like a slog.
And on a bad day, just like on a good day, I carry out 13 or 26 gallons of trash that used to be on the ground but isn’t anymore. That has to be the payoff, because that’s the only part I definitely know will happen. I can’t count on only having good days.
What cars do is collapse time. From here to the end of the street is eight seconds, give or take, with houses whizzing past and people, including that odd guy who’s trying to cross at the corner, barely even registering as blips on your glass screen. As long as you don’t hit any of the blips, your insurance premium will not rise and you’ll arrive at your destination (which is not here) on time.
Walking, by contrast, expands time. From here to the end of the street is two minutes if you hurry, four if you lollygag. Either way, you feel like you’re here. Business signs can be read all the way down to the small print. Houses stand out from other houses as individual personalities. Conversations of passersby can be overheard, and the ambient noise of this particular place can be appreciated. I notice much more of my environment when walking through it.
Picking up litter expands time even further. Ordinary walkers seem to fly past, undetained by the sight of a mere Skittles wrapper or Q-tip. From here to the end of the street could take 40 minutes if I really hunt down every cigarette butt and scrap of food wrapper in every sidewalk crack and sewer grate. Usually, I don’t get so granular. I catch what I can, walking at half speed and aiming for the biggest stuff, and circle back for more on later walks. Sometimes, I knowingly leave things behind just to see if they will still be in those same exact spots a week from now. If they’re still there, I win the prize of knowing that I was the only one who slowed down enough to notice them. Then I pick them up.
If a horse-and-buggy man in a horse-and-buggy realm living at a horse-and-buggy pace saw a NASCAR come tearing down the street, his response would not be “What an important person to be traveling at such speed!” or “How much more could I accomplish if I had one of those!” Instead, he would probably think “What a very strange, reckless person.”
This is the experience of seeing a car, traveling at 45 miles per hour, blasting its horn at another car, for the offense of traveling at only 38 miles per hour, when you are on litter-picking time and have been tending to the same stretch of sidewalk for the last 20 minutes. The pace of life in those other realms seems absurd. Why so rushed?
Seating for 14
A sudden need to liberate garage space has our living room crowded with 14 more chairs than are strictly necessary, given the number of residents and the tendency of each to use no more than one chair at a time. Despite our technical capacity, it would be overstimulating to host 14 visitors at once in this space. But it could be fun to have just one of you come over and rotate between 14 different seats. Inquire within if interested.
For my fellow (or former) Californians, have you searched your name and the names of your loved ones in the unclaimed property database at the State Controller’s Office?
Basically, by law, banks, insurance companies, corporations, etc., deposit property with the state when accounts go inactive or they lose contact with account owners. “Property” includes bank accounts, stocks, bonds, uncashed checks, insurance benefits, wages, and safe deposit box contents.
I am certain that some of you have funds just sitting with the state that you could claim. (And by “certain,” I mean that I already checked.) Take a look. You may be surprised.
If you have an investigative streak, you can also look up famous people in the state and see what relatively consequential amounts of money they’ve forgotten in various places.