250 gallons of garbage
In the last six weeks, I’ve picked 250 gallons of garbage off the streets and sidewalks of my neighborhood, one 13-gallon kitchen trash bag at a time. Perhaps pounds would be a more useful measure, but my operation is not yet sophisticated enough to include a portable scale. Or one of these things, which could also be handy when there’s wind.
Fertile ground for imagination
I encounter things on litter-picking walks that challenge my abilities of storytelling, such as:
What sequence of events possibly leads to a dozen used, empty paper coffee cups, complete with plastic lids and the 2×2 cardboard carriers they came in, strewn about a corner of a parking lot?
Trash in smaller, single-person-sized quantities I can easily understand: A candy wrapper tucked almost apologetically into a shrub when there wasn’t a garbage can nearby, or one takeout container flung out a car window by an idiot. Unfortunate, but comprehensible.
But how do you get a dozen used paper coffee cups spread across a couple parking spots? Barring the possibility that one careless person purchased and then drank, in a parking lot, 12 coffees before energetically going about his day, we’re left with… what? A meeting was called and twelve people gathered in a not-so-scenic parking lot, shouting to be heard over traffic noise from the nearby street? Business having been conducted, they all concluded the meeting by throwing their coffee cups high into the air like graduation caps? After which everyone walked off in different directions, not one in 12 stopping to consider whether the used coffee cups perhaps ought to be deposited in the garbage can that’s just over there?
This is an unsatisfying, implausible explanation. One in 12 would think to clean up, no matter how dastardly the group. Even if it were a group of embezzlers or people who run leaf blowers at 9 PM. The fact of picking up after them doesn’t trouble me at all. I’d just like to be able to imagine what even happened!
And that’s what keeps me out hitting the streets, looking for answers. They call me Chris W., the Trash P.I.
The museum of other people’s stuff
While I’m thinking of discarded things, I just glanced around the bedroom I’m sitting in and spied at least six furnishings picked up for free from sidewalks and driveways: two chairs, two bookcases, two wall shelves.* All acquired opportunistically, catch-as-catch-can, in separate excursions over the past couple years—and you might not believe it, but they don’t even look that mismatched.
My favorite item is a particular bookcase, for the magical origin story tied up with it. Perhaps I’ll tell you about that sometime.
*If those sound like furnishings more befitting a library than a bedroom, that is… not accidental. Library is the aesthetic. If they made cushier books, I wouldn’t even need a bed.
If it’s not too much trouble
Will someone find Brian Laundrie already? I have seldom seen a person who looks like so many other persons. Personally, I am glad to not be a skinny, bald white guy in that age range right now.