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in america

September 2, 2012

First, you need to read this. Because it’s where a post like this should start.

I love the way she says, at the heart of her description, that this is a man at work.

Get a job? I can hardly think of a worse one. People started showing up to look through recycling bins, not too long after we got curbside recycling. First downtown; now, I guess, everywhere.

A lot of people object strenuously, with true middle class outrage. I admit I felt some self-righteous counter-outrage, that anyone would have a problem with a person in need looking for a few redeemable bottles to lift out.

Around here, someone usually comes by at two or three in the morning. I’m often up at that time, sitting at my desk facing the street, so I hear them banging the lids as they go from one house to another. Occasionally, no one shows up till after sunrise– that’s how I got these pictures.

I was totally fine with it till one night, a few months ago, I was looking out my window as he came to my neighbors’ cans, and saw him taking tied bags out of the GARBAGE, emptying them out into the can, grabbing what he wanted out of the debris, and then snitching the bag.

OK, apparently I have some residual bourgeois tendencies, because I was FREAKED, and furious.

You want to lift a few plastic bottles off the top of my recycling, I guess I can live with that, but I want the garbage to stay in the garbage. That’s why I put it there, and tied it up: some things need to never see the light of day again.

The last time I was up at 2:00 AM and he came by, he saw me at the window and said something to me, and I told him I wished he wouldn’t do that. Friday I saw him coming by about 8:15, so I grabbed my camera and ran out the front door. He was already several houses away by then. I didn’t go all human dignity on him and ask his permission, because he was out in the middle of a public street, messing with OUR cans, and I was chasing him dressed in a boy’s undershirt and a skirt made out of a forty-seven year old muumuu.   And I wasn’t really sure if this was a documentary photo shoot, or an unfolding citizen’s arrest.

If he saw me, he totally ignored me. I get the feeling he’s used to ignoring people.

When I realized what he was actually doing, I told my friend downtown about it. She says several of her neighbors sit out on their porches together for hours every trash day morning, in order to prevent it. Like me, they’d thought of just leaving a separate bag of CRV bottles that were easy to pick up, but that only worked for the first person who came by. Anyone after that went right back to the old routine.

I’m not sure what else to say. Is this what it’s come to– sitting in front of our houses defending our garbage from people who don’t have houses?

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