Wednesday, September 11, 2019

This Morning in Capitalism

I'm a creature of habit. This is particularly true because another creature of whom I'm very fond depends on me quite a bit to help him out. I walk him morning, afternoon and night if I'm free. Because work often makes me less free, my wife helps me out most weekday afternoons. When I have PM meetings, she often covers for me then too. But when school's in season, I'm almost always out on the street with him in the pitch black at 5 AM.

I'm not the only one up at that hour. I don't see many dog walkers, but now and then there's someone as crazy as I am. However, there's a big business collecting bottles and aluminum cans, which carry that five-cent deposit. I leave them in our recycling bin, and by 5 AM they're already gone. This bottle and can collection is serious business.

There's a young woman in a GMC van I see on the canal all the time. As far as I can tell, she's the most active of the three collectors I regularly encounter. The other morning I was trying to cross the street with Toby, and she came up the street maddeningly slowly. I wanted to cross, but unlike some people, I have this thing about walking in front of moving vehicles. I'm not Blanche DuBois and I'm loathe to depend on the kindness of strangers. Eventually, though, she passed us and my friend and I were able to cross the street without incident.

She's the most visible, and likely the most ambitious of our three bottle collectors. She spends hours out there. I know this because in the summer I was out around seven and I'd see her scouting for opportunity. Once or twice I've seen her in the afternoon, checking to see what she and her competitors left behind, or perhaps trying to find things before they waited until morning.

There's also a man who looks to be in his eighties. He drives a late model Toyota Camry. I often wonder why someone who can afford a relatively new car needs to collect bottles. Perhaps he doesn't need to and just does it for fun. Personally, the fun part of dredging through trash cans eludes me. If that's the case, though, is it ethical for him to compete with those who really need the money? Or did some generous relative simply gift him the car? Why didn't that person also gift him a little spending money too?

The third person I know is a really shadowy and elusive figure. The dumpsters for the Tropix bar are all the way in the back of a paved parking lot, a full block away from the club itself. Some mornings when I walk by there, I see a figure with a flashlight rattling through the dumpsters, and I hear the unmistakable rattles of cans and bottles being tossed into plastic bags. It's a little scary because all we can actually see is the flashlight. Actually, the last time I looked there seemed to be multiple flashlights, so perhaps this is a group effort. (After all, team work makes the dream work.)

Being as you can't actually see that person, or those people, it makes me a little nervous to walk by. But I've got Toby with me, and he's not afraid of anything. He barks at big dogs as if to say, "Yeah, I can take you. Come here if you dare." I think he's nuts, actually, and I tell him so. "Can't you see how big that dog is? Are you out of your mind?"

Collecting bottles is hard work. To make 15 bucks and hour, you'd have to collect 300 of them. To make 20, 400. It seems like there must be better ways to make money. I suppose there are worse as well. I wonder why such a culture exists while we're running around making America great again. Wouldn't America be great if we all had health insurance? Wouldn't it be great if everyone could afford to make ends meet without collecting aluminum cans? Wouldn't it be great if we didn't have to divest ourselves of all our worldly goods to merit half-decent end of life care?

Maybe we need to make America decent instead of great again. Again or not, who cares? It's really sad that so many people have to live like that in the richest country in the world.
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