Sunday, September 26, 2010

26 SEP 10: Piling On

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: We're on vacation, so the blogging pace has slowed for a few days. Today we offer Classic Blog from 18 Sep 06.)

"Does anybody plan to clean that up?" I asked a neighbor Sunday as I approached a shady tree at our apartment complex. A group of men spent most of Saturday afternoon there, and left beer cans scattered all around the tree - almost as if they expect them to grow into kegs in a few years.

"The Can Man will get 'em," my neighbor who looks 60-something answered. The Can Man?! To some people, this might sound like an industrial version of the tooth fairy.

Does your corner of Columbus have a Can Man? It turns out my neighborhood actually does - a man or woman who goes around picking up discarded aluminum cans, presumably for the recycling money. Come to think of it, there's also a bird feeder in the middle of my apartment complex. Except sometimes, men fire pellet guns at the birds....

I think I've seen the Can Man visit my complex from time to time in recent months. Someone walks up to the trash cans near the curb around pickup day, and probes around inside. Either he's looking for aluminum to recycle, or the convenience stores down the street should start offering inexpensive hot breakfasts.

Several years ago, a Can Woman roamed around the Historic District. My late next-door neighbor quietly left aluminum cans in a bucket outside the back door, and the Can Woman picked them up every week or so. Considering my 70-something neighbor sometimes asked me for loans to make it until payday, I wonder why she didn't go roaming herself.

There was a time long ago when I was a Can Man - not because I had to, but because I wanted to. When I went running in Oklahoma, I'd pick up recyclable cans left along the roadside as I jogged/walked home. It was an experiment in environmentalism - and in a big surprise, at summer's end the soda cans won more nights than the beer cans.

But I've never thought of intentionally leaving aluminum cans outside, for a Can Man to pick up. I suppose some people actually throw trash along the side of a highway as well, so those "adopt-a-mile" groups feel like they're accomplishing something....

Call me greedy, but for years I've saved aluminum cans in a giant trash bag and taken them to a recycling center myself [11 Apr 06]. It doesn't bring in a lot of money - but if I leave them in the city's blue bin along the curb, I don't get a penny. For a single guy, every free dinner at McDonald's matters.

And that's another thing - my "blue bin" for Columbus curbside recycling has been ignored by city collection crews so often, I don't leave it out anymore. I think it's because the recycling is aimed at homeowners. As if apartment dwellers and renters need to deposit our stuff outside Goodwill Industries, then shop there for low-budget clothing.

But while my neighborhood has a Can Man, it doesn't seem to have anyone picking up the other recyclable items for money. At least I've never noticed a Paper Boy - and Plastic Man is still merely a comic book character....

I counted about 20 tires stacked up near the Riverwalk over the weekend. My only conclusion is that the sewer workers found them, while doing their construction over the last several weeks. How some of those big tires wound up fitting in a sewer line, I have no idea....

We can only guess how those tires wound up along the Riverwalk. Some people may have carelessly dumped them in the Chattahoochee. Others might have in practice - dreaming of the day they can row their own kayaks through whitewater rapids downtown.

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BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: Suspended for vacation

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

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