Monday, January 19, 2009

If It Walks Like A Duck... Then, No... I'm Not Looking For Pot.

One of many great advantages I've discovered about Blogging:
An acute case of laryngitis doesn't have any deleterious effect.

Ahh... Life in the microcosm that is Haight Street...

In the wee hours of last night... or perhaps it was later (earlier?) than that...

And, I am startled to semi-consciousness by an all to familiar CRRAASSHH!... Preceded by a nanosecond by the screech of wheels... and followed by the scraping SSMMAACCKK! sound of bare metal impacting the concrete of the sidewalk and accompanied by the multiple notes of the widely-scattered tinkling of now-exploded and jagged shards of glass.

No. It wasn't what you might think. There was - thankfully - no car/bus/motor- or bicycle accident. (Though there have been plenty of those.)

No, these were the sounds of a late-night, beer-buoyed, independent, glass bottle recycler's overloaded metal shopping cart suddenly (and very loudly) biting the dust and spewing its bounty of bottles - now in the form of jagged chunks, shiny shards and tiny slivers - across a wide swath of both sidewalk and street.

Previous experience has taught me to already know what was coming next... The explosive SSCCRR-BBLLAAMM! which would smash through the quiet - amplified by the soundwaves bouncing off of the the buildings - every time a late-night delivery truck, N-Owl Muni bus or slow-cruising taxicab determinedly stalking its prey - rolled a heavy, black tire (or two) over the larger chunks of glass. This was because the passing pissed person - who only moments earlier would have done whatever he deemed necessary to protect the catch in his cart from any would-be marauders - now couldn't be bothered to pick up the pieces. No, the broken bottles were now so much spilled milk. And now? Now, he had to put pedal to metal and work to replace the loss. So, off he went... with the rattling and clinking of his now much more-manageable shopping cart of bouncing bottles trailing off as he searched for more treasure.

As someone with a canine companion, I cringe whenever I hear these sounds.

It boggles the mind how many otherwise seemingly coherent/fully-functioning people apparently see no problem with dropping/throwing/breaking bottles on our sidewalks and in our Parks... and then... nothing - they just depart for whatever it is that their mysterious thought processes proclaim is 'important', 'worthwhile' or simply 'fun'... and - without any misgivings - they abandon their contribution to the community: jagged chunks, many-pointed pieces and razor-sharp slivers scattered across the ground we all walk on. All of us. Some with two feet - usually with shoes on, but not always... some can't afford them. Some with four feet... well, Paws, actually - almost exclusively without shoes. No Nikes... Just pads of soft skin and tufts of fine fur... Nothing that - in any way - is able to cross paths with broken glass and... forget walking away the 'winner'... in fact, in many cases you can forget walking away altogether!

In spite of my constant vigilance when out with my dog... Jessi has stepped on broken glass at least three times. When it happens, she instantly starts favoring a paw. Since she's a bouncy one, depending upon her level of pain, it can be hard to tell if something's happened or not. If she's in acute pain, she'll stop doing doggy things and stop walking - other than coming to me, leaning against my legs and not moving. If I even have an inkling that something's up - I'll immediately stop, kneel next to her, lift each paw and carefully and gently check each pad and in between... twice.

On two occasions, I was able to remove the painfully paw-piercing piece. The third time, we were four blocks away from home and, suddenly Jessi pressed against me and wouldn't budge. She maintained a look directly into my eyes - something she NEVER does - and I knew. I checked her paws twice... nothing. I stood up and... Jessi wouldn't budge. I checked her paws again - this time with a flashlight - and found a small hole with a ring of blood around it. Whatever she had stepped on had pierced the skin pad, gone into it and disappeared. No wonder she wouldn't move.

If you've ever stepped on a piece of glass/a sliver of wood/a toothpick or anything sharp and felt it slice open and tear into the tender skin on the sole of your foot... you might empathize. And, hopefully, you would never be so heartless as to leave anything so menacing in your wake (Especially in Parks, where such hazards are multiplied as they are then hidden by dirt and grass.).

But, I digress.

The whole jacknifed shopping cart, bottle spillage and the menacing mess left behind had an encore performance earlier this evening - different cart, more bottles, more foot-flaying flotsam left behind. Although - to the careening cart-driver's credit - he did make an effort to pick up some of the bigger chunks of glass. Unfortunately, he then tossed them on top of the bottles remaining in the cart, where they shattered even more, and the shards and slivers rained back out through the ribs of the cart. Pure Genius.

With this menacing, if not colorful mess growing, I grabbed a broom, dustpan and paper bag. Passers-by had a variety of reactions to me. Some looked confused. Some looked amused. (Most of these appeared to be shoppers, diners, couples, groups of friends.) Passing cars slowed to a crawl. Some (those with dogs and/or who live outdoors) smiled and said "Thank You." and/or "You Rock." One man in particular stood out among them all. I'd already spent about 20 minutes on the clean-up (There was a lot of glass.) and was nearly done when he walked by. "How much do you get paid to do that?", he inquired. "I don't.", I replied matter-of-factly and mildly annoyed at the question. Since when must someone get paid to do the right thing? "You're not getting paid?", he seemed incredulous. "Then, what are you doing it for?, he continued, Are you looking for pot?"

I kid you not. He really asked me this.

Now it was my turn to be incredulous. I stopped sweeping the now sizeable pile of glass chunks and litter - all of it thoroughly wet and covered in grime, took a deep breath, looked at him and spoke slowly: "No. I'm not looking for pot. I'm sweeping up broken glass (apparently the broom, dustpan and jagged chunks weren't a dead giveaway after all). I have a dog and many people around here have dogs. I'm sweeping up broken glass so that none of them step on it and cut open their feet." (Simple, concise and to the point, I thought... that, and I hadn't even hit him with the broom.)
His reply?
"Oh. Okay. I get it."

Moral Of The Story:

Well, there are two. One is Practical. One is Philosophical.

First, the practical one: Clean up after yourself... And, if it's within the realm of your means and ability... Be The Change You Want To See and Clean Up the mess left by those whose only Contribution to our Shared Environment will be as Fertilizer. (Especially in your own community. Hopefully, doing so will inspire copycats.)

Secondly, the Philosophical: Found in this Blog's Title, which says...

"If It Walks Like A Duck..."
... Then, No... I'm Not Looking For Pot.


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