Pick Up the Trash
When I was about five years old, I told my mom that when I grew up, I wanted to be either the President of the United States or a garbage man. Nearly four decades later, I am an attorney — which I suppose is someplace roughly in between my dream jobs as a five year old — with certain correlations to both career paths. Recently, my daughter’s kindergarten class of 20 each had to draw a picture of what they wanted to be when they grew up. Those drawings were then collected together into one booklet which was sent home with each child and collectively shared with each family. Many of the girls, mine included, would like to become teachers.
I wrote before about my good fortune in living close enough to my office to be able to walk to work during the summer months. Although the neighborhood I live in is far from ideal and actually has a fairly high crime rate (two arrests earlier this week that I was able to watch from the comfort of my bedroom window) — it has some benefits being less than a half mile from my work and from my daughter’s school. We walked to school on many of the nicer spring days this year, but yesterday was this first day of summer vacation and the day care center is a bit farther from home at about one and a quarter miles away.
Even though it is more than twice as far as she is used to walking, I was able to talk my six year old into walking to day care yesterday morning instead of driving and we enjoyed the morning sun and some daddy/daughter conversation along the way. When we walk, she often notices and comments on any trash or litter that we see in the street or along yards and fences that we walk past. Yesterday morning she commented about a cigarette butt rolling down the road and was genuinely distressed that people throw those into the street and sidewalk rather than into the trash. She has become very litter conscious through her first year of school.
A few weeks before, she asked me about the different trash containers that people had in front of their houses — some are green, some are blue, some are just loose piles of plastic trash bags with no container. I explained to her that different families have different companies pick up their trash based on which service they sign up with. (In this area, trash pickup is not a city provided service — it is independently contracted with a number of different providers vying for our dollars. So there are often 3 or 4 garbage trucks that service a single neighborhood.)
Because of the shape of our house and garage along the front sidewalk — with the front steps to our house recessed behind the extended garage wall — quite a bit of paper wrappers and other light weight litter accumulates near our front doorstep (along with tree leaves) as the wind blows. With our house being the school bus stop for the whole area and the fact that many of the kids don’t seem to share my daughter’s aversion to litter, we always have a fair share of trash to pick up and throw away through the course of each day. Yesterday morning was no different.
After dropping my daughter off at the day care, I returned home to get myself ready for work. With the sun out in full force by the time I was prepared to leave, I put on my sandals with a pair of shorts and a t-shirt. I folded up my “attorney appropriate attire” and put it into my backpack along with a packed lunch. I generally keep a single pair of dress shoes at my office to change into so that I don’t need to carry those back and forth. I tossed my watch and wallet into the front zippered section of my pack, plugged in my earphones to listen to the morning radio news, and was off to work.
As I came out the front door, I saw a garbage truck turning the corner onto our street — my five year old dream job! I crossed in front of the truck to the other side of the street and made my way down to the next intersection. The garbage truck slowed as it approached my location and the guy on the back hopped off to pick up a load of trash bags. He was a young guy, probably only a few years out of high school if I had to guess. We made eye contact and nodded acknowledgement to each other as I approached the corner, my attention already moving toward the street I needed to cross with morning commuter traffic and the Cedar Point tourists driving through town toward the park.
I then heard a guy shout out twice from behind me. As I stopped and turned around, the young garbage man leaned over to the sidewalk about thirty feet behind me and picked up my wallet where it had fallen out of my open backpack pocket. He looked back up to me and reached out in my direction to hand my wallet back to me.
I thanked him a few times and then I thanked Him a few times. If I had been just a minute later leaving the house or the garbage truck had been 30 seconds earlier down our street, I would have never known that my wallet fell out of my bag. It’s certainly possible that someone might have come along and found it and my identification inside and turned it in. It is also just as likely, if not more in that neighborhood, that someone would have found it, helped themselves to the debit cards inside, and dropped the unwanted stuff into one of the trash bins along the street. What’s more, given that I sometimes leave my wallet at home or lock it up in my car’s glove box for days at a time if I don’t need it, I might not have noticed it missing until this weekend or later. What a coincidence (*not*) that the man coming to pick up the trash — just doing his job — came along at the exact moment he did and only had one stop to make at the end of my street where my wallet decided to try to escape!