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No Loitering

KELOWNA, March, 2021. — We’d generated a list, so after breakfast we decided we’d leave Midway for Kelowna in the 3/4 ton. We took Highway 33 North from Rock Creek, via Westbridge, then slightly West through Beaverdell and Carmi to the Rock Creek/Kelowna summit. 

As we neared the summit, we saw evidence of the work of crews who have been busy ripping trails into the woods probably for logging but we saw no sign of the cow moose we’d seen before on each of our two previous Winter expeditions. She’d probably been scared off.

  From there we descended quickly, passing the Big White Summit, where so many Covid-19 infections had been identified this past Winter. We continued down through Joe Rich then carrying on down through the Black Mountain area of Kelowna, Rutland and into the commercial junk scape of Kelowna.

Our first stop was the Bottle Depot on Kent Street. We parked the truck in front of one of the NO LOITERING signs on one side of the building and carried the had one very large polyethylene bag packed almost to full capacity.  

Our collection included beverage containers made of glass, polyethylene, aluminum and a vile, industrial sandwich sold as a “Tetra-Pak”, which is made of paperboard, (75%), polyethylene (20%), and aluminum (5%).

Inside, we sorted the containers which for our purposes fell into two main categories:  ‘Clean’  and ‘Absolutely’ filthy.

The ‘clean’ containers were filled with empties that we’d accumulated since December, 2020 and were mainly made of aluminum or glass.  They were pop and beer cans mainly, with a few wine and liquor bottles mixed in.

The ‘absolutely filthy’ containers were also made mainly of aluminum or glass, but also of many made of P.E.T. (polyethylene terephthalate), a synthetic resin. 

The worst of these might include empty beverage containers filled with piss and tossed out the window by truck drivers unwilling to stop, but most were simply pitched from vehicles once they’d been emptied and picked up months later after being covered with a Winter’s worth of road spray and spending the Winter buried in the dirty snow.

 These, over the course of 1 hour I’d picked from ditches and shoulders of the Crowsnest Highway No. 3 a long a distance of no more than 1 kilometre.

I’m very pleased the government of British Columbia has mandated an economy for beverage containers because it gets more of the used materials: glass, aluminum, and plastic to, back into the manufacturing process and out of the litter stream.

An extension of this is it  but also gives me an  excellent incentive to get some fresh-air, sunshine and light exercise at the same time.  

Picking up cans on the side of the highway is a lot like gardening , except the main crop is mainly aluminum, glass and plastic, not fruit and vegetables.

We cashed in our empties and received $20.25 cents. To prevent touching during the plague, the money was passed to us in a grey, polyethylene plastic basket from the dollar-store. It had been extruded in China to resemble a real basket, one hand-made out of woven reeds.

My companion on this trip made a lunge for the money, but I turned quickly to one side.  “Hey!”, I said, “I already bought your Breakfast!  This belongs to me!”  

That’s what I said, and I believed it,  but I didn’t realize until we went outside that it wasn’t actually true. The twenty dollar bill didn’t belong to me, any more than any of the ‘clean’ or ‘absolutely filthy’ beverage containers we’d cashed in ‘belonged’ to me.  

It was only being handled by us until we passed it on to someone else as part of a transaction, hopefully a ‘mutually beneficial exchange of values’. 

In the end, we spontaneously decided and agreed the $20 actually belonged to the very old man loitering near the truck with a sign taped to his walker. The sign read: “I need some money”, as candid, and honest a statement as I’d recently seen. 

I noticed the man had hooked the right rear wheel of his walker around a parking curbstone in the same way I often do when I’m turning left and forget that I’m driving the truck and not my much smaller car. I fail to account for my truck’s long box and forget to drive far enough out into the intersection to clear the invisible ‘pivot-point’, just past the truck’s mid-point. When I start turning right too early, as if I was driving my much shorter car, the left rear-wheel invariably gets caught and climbs the curb, much to the annoyance of my travelling companion.

The old guy looked very frail. I hoped he would realize his walker was hung up on the curbstone and adjust it a bit so that he wouldn’t fall when he tried to move forward.

“No 85 year old guy pushing a walker would make a sign that said ‘I need some money’ unless he was telling the truth’”, said my travelling companion.

I agreed. So we gave the deposit-money to him.

By Paul David Steer

Paul David Steer lives in Midway, British Columbia.

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