“Hey, what the hell are you doing?” I yelled at the man rooting through my recycling bin.
Our trash, recycling, and compost are picked up early every Wednesday morning, so on Tuesday nights I put out the three bins provided by our city’s contracted refuse company. I usually put it out right before taking my dog out for the last walk of the night.
On this particular Tuesday night I was running late, so it was almost 10:00 by the time I wheeled the three bins to our curb. My dog and I went for our normal twenty minute walk down to the recreation center and back. And as we were approaching our house, I saw a man rifling through the stuff in the blue recycling bin.
He seemed unfazed as I approached my front door and let my dog inside the house. He didn’t seem at all bothered when I walked up to him and asked him what he was doing going through my recycling.
“You throw all this stuff away, right?” he said. “I’m pulling cans, plastic bottles, and glass jars out of here and hauling them to the recycling center. I get a nickel for each item.”
“I don’t like you going through my recycling bin,” I said.
“Why not?” he asked. “You discarded all this stuff and I never leave a mess once I’m done.”
“That’s not the point,” I said.
“What is the point?” he asked. “Look, I’m not homeless. I’m a cook at a restaurant making minimum wage. I have a wife and two kids. The money I make from collecting the stuff you and others discard helps put food on my family’s table and clothes on their backs. But hey,” he added, “if it bothers you that much, I’ll stop.”
Now I was feeling bad. How could I consider standing in the way of this man supporting his family? “Don’t worry about it,” I said. “Go ahead and gather what you need.”
I watched out of a bedroom window and saw that when he finished gathering stuff from my recycling bin, he went to my neighbor’s bin and rummaged through it. My curiosity piqued, I continued to watch as he moved up the block and placed various items from the recycling bins into the two large plastic garbage bags he was dragging with him.
But I was surprised when I saw him reach the end of the block. He approached a large, silver Mercedes Benz, popped open the trunk, threw both plastic bags into it, closed the trunk, stepped into the luxury vehicle, and drove away.
“Huh,” I thought.
Written for this week’s Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie Tale Weaver prompt. The challenge is to write a post about “the everyday, the hum drum, the necessary side of life that allows us to function in some sort of ordered fashion.”