I bought my wife, Gwynne, a new Jaguar automobile. I could tell she was pleased even though she'd told me she wanted a Toyota.
"Let's go for a drive," I suggested.
Gwynne smiled and asked, "where do you want to go?"
"Oh, around the block."
"I've got an idea," she offered. "Safeway doesn't take pop cans anymore. A friend at work told me we could take them across the river."
"You want to drive to Portland in your new Jaguar to recycle cans?"
"There's no place in Washington that takes them anymore."
So Gwynne laid newspaper over the carpet of the Jag's trunk and put in three large plastic garbage bags full of empty pop cans. First, she wiped the bags down real good with a wet cloth to get the sticky off.
The Janzen Beach Safeway is just across the Columbia river in Oregon from Washington. It had a full wall dedicated to plastic bottles and cans. Those Oregoners take their recycling seriously. Immediately I saw there was quite a backup of people waiting patiently in line to get to the recycling machines. Most of them had grocery carts filled with old bottles and other refuse. Upon close inspection, it was clear that this was the main revenue center for the area's bums, transients, and assorted indigents. There were no other cars. Gwynne parked her new Jaguar in a vacant space among the carts. I looked at Gwynne to see her reaction. She seemed oblivious to the situation so we proceeded to unload the garbage bags.
"Nice car," commented an unkempt man in dirty clothes and overgrown beard.
Gwynne smiled and waited our turn in line.
Despite Gwynne's efforts to clean the plastic bags, they were still sticky, which rubbed onto my clothes as I patiently waited my turn. It was hot and the place was swarming with bees. Finally, a machine opened up and I took my place. Gingerly, I reached into the bag to avoid getting sticky and took out a can. Uncertainly, I placed it in the slot in the machine. With some apprehension I watched the can as it was grabbed by some callipers, whirled, and finally knocked into a hidden bin. "These Oregon recycling machines are really something," I thought.
Although I was careful, old pop and goo was soon running down my arm. The machine's ministrations of each can took several seconds and I had hundreds of cans. The heat was causing me to sweat. Surprised, I felt a tap on my shoulder. Turning, so as not to spill my delicately balanced can sack, I was confronted by a pair of homeless men staring disdainfully at me.
"Hey, buddy," said one of them. "You got yourself a big load there. Mind if I squeeze in for a moment with these few here? I got a powerful thirst." The man raised a couple bedraggled Pepsi empties.
"Sure," I stammered.
In my struggles to get out of the way, my cans spilled all over the ground. Frantically, I began gathering them. When I finally looked up, the place was eerily vacant except for me and a Safeway store employee.
"Those Oregon cans?" he demanded.
"Let me see them." Abruptly, the store employee reached into my torn and tattered sack. "These here are foreign cans," he said accusingly.
"Uh... Well... Uh... I was just trying to recycle."
"You can leave the Oregon cans here but you take those others away. Go over to that gas station to sort them out." He strained a smile then left.
I stood there stunned, sticky sweat pouring down my back, wondering about what had just happened. There was a garbage pail a couple of yards away. I threw the plastic garbage sacks full of cans into that and went home