Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Garbage


I have a basket on the handlebars of my bike. It's delightful; now instead of lugging groceries on my back, I toss them in the basket and can barely notice the extra weight.

There is however, one downside to having a basket on the front of your bike and that is that random people on the street seem to think it's their own personal garbage can. I've actually written about this before, back in my first year of grad school, when I first found some trash (a salad cup) in my basket.

What is it with people and trash? Why do many feel they have the right to dump their shit in my basket? I can't grasp it. I don't see what the big deal is. Why can't we deal with this like grown ups? The trash doesn't just vanish once it leaves your hands. The trash you stick in my basket, I have to deal with, the trash you drop of the ground everyone has to deal with.

At Brooklyn College, there weren't trash cans too nearby where I parked my bike but there were trash cans around somewhere. It was after all, a college campus in a major city. Here in Philadelphia, the city just spent a pretty penny installing solar powered trash cans and even recycling bins all throughout center city. There were two garbage cans and a recycling bin not twenty feet from where my bike was parked at the time the person dropped what appeared to be an empty glass bottle of juice in my basket.

I feel I expressed my ire and confusion well a few years ago when I first wrote about the bike dumping, so that's reposted below:

The Bicycle As Trash Can


Some one decided yesterday to use my bicycle basket as their own personal trash can. I vaguely remember thinking, during class, at some point, how it is odd that no one has done so yet, and then, be it by my ESP or Murphy's Law, someone did. On my way home, I saw that someone had tossed a small plastic cup into my basket. The cup looked like it held some small salad consisting mainly of iceberg lettuce before this person consumed it and, not seeing an actual trash can nearby, but apparently too conscientious to chuck it on the ground, placed it in my basket.
This plastic cup in my basket probably does not seem like such a big deal but I think it points to a larger issue. Someone had a problem: an empty, unwanted plastic cup, and no trash can. Instead of holding onto this cup until they found a garbage can, they eliminated the problem from their end by placing the cup in my basket. Thus, they passed their problem off to me, an unwilling participant. I am now stuck with either tossing the cup on the ground (and risking a fine and also being labeled a litterbug) or finding a trash can home for it. I chose the latter.
The Cup in Basket is an illustration of how we're taught to live, or how we've taught ourselves to live, or how we've bent the "system" to fit our sniveling, selfish lives. From an early age, we see that we can pass problems—with our teachers, with our friends—off to our parents, who sweep in for a parent/teacher conference or make a call to the offending friend's parents. Even as we age, and such parental involvement should cease, it does not (in some cases), and we have people like Tyra Banks devoting TV shows to "twixters," people old enough to care for themselves but still living off of their parents, still removing issues of life from themselves while not actually removing or solving the issues.
And I suppose similar things occur in the "real" world: lazy co-workers mess up tasks and leave them for their colleagues to fix, presidents start one war to distract the masses from another. And I suppose the question is how do we fix this pattern, how do we get people, ourselves, to stop leaving trash in other people's baskets?

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