Cities and suburbs, real and imaginary.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

save the earth, save himself

a homeless guy walked past the ritzy museum district café in the early morning when men in suits – like me – and women in gym clothes staggered up to the espresso machines for open eyes.

7:53 am, and the homeless guy is up and moving hard. He’s got plastic bags in his hand that look full of trash. He doesn’t look people in the eye. He goes straight to the trash can. He peers into the cans. He darts around a little, like he’s still too proud to rummage deep. He sticks a pencil down into the can – deep into the can. His shoulder-length hair brushes against the edge of the can.

he emerges with a single soda can caught on his pencil. He sticks it into a bag. He walks fast. he avoids the contractors speaking Spanish like old friends around someone’s gorgeous white chevy.

remember the observation of poor places: when paper is too valuable to throw away, we are in the third world. In America paper is everywhere. In Europe paper flaps around like pigeons. In Calcutta, streetkids look for anything fibrous, like paper to recycle it.

this homeless guy is dumpster diving for old soda cans.

watch yourselves, voting public, for if soda cans is too valuable to throw away, paper isn’t far off.

still, if i had been sitting on the patio, i’d have stopped the guy to give him a dollar. i would have told him that i wouldn’t have given him a dime if i hadn’t seen him saving the world one soda can at a time, and wished him god’s grace. maybe next time, i’ll be sitting outside and i’ll see him again.

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