Saturday 20 July 2013

Bottles and Cans

I can’t remember the first time that I realized that with a little work I would be able to get candy whenever I wanted to. It wasn’t too hard to find bottles that people had tossed out the car window at a stop sign, and return them to the smoke shop for a couple of cents and then uses those cents for candy. Pennies went a lot further in those days.
Of course it was easier to ask mom and dad for money to buy candy, but not only were they cheap, but they had no desire to have one of their kids on a sugar rush at bed time. Bottle collecting it was then. I usually went collecting with my buddy and shared whatever riches we found. Never too much, but always something we could trade in and satisfy our sweet tooth.

Bottles have remained a very tiny income stream for me over the years. Beer bottles have always retained their value even after they had been drained. My brother and his roommate would line the dining room walls floor to ceiling with empty beer cases, only returning them when no more would fit in the room. If I remember correctly, the LCBO/Beer Store would send out a truck to pick up the empties if you had over a certain amount. That was a haul, even though it wasn’t mine. It did teach me the value of bottles.
When I was delivering mail many years later, I started to pick up glass empties on my walk to prevent them from being smashed by kids. I figured that if I were picking up the bottles then I might just as well pick up the cans. It was never a lot of money, but I was keeping my little corner of the world clean and getting far below minimum wage doing it.
When I was a Venturer (scouts) leader, my buddy and I were contacted by the Scout shop to pick up cans and bottles from the high rises downtown. It seems that although the office workers liked their beverages, they weren’t interested in hauling bags of smelly cans home on the Light Rapid Transit at the end of the day. This is where we came in. We worked at a job that gave us a good portion of the afternoon off and we were willing to collect the smelly cans and turn them into cash for our young men and ladies. It was quite lucrative and if I had any drive or ambition I would have pursued it on a more permanent basis. There was one building where the guy wanted us to come back on a daily basis but we could only use so much cash for the group. Our Venturers made more from the cans than the rest of the scouts in our area made from all the other fundraisers combined. The group committee tried to commandeer the money, but we refused and promised that they would get a share if there was any left at the end of the year. There was.

Today Louise and I saw a guy collecting bottles and cans at the side of the highway. That in itself isn’t too unusual, I have done that myself figuring that I can go for a bike ride and make a buck or two for coffee. This particular guy however was in one of those three wheeled electric scooters that the near handicapped use. The side of the road isn’t really conducive to small wheeled vehicles, especially one that is being piloted by someone that can’t do anything if he gets stuck. I have noticed that more and more older and now the handicapped people are trying to get money that we toss out the window or in the garbage cans.
What does that say about our society? What does it say about Alberta, which is arguably one of the richest provinces in Canada? No one should be obliged to search along a highway to get enough cash for food or even extras. I have always done my scrounging for bottles and cans further afield, but I suppose that in the future I had best take it even further, or not at all.

Nah…that’s crazy! Free money is free money, and I can still get candy with it.

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