Walla Walla neighborhood neighborhood

Living next to a recycling center, as I’ve mentioned before, is fascinating for its ethnographic opportunities. We see a specific kind of person venturing here: because it’s only supposed to service the college, the managers of the center have posted signs not to dump here. So the people who pull in at all hours of the day and night, are doing something very strange—they’re recycling, which is good, but they’re using a facility not meant for them, which is wrong. They make their way down the gravel-lined alley, frustrated that they can’t approach in stealthy silence, unbuckle their seat belts, for one should click it or ticket, and quickly remove their folded cardboard, tossing it over the chained and locked fence, before scrambling to get back in their Volvos, Saabs, and BMWs, acting like they’ve just bought a dime bag in the red light district. I can barely fathom such inconsiderate but ecology-focused behavior.

My favorite dumper, if such a thing is possible, is a man who comes by in the spring and summer, with a faded yellow bike jury-rigged to a red wagon. He wears only overalls, sometimes wet at the cuffs from standing in the nearby stream, and work boots. A neighbor posited that he is only “two clips away from fun,” because he’s obviously not wearing a shirt, and possibly goes without underwear as well. I had no idea why he kept coming by with boxes until I saw him one day in a coffee shop, collecting recycling for the transaction of a Mountain Dew. He does the dew. And then it was like looking through the lenses at the eye doctor’s office, and I could see—he goes around town, collecting cardboard, getting a few bucks for it or a soda, and this is his hobby.

He’s very regimented about how he disposes of the boxes. When the college wanted to stop the flow of recyclables coming to the center, it installed an 8-foot fence that it could close when the sole part-time employee left for the day. This was like putting up a Kleenex as a room divider. People just toss boxes over the fence, or push them through the gaps in the gate. They, for their trouble, look an extra modicum of guilty, but they do it nonetheless.

But my wagon man was thrilled. No more simple, setting the box on the ground. Now he could fling them over with gusto! Even when he comes by and the gate is rolled back, he still stands next to the fence and one by one, tosses them like frisbees. If he doesn’t like how they land, he’ll walk in, pick them up, and toss them again. In a sea of entitled people who ought to know better and use the city recycling center, I enjoy that he enjoys the cardboard fling so much. And I wonder who takes care of him.

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One Comment on “Walla Walla neighborhood neighborhood”

  1. sebastian
    September 11, 2009 at 3:32 pm #

    Ask your friend Lea to tell you about her run in with the cops in Chincoteague, for illegal dumping at the city dump. It was pretty much a Alice’s Restaurant experience.

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