It was the middle of the night. It was around 3am and I couldn't get back to sleep so I stepped outside to have a cigarette. The clanking and clicking of bottles and cans got my attention first, then I saw a man on the sidewalk across the empty lot from me. I quietly stepped back inside because I didn't want to attract his attention.
He was clearly in the early steps of his current career... collecting refundable bottles and cans. We have a lot of folks doing that around here. They have huge trash bags full of cans tied to their grocery carts that are also filled with bottles. This young man looked like he only had paper bags. Drips from cans do not mix well with paper. I think one or more of his paper bags had ripped apart.
As I peeked out of the window I saw him trying to pack the bottles and cans into his clothing. I assumed pockets were used. I waited for him to finish and leave so I could then have my cigarette. Only he didn't leave.
The next time I stepped outside, the man and his collection were in front of the apartments. Wisely he had decided to move from under the street light to down the side street in the shadows more before trying something. He had his pants undone and was putting bottles down his pants leg. I don't know how he kept them from falling out at the bottom, but he apparently did.
I again stepped back inside... hopefully without him noticing me. It would be embarrassing to know someone saw your boxer shorts. (But that's an assumption.)
I waited. I continued to hear the bottles clank. He was having difficulty solving his problem... his problem of carrying gobs of bottles and cans without anything to hold them.
Then a thought popped into my head. Did Life move him closer to the apts. to kind of put him under my nose... so I couldn't ignore him? All he needed was a large garbage bag. Was I suppose to give him a bag? But its 3am, for gawd sake. A stranger, no less.
I checked in my drawer, the drawer of all bags, tin foil, and clear wrap. I had one garbage bag left... and it was from the dollar store so it was not very strong. I grabbed it and went outside.
I couldn't understand EVERYTHING the guy said, but he did step up and get the bag. That's when he said "I don't know what I would have done without you." Just call me Life Saver. (Oh, and he had his pants back up by then.)
As I lit up my cigarette he asked if I could spare one. I told him he could have the one I just lit up. As he stepped closer to me to reach it I could see his pants better. He looked like a dancer from the Arabian Nights or something... his pants were like pantaloons. Pantaloons that made their own music...clink, clank, clunk, with every movement. The legs were stuffed with bottles.
I then left him to his own devises and I assume things went okay, because he wasn't out there this morning... nor were any bottles and cans left.
I figure the young man is in the learning stages of this line of work and last night was a demonstration between the experienced and inexperienced. An experienced collector knows you've got to have the right equipment to do the job properly. The inexperienced just think you walk around collecting a few cans. I guess one could say this man was too successful for his own good. Perhaps tonight he will be armed with a few large trash bags. At least I hope he has access to trash bags. When you are broke, even the simplist of things can be out of your reach.