Because They Can, can…

Every morning and especially on garbage pickup days Those who can, can.
Those who can are the can and bottle collectors who roam and forage through the recycle trash in the ‘hood’ in search of the 5 cent deposit payoffs.

Those who can are young, old, Black, Hispanic, Asian, White, women, men and women with children in tow pitching in. At times, it seems as if part time and full time working shifts are in place, for those who can are usually seen at the same time every day.

Those who can push shopping carts with plastic bags draped to the sides, others carry large bags in a variety of colours strapped to their shoulders and some just use the pockets in their clothing. I smile and say Good Morning to the ones I know. I yank up the blinds at my window to reprimand those who I do not know because they left the lid off our garbage recycle can after raking through and getting the 5-cent deposit payoffs.

I use to view Those who can as outcasts in society akin to Those who feed birds, unable to navigate through societal demands or culture.  They were the people who had to support their escapism by way of drugs, alcohol or in the case of Those who feed birds through birdseed.

Due to my unemployment at the time and in need of running shoes, I decided to try my hand at being a Those who can. A relative who lived in the basement was a heavy beer drinker and partied on the weekends in the basement with other heavy beer drinkers. By the end of Sunday, the “garbage recycle can runneth over” with the discarded 5 cent deposit payoffs.


Collect all the cans from the relative after the weekend before he throws them out then go to the local supermarket to retrieve my five cents of payoffs. Two hundred 5-cent deposit payoffs equals $100 crispy brand new dollars-viola or vola!-new pair of running shoes!

It did not work out that way…

After collecting gazillions of 5-cent deposit payoffs from the relative and dumping them into 55-gallon trash bags, packed in my car no less, I drove to the local supermarket and stood in line at the return machine. I was overly dressed with clean clothes compared to the others who stood in line and I wore makeup with lipstick to boot. Finally, it was my turn. I unloaded a can from the bag and slid it through the slot.



Numerous cans attempted kicked back the same message. A Those who can next in line advised me to go the Walgreens a mile over and try their machine. I guess it was obvious from my reaction at the rejection notice that I was an inexperienced Those who can who had no plan B.

I jumped in my car and drove to the Walgreens.




On my way to the Queens Center Mall, stop in at a nearby supermarket.


Okay, enough with the error messages.  I tried six other places until I realized the cans had to be returned to the place of purchases.  Needless to say, the beers that were once in the cans were purchased at various beer outlets. No return machines there.

I returned home, bags of cans in tow and into the garbage recycle bin they went.

The next day, the bin was empty. Those who can completed their rounds. The job does not stop at the local supermarket but begins with the back and forth travel to numerous places, returning cans and bottles.

Those who can, have my respect. I was not able to accomplish what they do on a day-to-day basis-heck I did not even make five cents. I had a car, did not go door-to-door collecting cans and had 55-gallon trash bags at my disposal. Those who can, work hard.  I gave up.

Eventually, I purchased my ASICS running shoes but felt no satisfaction at acquiring them through borrowed money.



3 thoughts on “Because They Can, can…

  1. What a great lesson. Those who can (and are willing) are the ones who move forward despite adversity. It’s amazing the respect we might find for others if we suddenly needed to do what someone else does in order just to survive. That’s when “that’s not as easy as it looks” becomes clear.

  2. Hi there, just became aware of your blog through Google, and found that it’s really informative. I’ll be grateful if you continue this in future. Lots of people will be benefited from your writing. Cheers!

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