Extended surreality…

by Yule Heibel on August 10, 2007

I had a very strange experience today, lasting over the course of about an hour or two. I don’t normally ride the buses here — either I walk, or I walk, or sometimes I walk. When that doesn’t work, I will drive. Today I had to ride the bus to pick up the car from a regularly scheduled service so that I could drive it home.

As I wait by the bus stop — downtown, at the Fort and Douglas intersection — I see a girl I just know I’ve seen in a TV show. That is, she looks exactly like someone I’ve seen in a TV show …and never mind that I don’t get TV. But you know, …there’re video rental places, right?

A million buses go by, and finally “my” bus arrives. As I board, I see this guy get on who I swear is the 200% double of Rudy on Shop Around the Corner. Spitting image, total body double. A short while later, another guy gets on who is the double of a peculiarly crazed character on The Avengers. I think. (In this episode — he played the maniacal homocidal blacksmith.)

And so it went.

Everyone looked like someone else. Very very bizarre.

The guy who looked like the fellow on The Avengers especially spooked me. Why? I had seen him yesterday. He was in front of me at the Bottle Depot, where I had gone (driving, yes, in my car) to drop off two or three or more weeks worth of “empties,” including Tropicana OJ containers, many wine bottles, and several Tetrapaks of apple juice.

An aside: In BC, we pay a $0.05 to $0.20 deposit on all returnable/ recyclable containers, excepting milk products — the Milk Board made sure they were exempt. This deposit is returned if/ when we return the containers either to the store where we bought the item in the first place, or to a generic Bottle Depot. The latter have become magnets for the increasingly large army of “binners,” marginal or a-social people who pick through other people’s cast-offs, looking for “returnables.” The binners are often homeless, often drug- and/or alcohol-dependent, and they typically use (stolen) shopping carts to wheel their goods to the Depot. In some ways they perform a useful function since they do salvage returnables that some people simply throw out, although people typically throw these items into the curbside recycling bins. And if they’re in recycling bins, they get recycled. If they’re taken to Bottle Depots, they get recycled. The only difference is that the Bottle Depot pays you for the empties (or, more factually, reimburses you your deposit, which you paid at purchase), while the recycling service doesn’t pay you. When the binners snag returnables that you’ve decided you’re not going to redeem because it’s too much bother, they “earn” the refund money.
Many people are fed up with standing in line to redeem their empties’ deposit, and after yesterday’s experience, I’m one of them. I returned $13.65 worth of stuff — it was a trolley full of bottles and plastics. I thought it was a significant amount of change. But the guy in front of me — the one who looked like he had been on a bender for the past ten years and had washed perhaps once in all that time: the same guy who got on the bus with me today looking like the mad blacksmith in “The Town of No Return” — he returned over $80 worth of scavenged returnables. He hauled an incredible amount of stuff into the Depot, which on top of everything was swarming with wasps trying to feed off the rims of soda cans and wine bottles. Everyone and everything seemed to be feeding off something else: the great chain of garbage, nature at its finest. And yes, this is natural.

My plan has always been never to stand in line at the Bottle Depot again: I plan to build a small recycling station next to my garage where the binners can scavenge the empties. They can have the $0.10 per bottle, and I don’t have to take them to the Bottle Depot (or return them to the grocery or liquor store). But after seeing this guy yesterday, with his $80.65 in scavenged bottles, I wonder what exactly I’m supporting if I do that.

Meanwhile, as the bus continued, the whole Felliniesque circus played on. Everyone had at least two roles, some had three or more.

My service bill for the car was also surreal: $500.

But hey, I can drive to the Bottle Depot…

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