Coffee Table Declarations
Sunday, September 25, 2005
About a month ago, my friend and I signed up to volunteer for a few hours cleaning up the area around a large river. Yesterday was the day the event took place and the hours were supposed to be 9 - 2. However just getting there was a comedy of errors for us.

I was ready to go and waiting on my friend when she called me from home at 8:45 to say she had just woken up. At that point I was ready to write the whole thing off wondering what I was thinking signing up to do unpaid physical labor so early on a Saturday morning. But she was insistent on going.

By the time she got to my place, and we had stopped at Dunkin Donuts for coffee, and we had found the place we were supposed to meet the other volunteers, and we had parked the car a mile away in a free parking lot, it was after 10. To make matters worse, I was wearing the stupidest choice of shoes. The activity coordinator said to wear sturdy shoes and I knew that they should be shoes I wouldn't care about getting grubby. Therefore, I didn't want to wear my favorite (and only) pair of sneakers which are maroon and purchased on zappos at a huge discount. I had instead selected an old pair of black slip on shoes with thick solid soles that I've had forever and were basically on their last leg.

What I didn't realize was that my shoes were impossibly uncomfortable for walking any distance. I hadn't expected walking to be involved and continuously berated my decision as I hobbled down the road. Finally we made it back to the meeting spot and there were no volunteers to be found. We had the cell phone number for the activity coordinator... back in the car.

After another walk back to the car in the dreaded shoes I was at that point, really pushing for calling it a day and going out for breakfast. But my friend, good person that she is, offered to call the guy and just tell him we had car trouble or something and did they still need us to come? We were expecting to get his voicemail or at least have him say not to bother at that point but instead he was delighted to hear from us and eager to have us join the effort. So eager in fact that he called her cell phone twice while we were once again enroute, just to make sure we were coming.

We finally found the group and were greeted joyously. I realized that in the world of volunteer work late truly is better than never. We were told what to do - we were supposed to be cutting the over growth with hedge clippers in the area between the road and the river. The area of course happened to be on an incline. In my stupid shoes I nearly tumbled into the river several times before even getting started. Hearing my distress the activity coordinator said he had another job for me instead which was really a blessing in disguise.

He led me to a flatter surfaced area near a bridge that was covered with trash and gave me gloves, a trash bag, and a stick with a little spear at the end for skewering the trash. Then he wished me luck and left me there by myself. I know picking up trash isn't the most glamourous job in the world, but it was certainly easier that pruning shrubbery on a slippery incline. Plus, I enjoyed working by myself and not feeling like anyone was watching my progress.

And I found some interesting things! There were plenty of papery objects which were easy to spear but there were some things a bit more challenging. I discovered that if you step on a beer can so it is dented and can't roll away, it can be speared quite easily. I found that fabrics are tough to spear and you really have to give it your all, and that empty glass liquor bottles can't be speared at all and have to be picked up by gloved hand. I even found some used condoms and the top of a syringe. (And in case you were curious, condoms can be picked up with a spear, but syringes can't.) I also found some unused condoms still in their packages and I drove my spear through their centers I thought to myself, "well these won't be preventing any venereal diseases or unwanted pregnancies."

I found what must have been a homeless person's domicile. There was a large spread of flattened cardboard boxes laid out on the ground about the size of a bed. There were also boots (standing up about feets-width apart as if someone had been wearing them when they just happened to spontaneously combust), a pair of jeans laid out neatly, and even a pair of underwear. I was half expecting to find a dead body or a limb or something. If I have ever felt like I was on an episode of CSI, this was the time.

All in all it was very exhausting but very satisfying to see the end result of a trash free natural setting. It really made me wonder what the heck is wrong with people that they can so casually litter nature with such horrifying objects. I did feel a little bit bad that a homeless person was going to arrive later and find that his bed and boots had disappeared. But on the other hand, I noticed a small bunny hiding in the grass who stayed nearby watching me most of the time. So I felt really good that I rid his habitat of used condoms and hypodermic needles.
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