Monday, January 2, 2012

Does Your Coffee Lose Its Flavor on the Trash Can Overnight?

What Did You Crave This Holiday Season?
Could It Be Contained in a Cup?

Petty annoyances in life abound, but one I confront almost every week is the empty trashcan and recycling bins sitting at the edge of the street. We’ve been here a few years, but every week, I feel like I’m telling my son something new: “Bring in the trash can and recycling bins.” He takes the full ones to the street, and for that I am grateful. I will scrub a toilet, clean up dog barf, scoop and change cat litter, scrub floors, and dispense with giant spiders and other uninvited pests, but I loathe going near the trashcan, much less touching it.
I might spy the can and bins outside late Friday after the sanitation workers have ended their day, and unless I remind my son to bring them in, many Saturday mornings I look outside and see the upended can and bins. It looks tacky when the can and the bins remain at the road’s edge, and if irked enough, I fetch them from the street myself, and moments after the deed is done, I race to the sink and scrub my hands.

I do not live in a gated community, or a Stepford neighborhood, but most of the homes are fewer than 10 years old, and most streets have several undeveloped lots. Few roads are paved and for the most part, I don’t see much littering. When I do, I wonder what possesses anyone to whip trash on the ground. From my perspective, even one paper cup, one can, one bottle, one fast-food wrapper is too much. I am too often reminded that not everyone shares my perspective.
Saturday morning when I stepped outside to walk the dogs, I again for the 80th-something time noted the can and bins at the street. At first, I didn’t notice the ornament on the can’s bottom. As I got closer, I saw its bright red beacon: an empty coffee cup from the world’s largest fast-food vendor.
Most mornings, I’m out before first light to walk the dogs, so whomever left the cup probably did so the night before. It’s dark at night on these roads, but the skies have been clear and the stars bright the last week, so the can, although dark itself, must have been just visible enough to present itself as a place of rest for the refuse.
I cannot claim ever having tasted this particular brand of coffee, nor is it likely that I will at any future date. I also admire the effort of the person who put the cup on the trashcan, rather than toss it to the ground.
I often look for life lessons in what I see around me on a daily basis, and when I consider this cup on the can, I find it funny, clever, and sad in a way—sad because I know that much of what we “crave” during the season just past has so little to do with the cup, what it holds, and what it represents.
I also feel grateful because what I crave during most seasons and the most treasured gifts I receive—time with those I love—goes far beyond this cup and its message.

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