Earth Day Birthday

This year, I worked on my birthday.  Happens all the time – adults often work on their birthdays.  I was spoiled in years past; my previous employer offered a day off with pay for birthdays!   But this year, I not only went to work, but I did a tiny bit more manual labor than usual.

My company’s HR department knew that we were expecting important visitors this spring, so they planned an “Earth Day” event that didn’t coincide with the regular recognized date.  But it did coincide with my birthday.  I put on the company t-shirt along with the rest of the crowd, donned a hat to keep the sun off my balding head, and picked up trash along the edges of the parking lot.  They joked later how that was my Earth Day Birthday. 

I have a long history of picking up other people’s trash.  As a Cub Scout, I received a badge for cleaning the environment doing just that:  picking up trash on the side of the road. (SOAR = Save Our American Resources; not sure if they still have that program or that patch for Cubs’ uniforms.)

I know it’s me, but sometimes it’s hard to believe. Oh well, no sense in denying my reality. I’d probably appreciate the hair-do if I had that much to work with these days. Cubs and Webelos were fun; I lost interest after a couple of years in Boy Scouts and didn’t get much past Tenderfoot.

Having owned a home on a busy suburban thoroughfare, trash would find its way along the edge of my property.  This concrete drainage ditch, spotted with some weak ground cover and weeds, on a small slope up to my yard would be considered an easement.  Not my responsibility, to many, but I thought it looked terrible.  And if I didn’t do it, who would?  So, many Saturday mornings, I would put on some disposable gloves, grab a bag and fill it with beer cans, fast food bags, and various other “tossings” from vehicles. 

One company I worked for trained its employees to ALL pickup any trash they found on the floor or in the parking lot.  I thought it was reasonable, so I usually did it.  Until Covid.  Masks are not meant to be picked up by me unless I had the right PPE. 

But my best “picking up trash” story hearkens back to my college days.  Scott Stadium in Charlottesville, where the Virginia Cavaliers play football, offered student organizations the opportunity to make a few bucks for their group if they would organize a stadium cleanup after the games.  The Fellowship of Christian Athletes – my peeps – signed up for a game each year.  We policed the rows, picking up all the cups, programs, popcorn – and made the place half-decent for the next event.

As leaders in our group, we would promote this event with announcements, but one year, we knew we needed more.  We came up with a skit that brought the house down.  A couple of us were also in ROTC, so we had the idea of marching onto stage with various cleaning implements held like honor guard weapons.  We were singing the military style chants (think Stripes), standing at attention while the “commander” barked out instructions, and maintaining straight faces throughout our jokes about trash.  Suddenly, the “commander” tossed a HoHo – still in its packaging – onto the stage.  “Live trash!” I yelled.  I took one for the squad, dived on the Hostess treat like it was a grenade, and acted as though there was a mini explosion under me.  I then stood up, and with the stoniest straight face I could muster, ripped the package open and shoved the flattened HoHo in my mouth.

The crowd erupted.  “How can you keep a straight face like that?!?”  (One military secret – most of us are ACTING with the angry looks and the barked commands – it then becomes learned behavior.)  We got the attention we needed on the event.  I got a little stain of chocolate on my favorite FCA t-shirt.

Maybe picking up trash has very little effect on the planet.  I’ll keep doing it.  Yes, it frustrates me when others put it there, and don’t consider picking it up themselves.  In my younger days, I only considered throwing apple cores out of the car window.  Now, in the Mini, I’d rather bag it and all my other garbage.  As I’ve shared earlier, there is something therapeutic about cleaning and straightening my environment.   ADD, ASD, OCD – either way, I think I’m helping – which is a happy place for me.

The actual Earth Day came and went without much fanfare on my end.  I had already lived it.  Keep shiftin’.

(I needed to get outside in my bare feet – see my earlier post Vacay Every Day – as I was finishing up the first draft of this post.  Guess what I did…I picked up trash.  Good re-use of a grocery bag, and good use of my time with my feet in the grass.) 

Published by Bart Shoaf

Blogging about victories and challenges as a middle-aged man with a late diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder.

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