Baltimore City has finally — finally — upgraded its recycling system, introducing the one bin/all materials system used in most Maryland counties. But, this being Baltimore, we had to stand on line this weekend to get the bins.
The good news is that a lot of people in Baltimore want to recycle. I got to one of the distribution centers five minutes before the process was supposed to start, and a long line had already formed. How long? I waited for an hour and fifteen minutes to buy my bins. (Yeah, we have to buy them, too, whereas some suburban counties got the receptacles for free.) But the company was good — lots of conversation about climate change, smart high school students selling coffee and baked goods and massages (!) to finance their eco-mission to Costa Rica — and people were extremely orderly.
One father and his young son did a celebratory dance when they got their bins, as if they had just won the lottery. That was Gallant.
Then there was Goofus, the father who slimed up to the man just ahead of me, when we were about five mintues from the head of the line. “Hey, Uncle W–,” he said, although the man was evidently a neighbor, not a relative. “Can I just horn in here?”
His neighbor was clearly uncomfortable. It wasn’t just that people had been waiting in the cold for over an hour; they city had run out of smaller bins already and, despite assurances, looked to be at risk of running out of the large ones. (Bureacratic line of the day, when the small bins were no longer available: “We have plenty of small bins,” announced a city official. “We just ran out.”)
“Do you think that’s really fair?” I asked the man. “So many people have been waiting for so long.” This didn’t seem to faze him. “Do you think you’re setting a good example?” I pressed, glancing at his young daughter.
Others said similar things, but he was a man beyond shaming. He even said. “So it’s not an ethical issue,” when we indicated that two people behind his neighbor were buying bins for friends, but that was an arrangement made before the line had formed.
The man left for a moment to go to his car, leaving his daughter behind. “I feel very awkward,” his neighbor said, and those of us nearby assured him that he had been put into an impossible position. We were careful in our rhetoric, as veiled as possible, but I think the girl knew that the people in line were not fans of her father.
Stories of attempted interventions in public spheres, please, after the jump. And to the man who jumped line: You looked incredibly stupid in that hat.