Sunday, August 14, 2016

At Least I Gave

The piles of bottles and cans gave us pause. No problem, said the man at the recycling center, the machine is fixed and I'm going to crush them later.

An all-time record for me,
and yes, I showed ID
The wizened Asian man pushed in front of us. He had two baskets of cans. The recycling man weighed, bagged, and moved the cans to the back. The payment was $35, which under new procedures required the WAM to show an ID (to deter recyclables thieves who make repeat visits). The WAM acted like he didn't understand English, much less the request, so I showed him my driver's license, helpfully. Big mistake.

The recycling man returned the bags to the WAM, who increased his pleas both to him and to me. The WAM didn't have a car and would have to take the cans back on his bicycle.

Meanwhile, a line had gathered, and bystanders were shouting "He needs your ID!" as if decibel level raises understanding. The WAM refused to move or take back the cans. We were 40 minutes into what should have been a 10-minute process.

I had seen the wizened Asian man before in downtown San Mateo, 5 miles away. From the volume of cans, I knew he had stolen them from recycling bins in Foster City. It was impossible that he understood no English or that he didn't have some form of ID on him to receive social services.

I knew we were all being played. We were at a crossroads. In a few minutes the police would be called, or....

Signs of a hard life were rife, from the clothes he wore to his leathered face (he was probably younger than I) to his beat-up bicycle. I opened my wallet and bought his cans for $40. Xiè xie nǐ, he repeated over and over, bowing and scraping. Please, stop doing that, your gratitude is mostly phony.

Adding his cans to my meager recyclables yielded a personal record payment of $52.71.

Well, I didn't do as St. Paul advised,
Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver,
but at least I gave.

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