Saturday, March 10, 2007


A year ago this time I was working a job collecting plastic bags from the perimeter of a garbage dump. The memory sticks with me still.

It was cold, so cold. The temperature, with wind chill, was below minus 40 degrees. On a day when neither man nor beast would be caught outside, the management of this dump saw fit to hire some temporary labour (obviously neither man nor beast) to improve the aesthetics of their pile of refuse.

What happens is that when the wind blows, it picks up paper, foam, and plastic bags and carries them off the landfill and into the neighbouring trees (or fenceline, if they have one). Dumps call this detritus "flypaper". Passersby complain at the unsightliness of plastic-festooned trees, and so unfortunates like myself get the job.

I have a variety of impressions from that day ... the extreme cold, the numbed cheeks (upper and lower), the stiff joints ... the guy working next to me who had holes in his boots and who had to stop frequently to restore sensation to his frozen toes ... the desolate feeling of trudging around a landfill, which is our civilization's excrement, reduced to cleaning up the detritus that the landfill has rejected ... the post-apocalyptic sight of men, alone in a barren and desolate wilderness, buffeted by snowy gusts of howling wind, bent double to stuff their garbage bags with flypaper.

Never have I felt so alone, so futile.

And I think I have earned my hatred of plastic bags.

- V.

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