When I was a kid, back in the 1960’s and early 1970’s, bottle picking along the road was a regular pastime. I grew up on a relatively busy highway, at least for our part of rural Ontario. A long walk, on a sunny afternoon in the spring, could yield a few dollars worth of bottles. Many of these were pop bottles, worth a deposit of a couple of cents. The big ones, those 26 ounce glass bottles, were a real find because they were worth a whole dime. Mixed into our collection were beer bottles too. Stubby brown bottles, still holding a yeasty smell foreign to our noses. They went into our feed bags as well, dragged home and returned….well, I don’t know where we returned them. The pop bottles went to a local variety store, but our household had little to do with beer, and I really can’t remember where those bottles went.
On a bike ride yesterday, as the snow melts off the side of the road, I notice the treasure trove is still there, but it has changed. There are more beer bottles now, beer cans too, and hardly any pop bottles or cans. Of course the latter aren’t worth anything at all and often end up being mulched into the sod by roadside mowers in the summer, but I am surprised by the number of beer and alcohol bottles.
The local drive-by–don’t even get out of your truck to make a pick up–bottle picker has already been by. I saw him. Yet, on a bike ride yesterday, I was able to count more than ten bottles and or cans emerging from the snow every kilometer. In an age when drinking and driving is socially unacceptable, where a single impaired driving charge can effectively ruin your life, how is this possible? Can drinking beer be so important that the bottle is best held between legs extended to a gas pedal, underneath a steering wheel? Are the risks involved providing some sort of thrill?
I do know this area has a problem with alcohol use. According to the police reports there are a surprising number of older people charged with drinking and driving. These are not necessarily high school kids out gravel running.
I really don’t see the same density of empties anywhere else as I travel slowly by bicycle. I wonder what it is about this area that makes this problem so much more obvious. I have traveled in many other parts of Canada and the US and nowhere are the bottles and cans more numerous than here.