I love Cheezits and Dr Pepper. There were times in college where I would go for weeks subsisting on nothing but Cheezits and Dr Pepper. I think that deep down inside, every man has a suppressed diet left over from young-manhood that consists of two pseudo-food elements. For my father it is Hydrox and Squirt. For me, it is Cheezits and Dr Pepper.
Tonight I anticipated a marathon session of web design, so I went to Safeway to grab some soda. Dr Pepper was on sale (24 cans for seven dollars! that’s a dollar a cavity!) so I grabbed some, went to checkout and prepared my dollar bills for the discounted transaction.
“Eight twenty, sir.”
“How the hell did seven become eight… oh, right. Bottle deposit.”
For a second there I forgot what state I live in, and I had forgotten the lovely bottle deposit program of Oregon. You see, everything that comes in a bottle here is subject to a five-cent bottle deposit. Well, they used to call it a bottle deposit, but then they shortened it to “deposit” after people started arguing that cans aren’t bottles, and plastic bottles aren’t bottles, and glass bottles aren’t bottles, and this beer really sucks anyway so why should I have to pay an extra five cents, etc.
I hate the deposit. Every time I see DEPOSIT 60 CENTS come across the screen at the checkout, I want to hop over the conveyor belt and strangle the clerk with his apron. The logic of my emotions on the matter are not nuanced. The bottle deposit gives the government money. I hate giving the government money. Ergo, I hate the bottle deposit. I also hate social engineering, but that’s an unprovoked rant for another day.
I’ve neglected to mention the other important half of the deposit. You see, a deposit implies that I’m putting money aside to be retrieved later. It’s not a bottle tax, per se, as there is a way I can get my money back. The way is through machines. Have you seen these machines? They are remarkable pieces of work, as large as refrigerators stacked on top of washing machines stacked on top of trash compactors, with the greatest redeeming qualities of each.
These Great Machines are the only devices on Earth with the sheer mass, noise and stickiness required to convert hornets into nickles. In the dead of August people approach these machines with garbage bags full of hundreds of syrup-filled pop cans, and with yellow jackets buzzing all around, proceed to stuff these cans (nay, bottles) in these Great Machines.
Under ideal conditions, the machine will accept a can, shudder violently, and turn a hornet into a bright and shiny nickel. More often, however, the machine will curse and spit out the can and make the hornet good and angry. You see, the machine is full of lasers and mirrors that tell it to only accept cans and bottles that were purchased at this particular grocery store. Even then, lasers and mirrors aren’t all that bright, and will often reject cans who’ve suffered abuse and neglect. Also, perfecly valid specimens (like Squirt) that aren’t popular enough to cause any huge amount of public outcry, will also be rejected.
Long story short, wrestling nickels out of these machines is a hot, sticky, smelly, frustrating experience. What we have here is an ingenius infrastructure for involuntary taxation. The method for taking your money for the deposit is devilishly efficient, well-developed and foolproof. You go to the grocery store, you buy some Dr Pepper, the clerk scans the Dr Pepper, the scanner adds the deposit amount to your bill, and unless you want a free ride in a cop car, you don’t choke the clerk to death and you pay the damn deposit.
However, the method for returning your deposit is a horrid experience, lousy at best, wrought with hornets and sticky floors and a strange-smelling mix of stale beer, Coke residue and B.O. It’s like going to the state fair, only without mini donuts and farm machinery, or like going to the movies, only more expensive. All it takes is one double-thick leaf bag to spring a leak in your car and cover everything in sludge, to convince you this is no way to earn a buck.
Now, I like recycling. I love recycling. I grew up doing it curbside, and it makes me feel really good in that social justice kinda way. What I don’t like is being fined for not recycling in the sticky, miserable, financially mandated way. I’ve often pondered the alternatives, such as cupping my hands underneath the fountain drink station, or bringing in my own cloth grocery bag and filling it up just the same.
I’m all about closing the loop on recycling. Unfortunately, in this instance my capacity for rage is a fusion reaction that needs to find an outlet, lest it spiral out of control and destroy the entire closed system along with it. Nay, I’ve found that the best emotional outlet here is to participate in an unthinkable method, an approach that Erik and I formulated during our time at Lava House:
I take the can. This precious, five-cent can.
I crush the can.
I take a deep breath.
I throw the can in the trash. Do you hear me? The trash.
I exhale. And I feel so much better.