I have a magical effect on children.
The day I became Chico’s most notorious canner, I went to an art reception in the evening. On the way home (and I DO have a home) I decided to do some canning. I can’t seem to help it. There are garbage cans at the curb in front of the house, right behind the PG&E office. People seem to think these are receptacles for general use and they leave lots of stuff that’s of great interest to me.
Anticipation bubbling in my breast, I eagerly approached the trash can first, reach-extender at the ready. To my left, two figures darted: a mother and daughter, fresh (apparently) from the Thursday Night Farmers’ Market. The little girl, about 8 or 9 years old, was holding a frothy, half-finished white drink with a straw sticking out of its bubble top.
I’d gotten the lid of the trash can partly open and the girl, without so much as an “excuse me,” pushed up to me and started to toss her drink away. Then she paused and cast an upward glance at me. In a sweet voice she queried, “Do you want this?” My face must have set in a hard expression because she drew away a little.
My first thought was, “Who do you think I am, kid? The garbage fairy?” Instead I said aloud (but somewhat curtly), “No. I can’t sell it.” She looked at me as if she didn’t quite believe that, but threw the drink out anyway and skipped off to get into the shiny car her mother was firing up. She threw one last suspicious look at me before they roared off.
This was not my first encounter with a snotty child. Some time ago as I was unlocking my P.O. box at the Midtown Station, a squeaky voice behind me demanded, “Is that your shopping cart?” I turned around to see a 6- or 7-year-old girl scowling at me. “Yeah, it’s my cart,” I replied grumpily. “I’d like to see some proof,” the determined urchin shot back.
In vain I looked to the adult accompanying her, who was smirking a smirk that plainly said, “Atta girl! Give it to that worthless bag lady.” I was hauling one of those little, wheeled, wire grocery baskets beloved of little old ladies. My brother had bought for me it at Collier’s.
Years ago some old coot wrote a letter to the editor of the Enterprise-Record with the solution to the “homeless vagabond” problem. All those people hanging out on street corners begging for spare change? Get ‘em jobs! There were plenty of employment opportunities in want ads in the E-R. Just have those worthless bums take those advertised jobs and—voila!—we’d get the indigent off the streets.