Trolley for trolley
Do you remember whose advertising campaign had this “trolley for trolley” as the signature phrase?
I’ve been walking my suburb. This is one of the great passions of my life – walking. Walking and seeing what lives in the world with and next and through me. Walking I participate in and with the Egyptian geese who gather in pairs on predictable chimneys; the fluffed up baby pigeons as they ready themselves to soak up morning sun and groups of casual labourers swinging plastic sarmie packets. There is the early morning parent driving sleepy eyed school children, determined to miss peak hour traffic and make it to work on time, pavement poppies push through cracked tarmac, tissue perfect and in the distance the train station intercom finds itself echo boosted on the early morning air.
Wednesday morning is garbage collection day where I live. Garbage collection happens in phases. Tuesday nights, together with scampering squirrels and laborious far distant police sirens, heavy black plastic dustbins with flip-flop lids are tugged to the pavement. Ours has a tear, a long deep tear in the plastic down one side. I’m grateful for that tear because it’s the only way to recognise my unceremoniously dumped bin from the others that crash into one another, post the noisy, grunting, stop-starting yellow rubbish loader pick up. A bit like bumper cars at the end of a round at a fun fare. Some people wait until Wednesday morning to put out the garbage. I get ready on Tuesday evenings. I’m slow to discover why some of these great black plastic pavement whales only surface in the morning?
It’s 04H40. I drift slowly to the surface of sleep. The soul soothing voice of the near-distant Imam is disrupted by a crackling and frummaging, clinking, clanging ruffle. Voices in a raspingly loud hushed tone bark at one another from outside the gate. It’s Wednesday morning I remind myself, the garbage collectors – the real ones - are out and about. By the time I get to go for my morning walk, the street is empty of its predawn raiders. I turn the corner and walk. Ahead of me on either side of the street a small gathering of early morning shoppers. Their shopping carts loaded, with plastic packets tied like bulging balloons to the sides of the carts. Heavy sheet metal balanced precariously atop crates, broken clay pots, pieces of discarded electrical wiring and someone’s discarded blow-dryer. Cardboard boxes seem to be at a premium, tied below the push bar, threatening to slip and spill out onto the tarmac. Intense focus and concentration as two women work together to fasten the cardboard, what looks like for the umpteenth time. They don’t notice me and their concentration remains unbroken by my self-conscious and barely audible “good morning”. Another two roads up and two more trolleys appear, teams of two, seldom one fill their carts with this morning’s shopping. I notice that each trolley has a stick, wedged firmly in the front, like an antennae, a personal trolley marker, I think. Most of the trolleys are of the metal kind, rickety, wheels that wobble and screech under the weight of this morning’s purchases. By now, my walk has transformed into trance terrain. I’m in this great big shopping mall called suburbia and each street isle holds the promise of a bargain, a special, a throw-away bicycle that can be sold as scrap metal. “Theres books further down” one man offers his fellow shopper.
And as is the nature of my reticular nervous system and the art of sign reading, I’m mesmerised. What, pray tell, I ask myself is the difference between this and Pick ‘n Pay or Checkers. Why am I experiencing this? What is it that I’m needing to see here? Trite and clichéd possibilities litter my mind. I’m full of rubbish, I think to myself. “The universe in her infinite retail intelligence wants me to understand that I was born to shop, in the natural store front of suburbia?” Beyond the smell of my own facetiousness, I notice the quiet efficiency that started before the sun rose, probably started the night before, the obtaining of a shopping cart, the holding onto the shopping cart, the intense planning, sifting, sorting, selecting and the physically exhausting tugging, pushing, balancing and negotiating of this trolley to the depots, the shacks, the recycling plant, home. My initial revulsion at the idea of scrimmaging through the weeks garbage gives way to curiosity and appreciation. On getting back to the house, I notice lettuce leaves and cigarettes stompies littering the floor, a plastic bag hangs torn and leaking dried filter coffee paper out of the bin. I’m irritated. “If you’re going to rummage in my rubbish, please don’t litter”, I admonish the imaginary morning shopper. I think of all the times I’ve unceremoniously dumped unwanted items of clothing back into a sale pile, quite smug that the sales people have a job to do and I have to be served for my pound of shopping flesh!
Later that morning on the way to the private practice, I notice a security company van with it’s hatch back gapping and stuffed with – guess what – a great big, grey, plastic Pick ‘n Pay trolley, lying wheels to one side and a discarded piece of stick on the pavement. I wonder whether there is a reward for returning runaway trolleys to their retail parents?
It’s Tuesday night again. Tomorrow is Wednesday. My rubbish bin with the tear down one side is on the pavement. A stack of cardboard boxes tied neatly together with rope wedged between the bin and the wall. Pieces of waste that I imagine might be useful to the shopper-in-me, I wrap and tie in separate bags. I’m thinking of leaving them near the top of the bin, to avoid spillage. Perhaps a second bin? My partner is thinking of purchasing a shopping trolley programme from some seller on the internet. We’re both designing shop fronts….what’s that saying about garbage in, garbage out?
By Jackeline Plank