30 3 / 2012

You know how sometimes, when you’re having a feeling — say, anger — your consciousness seeks a target in the outside world on which to place that uncomfortable feeling?

My consciousness found its target this week.

After spending several hours last week picking up garbage in my neighbourhood, only to witness a new wave of debris floating in a day later, I was feeling raw.

So, one sunny morning earlier this week, when I spotted two guys dumping a TV into the back corner of the Price Chopper’s parking lot, I felt a rush of anger into my blood. I veered across the parking lot and approached the two guys. 

"What you’re doing is immoral and wrong!" I said. 

(I know. Can you believe me? This is not something I often see in myself, this ability to confront a stranger in a back alley. Actually, by walking up to these two nefarious characters, I belatedly realized that I’d put my safety at risk.)

My hand twitched on my phone, in my pocket, but I didn’t have the guts to take a picture. Instead, we shouted back and forth for a few seconds. 

"Who do think is responsible for getting rid of your TV?" I said. "Take it to the Goodwill!"

"That’s where I got it," he said in a voice that reeked of smoke. "But it doesn’t work."

"Well, take it back where you got it!"

"What do you care?" he asked. 

"It junks up my neighbourhood!" was my reply.

"Look at this!" he said, motioning toward the mess of junk — broken shopping carts, puddles of wet clothing, stacks of plastic buckets, discarded painting supplies — that already littered the parking lot.

By this time, I was retreating, walking away, afraid these 50-something white guys would come toward me, instead of slink back into the alleyway (mine!) from whence they came.

"You know what? Fuck you!" he said, sensing my fear. "Go and get yourself a job. Get yourself a job as a security guard!" he said, scuttling away.

As I walked home, I felt the bubbling up of rage. At first, I thought I was mad at that guy’s laziness and disrespect, but no.

Safely inside, I tuned in to news coverage of Ontario’s budgets. I did some angry housework while I listened, but before long, sitting to fold laundry, I had to consider the fact that the dumper guys were possibly living on welfare, with no family support, maybe struggling with addiction or chronic pain, or whatever.

So maybe I wasn’t mad at those two guys. Maybe I was pissed that some people can’t even afford a cab ride to the place where one would responsibly dispose of a non-working TV. I felt rage  at televisions in general, and their inflated sense of importance in our culture.

For the rest of the day, I went on feeling angry and afraid. Meanwhile, dumper guy probably went and got himself a working TV. So my choice to let my anger get the best of me did nothing to change the world. It only made me feel crappy.  After all, the TV is still sitting there. And I’m still sitting here.

I’m not going to take it to Goodwill myself. I respect myself too much to do that.

I think I may need to set some boundaries for my Trash Gordon activities. I can’t be loading TVs into my car and disposing of them responsibly on behalf of a corporation. That’s not sustainable behaviour.

But I still don’t like looking at trash on my street. I’m going to have to bump up my strategy for keeping my neighbourhood clean. A few phone calls are in order, I think.

And maybe some meditations on anger would be a good idea, too.