Oct 08 2011
I live less than half a mile from the local school. I can cover this distance in a couple of minutes on my bike—maybe a little longer if I have to wait for traffic to clear at the intersection. Say four minutes, tops. Walking is slower, but not by much. It takes me about 10 minutes to walk half a mile if I’m being lazy, no more than six minutes if I’m hustling. And yes, there are sidewalks all the way to the school.
Whether two minutes or ten, it’s not much time. Despite this, there’s a school bus stop right outside my office window. So I have a ringside seat on the comings and goings of the local kids. Or, as it happens, kid. OK. She’s not a kid anymore. She’s a high school senior. And she’s the only student to board the bus at this stop. When she can be bothered, that is. Most days, however, she can’t. Then the bus idles at the stop for several minutes, exhaust spewing out of the tailpipe all the while, waiting for the errant scholar to make her belated entrance. But she seldom troubles to do so, and eventually the bus moves on. Then, anywhere from five minutes to 15 minutes later, mommy or daddy bolts out of the house with daughter in tow, bundles her into one of the family’s two cars, and sets off on the arduous half-mile drive to the school, a scene that’s often repeated (in reverse) when soccer practice keeps the daughter at school after the end of classes. That practice must be exhausting, indeed, if it leaves the budding athlete unable to walk half a mile.
Of course, petulant teens and overindulgent parents are nothing new, are they? Still, I was somewhat surprised to see the dilatory daughter’s name featured in a story in a local paper, under an arresting headline touting her roll in the fight against global warming. It seems the sluggard scholar has been hard at work educating the community on the dangers of climate change. Well, well, well… Who’d have thought we had such a prodigy among us? Pity she couldn’t be bothered to lead by example, though. I wonder how many tons of carbon her parents have emitted while ferrying their prodigal offspring the half mile to and from school over the years, to say nothing of all the (unnecessary) hours the school bus has spent idling outside their door?
But these were late thoughts. They didn’t occur to me until some time after I read the story in question. In fact, I can pinpoint the moment with near exactness. I was riding back from a shopping trip, a week’s worth of garlic, grains and greens in my panniers, when I stopped to chat with a fellow rider, the guy I once christened “the Recycling Cyclist.” Our paths often cross—we both like the same stretch of rural byway—and I never fail to be impressed by the quantity of roadside trash he’s managed to collect. More impressive still is the fact that he’s been doing it for nearly 20 years, pocketing several thousand dollars in bottle deposits along the way. And thanks to him, many miles of rural road are entirely free of litter.
Yet no one has seen fit to do an article for the paper lauding his services to the community. Still, I doubt he’s much miffed by this lack of interest on the part of the local hacks. The Recycling Cyclist is a modest man—content to do good by stealth, as it were. And the world’s a better place in consequence. That’s all that really matters, isn’t it?