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Column: Can culprit deserves sore toe

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Harry McCawley's trash can, which provided a spot for passers-by to dispose of litter, was dented by an unknown person.
Harry McCawley's trash can, which provided a spot for passers-by to dispose of litter, was dented by an unknown person. PHOTO BY HARRY McCAWLEY

I have good reason to hope that there lurks somewhere in our midst an individual with a very sore big toe. If there’s any justice, it also should be broken.

Although I would like to think of myself as a charitable sort, I do bear ill will to this particular person. He — or she — kicked in my trash can.

I’m not talking about our Toter. The trash can in question is much smaller, something that could accommodate one of those tall kitchen trash bags.

It’s been sitting on the street corner outside our house for close to 10 months. It’s not your run-of-the-mill trash can. It’s metal with a silver coating. My wife, Julie, purchased it in March 2012 after a neighbor had put out a trash can in the alley next to her house in hopes that people walking past would use it to deposit their litter rather than in her backyard.

Julie thought that was a good idea, but since we live on a street corner she felt our trash can needed to be positioned so as to get the most traffic possible. She also advertised it, recruiting our two youngest grandchildren to affix stickers and paint messages on it. “I heart litter” was pretty prominent.

It was as she was affixing the final touches to our can that our neighbor who had given her the idea in the first place reported that her can had been stolen. We already had prepared for that possibility, lining the bottom of our can with bricks and connecting it to a telephone pole with some very thick wire.

I was pessimistic about the good our effort would accomplish. We live in a neighborhood where littering is a tradition. I figured that the presence of a trash can would only serve as a reminder to some of our passing neighbors that they needed to discard their super-sized cup, scratch-off ticket or emptied cigarette pack onto the nearest lawn.

It was several days later that we discovered trash in our “I heart litter” can. It was a small amount, but it had been put there by someone other than a member of our family.

In the weeks that followed, the trash grew to the point that we had to change the plastic liner. At times, when working outside, I witnessed people walk past and stop to deposit items in it. It even drew depositors from outside the neighborhood. One Tipton Lakes resident told me she would come into town to walk the family dog after stopping off at Starbucks just so she could deposit her empty cup into our litter can.

I don’t have any scientific evidence to back it up, but it did seem that time between my regular yard policing patrols had grown because of the litter can.

There were a few setbacks along the way. In one instance, someone apparently tried to tear the metal lid away from the wire attached to the telephone pole but failed. However, it did bend the top out of shape so that it took an effort to fit it snugly onto the can.

Another vandal had something similar in mind but, having failed to separate the lid from the can, settled for ripping off the handle on the top. That, too, was only a minor setback, since it still was relatively easy to pry the lid off from the sides.

The scene that discouraged me was the one that confronted us over the weekend. The can sat askew in a mound of snow, one side folded in. The can and its lid still were attached to the telephone pole, but the concave outer shell gave the whole thing a pathetic appearance.

Obviously this didn’t merit a 911 call, and the object is only a small trash can, hardly worth filing a claim on a homeowner’s policy.

There are far more serious topics to be concerned about, far worse things that some people do to others that should worry us all.

But the more I look at that bashed-in can, the more it becomes apparent to me that there are those who live among us who are simply mean.

It’s not that the can is valuable. It can be replaced with another one costing less than $20, or I might even try to hammer out the dent in an effort to vent my frustrations.

I guess the thing that bothers me the most is the resigned comment Julie made when she saw the damaged can: “I’m surprised it made it this long without this happening.”

It’s sad that we expect this kind of thing.

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