A Maine Family Learns


Photo credit: Courtesy Wiki Commons

  “Vacationland” is how the beautiful state of Maine describes itself on its license plates. Four thousand miles of rocky coast and nearly as many lakes bring families in summer, leaf peepers, in fall, and also eager  winter skiers and snowboarders. The one questionable season, spring, is known locally as mud season.

Since tourists, fishermen, and forests comprise the backbone of Maine’s economy, the state maintains strict environmental standards. One law requires the return of empty bottles and cans. Maine stores and redemption centers pay out five cents for each beverage can or bottle returned. Since prosperity does not reign in Vacationland, those nickels help “Mainiacs” supplement their incomes. They also provide a source of welcome donations to various causes.

I spent a long time looking for work as an immigrant to Maine in 1989. In the midst of tramping the pavements, one Saturday I joined a group of neighbors on a coastal cleanup day. Armed with plastic garbage bags and rubber gloves, we fanned out along the roadside to pick up trash, Styrofoam, and plastic food containers tossed out of car windows. Along with the debris we also picked up beverage bottles and cans. We made a good haul and donated our nickels to a non-profit.

The next day, my son went biking with one of his friends who turned to him at the end of our driveway and said, “Oh Bill, I know your Mother’s having trouble finding a job, but I saw her picking up cans and bottles by the side of the road.”

Can you think of a better way to humiliate your teenager?

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