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How I cleaned up on bottles Tuesday

February 4, 2016


An hour before midnight on Tuesday, February 2, I was on the west end of the 1400 block of West Broadway Avenue, when, from the other end of the block, I heard the sound of trouble.

“CRASH! Tinkle tinkle”

It was the unmistakable sound of a lot of glass suddenly breaking—most often heard in back alleys along with loud cursing. I also heard the exact same sound once when I worked at the Vancouver Masonic Centre—to the accompaniment of nothing but stunned silence.

Carte blanche to help myself


The site of the accident was the southeast corner of West Broadway Avenue and Hemlock Street.

There sat a small orange shopping cart, half on, half off the curb, encumbered with various garbage bags and with a wicker basket, tied on with an electrical cord, hanging crazily off one side.

Tsk-tsk, I thought, looking over the mess surrounding the abandoned cart.

The sidewalk and the gutter were littered with all sorts of aluminum, plastic and glass beverage containers. There was a fair amount of  broken glass laying about.

The cart itself was a two-level, steel wire affair, completely unsuited for collecting returnable beverage containers, with a shallow lower basket and a pitifully small upper basket.

It looked to me as if the cart’s “handler” had badly mishandled it trying to negotiate the curb—caught a wheel or something—and accidentally pitched their load all over the sidewalk and the road.

I assumed they had then hurriedly scooped up what they could into whatever bags they had and then scrammed.

I cleaned up the mess to the tune of about $8-worth of returnable beverage containers and made sure the sidewalk and gutter was free of any broken glass. (Don’t worry, I wear gloves.)

If you’re interested, I left the cart where I found it on the corner but I pushed it safely out of the way of foot traffic. It was still where I left it this morning.

My personal “Breaking Bad” story

Seven years ago, the fact that I was homeless still wasn’t known to the bigwigs at the Vancouver Masonic Centre who had allowed their building manager to hire me at the end of 2008 on the misunderstanding that they wanted an employee like me and that I wanted an eight-dollar-an-hour job.

My duties included cleaning, liaising with room rental clients, facilitating events, serving âpre-Lodge refreshments and performing routine management chores such as keeping the liquor room well-stocked for the thirsty Freemasons.

The Masonic Centre’s beer deliveries were made by Brewers Distributor Limited (BDL), a company jointly operated by the owners of Canada’s two largest breweries, Labatt and Molson, in order to handle the logistics of delivering domestically-brewed beer (and picking up the empties) across Western Canada.

As I recall, all the brands of domestically-brewed beer which the Masons bought through BDL, with one exception, shipped in perfectly rectangular boxes made of rough-ish corrugated cardboard. The exception was a Belgian brand, which came in a paperboard box that was tapered on top and shrink-wrapped in clear plastic.

The BDL people were in the habit of bringing the beer deliveries right into the liquor room and stacking the boxes in neat tower blocks of four to six boxes per “storey”, six or seven storeys tall.

This one time, a delivery included a stack with an all-Belgian “ground floor”.

I swear that after triple-checking the order, I barely brushed the stack on my way out of the liquor room.

Whatever. Six storeys of beer—over 500 bottles-worth—slipped off their smooth footing and fell (seemingly in slow motion) onto the hard concrete floor with a sickening crash of breaking glass that was only magnified by the smallness of the room.

You could’ve knocked me over with a feather as well.

It took a while to clean up the mess and get rid of the reek (I can’t stand beer). Then I sat down and toted up the damage.

The next day I presented the value of the breakage in cash, with a full accounting, to my boss.

She was really good about it. She looked at me pityingly like I was the kid who fell off the turnip truck and wouldn’t hear of taking my money.

Honestly, there wasn’t much that I wouldn’t do for her after that. Click the images to enlarge them.

From → Binning, Fairview

  1. Hi. Great story. Was this the equivalent of getting one of those famous secret Masonic handshakes?
    Oh, I think I spotted the fellow with the shopping cart earlier the same day, in the lane near Cypress and 11th. I had a hunch his day might not end well, seemed to be all over the place and way over capacity. Poor guy.


    • I can only assume that the person who went away cartless, went with bags containing far more containers than were left behind but gosh, they left an awful lot of light stuff. I may feel bad for the person but I may also feel worse about the mess.

      As for the Masons, no, the handshakes between Helen and my self weren’t informed by any ritual. These are the kind of Masons that don’t allow females to join, so while both my boss’ father and brother were Masons, she was only entitled to join one of the concordant bodies for the “ladies”, such as the Order of the Eastern Star. Fun fact: the OES was always far better organized than the male lodges.

      In my case, I don’t qualify to become a Freemason because I question the existence of a Great Architect of the Universe and I won’t join any club where I can’t meet women.


  2. Slowcrow permalink

    Or any club that would have you as a member? 🙂 (Groucho quote I think ……) BTW, I remember reading of various attempts to realistically design a ‘cart’ that would help binners with their work challenges, like this one that you encountered. Of course, without binner-input these concept creations tend to get quite fanciful…… :)lol…. Oh, maybe binnersproject folks was a local effort…… And yup, dandelions are ready in some southern exposure places. And sure, wash them if u want. I would NEVER eat store bought produce without washing IT. 🙂 (or at least REALLY wanting to, water isn’t handy sometimes, even in this rainforest :))


    • Extra points for reading all the comments.

      Really! Everyone should see the Scottish Rite come out of Lodge dressed in their tatty biblical costumes — it’s a picture!

      I remember it was the precursor to the Binners Project — a group at UBC — that devised a green cart-like conveyance which was largely designed to eliminate noise, at the expense of carrying capacity, strength and durability. I only ever saw two binners in Fairview using them and then I never saw them again. I may still write a post about the Binners Project’s latest:the “Binner’s Hook”. But, if you can’t say something nice…

      I think I’m still one green short of a proper mixed salad. However, I shall take to stocking vinegrette for the day.


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