Some months ago I wrote about my experiences with recycling. While it remains a positive way to go, something I recommend to everyone to make a little bit of difference in our world, I must admit that one idea I had was something of a flop, an example of thinking out of the box whose only redeeming feature was that it was merely a bump in the learning curve.
Over the years in travels with my family, it’s not uncommon to stop at at a fast food establishment and get something to drink while on the road, even if it’s just into Gallipolis or other nearby communities. The worker attending to your order at the pickup window will generally ask, if it involves more than two beverages that can be accommodated by the cupholders below the car radio, if you want them in a cardboard container that’s been so much a part of the takeout food business for decades. We’d accept the cupholder and after the cups were removed from the holder, the thing would sit in the back seat floor of the car for weeks, sometimes months, depending on how cleanly we were about the car’s interior.
Eventually, accumulated cupholders would get rounded up. I found them handy when we’d order multiple drinks and the restaurant was out of the holders, so I’d keep one in the car for that purpose. But when I removed the other holders and stacked them up in the kitchen for eventual disposal — a kind of localized Leaning Tower of Pisa — it occurred to me that rather than toss them, maybe they can be used again by restaurants where we’d gotten them. If they were dry, still sturdy and able to hold takeaway pop and coffee cups, they’d be worth another round of usage. Hey, they say you can get a second brew out of coffee and tea pods once they’ve been used, so why not?
That my first attempt at handing over used cupholders in a bid to recycle them was not a qualified success goes without saying. The restaurant workers politely but wordlessly took them and I went on my way. I think the second time I brought a pile of cupholders to the business they were even out of them — I knew because I had an order to fill that involved at least three requests for diet cola. I wasn’t looking for thanks or even a freebie in return (although I wouldn’t have turned down a coffee), just some kind of validation that my idea for expanding the perimeters of recycling had some worth.
Instead, it became apparent a collective groan went up from the staff when they again spied that guy with silver hair removing stacks of cupholders from the back of his ‘97 Chrysler (this was a few years ago, I might add).
Despite the encouragement I received from my sister and brother-in-law, Catherine and Frank Wolter, who thought I had the makings of a national movement on my hands, I came to the conclusion that the used cupholders I so diligently saved for re-use ended up in the restaurant’s trash dumpster.
It later occurred to me there could have been very good reasons why the staff didn’t use the cupholders I brought to them. For one, there may have been a rule or two against re-use of the items for safety or liability reasons. Didn’t think they cared, given the time several years ago when a drink spilled onto my shirt because the lid was improperly secured and the only response I got to my yelp of surprise was the worker closing the window shut and turning her back to me. Fortunately, it was only pop.
But to be fair, another restaurant worker who rang up my order at $6.66 was uncomfortable with leaving that amount as it stood, and so refigured it to total something less diabolical to the eye. Now you don’t get that kind of service every day.
Secondly, my contributions could be of harm to the cardboard product industry, because the more cupholders I returned, the less the restaurant needed from the manufacturer (yeah, sure). And it could be that, with everything they have to do on the job, the restaurant staff didn’t know what to do with them in the absence of explicit regulations governing the use of cupholders, so it was easier just to consign them to the next load of trash. More likely, but who can say? I didn’t pursue the matter with management primarily because they were busy with the business of running their store — imagine that.
Instead, I now take the used cupholders to the recycling bin near our house along with all of the other cardboard and plastic we don’t need. So much for the re-use idea. But perhaps not. My effort may have been the textbook example of the acronym FAIL — “First attempt in learning.” The idea wasn’t necessarily a disaster in that I re-directed used cupholders to the proper place rather than my first choice, so a system of trial and error for some ideas isn’t anything unusual.
Try and try again, they say — but as far as cupholders are concerned, I think I’ve reached the definitive purpose when they’ve been used once. Better to direct efforts toward something more useful as I sip my latest takeout soft drink.
Rest in peace, Chester “Mike” Polcyn, who left us this past week with indelible memories of his lengthy stint as Santa Claus in the Gallipolis City Park during the Christmas season.
What can one say about the simple joy he provided children as the man in the red suit? Unforgettable, for one thing, especially for those kids who grew up but maintained their appreciation of the wonder and excitement that’s so much a part of the season. For so many who advanced into adulthood with him and were able to introduce their kids to the warmth and good tidings he offered, Mr. Polcyn was the living embodiment of Father Christmas.
Serving on the Gallia County Local Board of Education when not otherwise occupied, Mr. Polcyn found another outlet for the well-being of children by working to ensure they had the best possible instruction. Through this activity, as well as many others, Mr. Polcyn demonstrated a deep belief in cherishing and nurturing our youth. And that’s why he’s so deserving of all of the accolades the community at large has offered in the past few days.
Kevin Kelly, who was affiliated with Ohio Valley Publishing for 21 years, resides in Vinton, Ohio.
RECOMMENDED FOR YOU