Thursday, October 30, 2008

Racism and blue bins

I'm going to suggest something controversial.

49er's Premise #44: There might not be as much "racism" running rampant through the US as some pundits believe. Furthermore, it may turn out to be "racism" is a little analogous to "blue bins".

OK. You want me to explain? Consider this. By "bin" I'm speaking of what you might call a dumpster. Real "G-men" [garbage picker-uppers] don't often use that term, but that's not important. They call most larger bulk trash containers designed to be emptied by mechanical devices "bins". [The smaller ones, usually plastic, are often called "tubs"]. Bins are usually metal, but they can be plastic. And they are everywhere. Here's a 3 yard capacity front load type.

Recognize it? They come in various sizes, and the larger ones look and are handled differently, but "bins" similar to the one pictured are so common that almost no one pays them attention. They just "are". If you commute three miles to work in almost any city these days chances are you'll pass over a hundred of these babies located at businesses and apartment you drive by while going to work, and the same number traveling home. So why are bins like "racism"? It's because if you look for them, you will see them. And that's the point of premise #44.

Years ago our family lived in a rural area and traveled to a medium-sized city regularly to shop, etc. Usually all of us traveled together in a van. "Us" included a disabled foster son, I'll call him "Charley". Over the years he taught us many valuable life-lessions. Though "bent" Charley's not "broken", and seeing life through his eyes has been a journey unto its own.

Charley is almost a savant when it comes to knowing where he is, how he got there, where to turn to reach his destination, and also which is the quickest or best way home. Being male, I don't need this talent, but when DW travels afield she frequently takes him along "just to be safe" and not end up lost. This was once merely a family joke but over the years has turned into a useful benefit.

Another of Charley's skills is "eagle-eyed-ness". Before he fully matured he knew where everything was, or where it should go, or where I had left the car keys, or flashlight, name it. He was particularly useful when we were in a hurry to leave and couldn't find something critical to the trip! He could - and did - spot anything. And remembered it. This has all been prelude, of course, but the nub approaches.

One of my earlier careers involved managing a local garbage company. And we had bins. Lots of them. Charley knew as we traveled around the community that when I saw an overflowing bin I took a special interest in it because of service considerations. Soon he knew where all the bins were and would spot them - and their condition - before I would. But those bins were brown. Or rusty. Or ???

After a few years I graduated into a better position with a branch of an international garbage company headquarted in the medium-sized city mentioned above. And all our new bins were blue. The competions' might be brown or green or tan, but ours were blue. Henceforth when our family traveled through that city Charley soon learned I was only interested in blue bins, and so he would loudly call out "blue bin" every time he spotted one. Or two. Or twenty.

Then on lengthier trips he noticed blue bins in other cities. His joy was complete. Did I mention he was basically "non-verbal"? Didn't speak much at all, and could not - for the life of him - answer direct questions. His brain was wired in a way that when he tried to answer a question he switched to a "blank look" stare". So when he was able - without coaching - to call out "blue bin" he was proud that he could speak and prouder still of his scouting skills. He - and we - thoroughly enjoyed those times.

Charley's "blue bin" spotting skillset exists still today, decades after I no longer care if a blue bin has been emptied or not. Whenever we travel to a new city Charley always remembers those earlier days and can't wait to call out "blue bin" whenever he spots one. You see he's looking for blue bins. The same ones you drive by everyday without noticing.

I'm not equating the evils of racism with the smelliness of blue bins. Well, that is an apt comparision, isn't it? What I'm saying is that if you look hard enough you will probably find whatever it is you are looking for. And that search and resultant discovery will effect you. But if you know some something is there and choose to ignore it, driving by it blindly every day as it were, the thing will not damage you. It's only when you stop and get too close to a bad thing that the harm occurs. Calling attention to it only means its impacting you. Ignoring nastiness means it end's up rotting out onlu the one who's nasty.

Yes, I know the analogy ultimately breaks down. But the heart of the premise still holds. At least in my view. You see what you're looking for. Have your kids watch for the "blue bins" next time, and see if you agree.

No comments: