On the transfer of social debt

20 02 2015

Most lunchtimes, I take a brisk walk around a local playing field/park as a deliberate adjunct to my walk to the local café where I dine. Once at the café, I read around 20 pages of my current book, whilst partaking in one of a rotating selection of some lovely home- (well café-) made soups. If you’re interested, today’s was cream of butternut squash. Actually it was cream of butternut squash even if you weren’t interested. Such are the rules of physics.

Anyway, today is a “Pro D” day for many school districts, which basically means the teachers union negotiated a day off for “professional development”. This is where the teachers, instead of transferring learning to their students, are required to attend some course or other themselves, such as “mindfulness” or “how to crush the very soul of your young charges”. The kids however get a day off, and several of them were entertaining themselves in the fresh air in the park. Wonders will never cease! Maybe their TV was broken or something.

Anyway, as I purposefully trudged the path through the park, a couple of kids wobbled towards me on their bikes, and I noticed their father following on foot. He had a plastic carrier bag in his hand, and as the angle of view changed, I saw there was another carrier bag lying on the path just behind him. I asked if it was his, and whether he’d dropped it.
I’m helpful like that.
He looked a little puzzled, glanced back at the bag which he must just have passed himself, and confirmed that no, it wasn’t his.

Of course now, I had inherently accepted responsibility for this bag. He had been happy enough to ignore its littering existence as he passed it. So much so, that he had to look back to see which bag I was referring to. His conscience was clean because the bag simply had not existed when he himself passed it. I however, in my concern for a fellow citizen’s potential loss had quite explicitly acknowledged the presence of the bag. It was there now. Possibly left by Heisenberg’s cat, but plainly there for all to see – except this now departed father. Not that I’d have ignored it had the philosophical encounter not occurred, but now I truly had only one option – to pick it up and place it in an appropriate rubbish bin.

As I proceeded down the path in the bright lunchtime sun, I became aware of the shadow being cast by the bag. It seemed to have some gunk stuck to the outside – perhaps a leaf or something. As I turned the bag and looked down, I saw that the gunk was in actuality a dead mouse. The bag contained (amongst some other odd items) a mouse-trap. The mouse itself was attached in the usual manner (by a spring-loaded wire frame firmly planted across the back of its skull), but via a hole in the bag. It itself was on the outside.

I am still pondering this enigma, but think it most likely a crow had pecked its way through the bag to get at the fresh mousy nibbles within. Anyway, the point is that I was now carrying a dead mouse flapping gaily on the outside of a carrier bag in a park frequented by young kids who these days seem to be more delicate than in times of yore.
Suffice it to say that by some deft bag twizzling, I managed to carry the rodent all the way to a bin without having any little’uns vomit on my work shoes. The rubbish bin, when I finally found it, was slightly alarmingly of the bear-proof variety! And yet so close to IKEA…
Perhaps the crows will try their luck elsewhere.

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