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December 4, 2019

Practice Proper Trash Picking Etiquette

Hey, Bonita…

Dear Bonita,

As much as I'd like to agree with your sentiment "thumbs down to any place that gets mad at people for trash picking" [“My Roommate Hoards Stray Cats,” Nov. 20], the fact is, the answer to "What were you going to do with that trash besides throw it away?" is "NOT pick it up again." Unfortunately, too many trash pickers just don't give a hang what happens to their own rejects. I'm a longtime scavenger myself, and personally, I try to leave my scavenging sites tidier than I found them. But I can tell you from decades of observation that my style of trash picking isn't universal.

I'm sad about the amount of waste that occurs in this country, and I'm sadder at the number of barriers to salvaging more of it. Unfortunately, would-be salvage artists have a history of acting in ways that go against their own interests.

Tidy in the Trash

Hey there, Tidy,

I’m also a lifelong dumpster diver and trash picker. There have been times in my life where I wouldn’t have had a meal if not for a Whole Foods dumpster. I work full-time and can provide for myself very well, but I still have to stop myself from picking up abandoned clothes I find on the street. My friends and I always cleaned up after ourselves, but you’re right about others leaving messes that end up being all of our faults. 

I agree that businesses shouldn’t have to clean up after pickers, and anyone’s anger at finding a mess by their dumpster would certainly be valid. I shouldn’t have been so flippant. Instead, I should have said, “Boo to people who call the cops on trash pickers,” because that’s really what I was thinking when I wrote that. I’m sure they call law enforcement because they’ve had to pick up so much trash over time, but business owners can always just go outside and tell pickers to beat it. Taking trash is not theft, and there’s never any need to get cops involved in nonviolent situations. But please, dumpster divers, clean up after yourselves!


Hey Bonita,

It’s the holidays, and lots of people are gonna have to spend time with family members that they can’t stand. Myself included. In so many words, my sister’s husband is a nightmare. Between his R. Kelly support and “snowflake” talk, he is unbearable. He is everything I hate all rolled up into one man, and my sister loves him with all of her heart. It takes all kinds, I guess! 

I have him blocked on all social media, and we live far enough apart that I never have to interact with him, but I can’t avoid him on Thanksgiving or Christmas this year. We’ll all be together on both holidays with my parents, and I don’t know what to do. We all got a cabin for Christmas, and I am panicking about being in close quarters with this guy. So is my husband. Is there anything I can do to make sure we enjoy ourselves and don’t get in a fist fight?

I’m so glad your hubby will be with you, because you know you have someone in your corner. You married him for a reason, didn’t you? Y’all should just act like you’re dating again and spend as much time together as you can. Be friends to each other. Go out on dates, or just explore whatever little town your cabin is near. Go hiking, go out to eat, spend too much money on local wine and chug it in one night—just go ham with your boo and remind yourself of all the reasons you love this great guy. 

I suppose I could recommend trying to find common ground with your brother-in-law, but that’s a longer conversation for another day. Don’t try to work out family drama during vacations or down time—if the conversation goes south, then the mood has been wrecked. If things stay amicable during your holiday visit, perhaps it would be worth it to talk to him in January about your issues. But the holidays are for fellowship and fun, and let’s keep it that way.

Need advice? Email advice@flagpole.com, use the anonymous form at flagpole.com/getadvice, or find Bonita on Twitter: @flagpolebonita.

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