'Tis the season to be accosted. Greenpeace can get fairly aggressive on the hike-and-bike trail, which is tiresome as I really have to be sure not to go over my hour for lunch, and I'm not going to give anybody any money, but when someone calls wheedlingly out to me, "Come on, you like trees, don't you?" it's hard to walk stonily past without feeling like a Republican.
I do indeed like trees. In fact, I might never get a live Christmas tree again, now that Jim's not making that call. Fresh flowers I don't mind, but I've always been troubled by the concept of sacrificing a tree's life just for a few weeks' holiday decor. Never mind the mess, the needles that will carpet the back of my car for as long as I own it, the cats' unfortunate tendency to attempt to mask the piney smell with more pungent aromas of their own. No, the worst part is taking all the lights and ornaments down on January 6th and hauling the poor forlorn husk to the curb. I can't even look it in the eye, and wouldn't be able to even if trees HAD eyes, which (unless you're a big Lillian Vernon shopper) they generally don't.
But the City of Austin has a nice program where they at least recycle your discarded trees by grinding them into mulch. You can leave your tree at the curb and they'll pick it up on your regular garbage day, but if it's over six feet tall, you're supposed to saw it in half. Do I look like a lumberjack to you?! So instead, I shoved it into the back of the Isuzu Behemoth which my amazing friend Diane is selling to me on ridiculously easy terms, to help me out through the divorce - Diane is a GOOD FRIEND - and took it to the temporary Christmas tree recycling drop-off at Zilker Park.
Have I mentioned that I love Austin, love it, love it, love it, love it? This morning's experience reminded me that I haven't said so for a while. The dropoff point at Zilker Park presumably had at least a few city employees, but was largely staffed by volunteers. It was extremely well-organized and efficient, with staffers directing traffic into separate lanes and hurrying to unload and haul away trees. And it was bitter cold out, for Austin - just under 20 degrees at the time I went - and, my gosh, they were so nice. Bundled up in coats, hats, and gloves, they bustled competently through their work, smiling and thanking me for bringing the tree in. And as I drove away, the person directing traffic out of the lot gave me a big, bright smile and a cheery wave. I felt as if I'd had a booster shot of holiday cheer to last me through the rest of this cold winter. The scent of pine needles in my car probably helped, too.
Worse yet than Greenpeace, on the hike-and-bike trail, is the short-shorts guy. I write this hesitantly, afraid that perhaps I know him from somewhere and am being inexcusably rude for not responding to his repeated salutations; but if (as I suspect) we've never met, he's kind of a creep. I avoid eye contact with him now, and I have my iPod and earbuds as a legitimate enough excuse for not hearing anything anyone happens to say to me, but he gives it a good try anyway, addressing me two or three times whenever he sees me, and sometimes turning after we pass and calling after me. I've changed my walking route, and may change my lunch hour as well.
And worse yet than the short-shorts guy are Jehovah's Witnesses. Jim came by today to use the Behemoth to move another large installment of his stuff out of my house. Staggering under a heavy armload of his belongings, I found myself face-to-face with a woman and her small daughter. She seemed taken aback. "Is this your mother?" she asked Katie, who explained later that the woman had stopped by and talked to her once before while I was at work.
Katie responded that yes, I was, and the woman asked her, surprised, "Are you moving?"
"My husband is moving out," I told her shortly.
Now, here's where Jehovah's Witnesses are different from you and me. Solicitors of any other product, however noxious, would probably gather from my reply and the fact that my arms were uncomfortably full that, perhaps, now was not an ideal time.
She, however, introduced herself, and attempted to hand me some literature.
But she had a little girl with her, so I smiled, and said pleasantly, "Thank you, but we're not interested," and got back to the business of loading up the Behemoth. And I guess I have to give her credit for not pressing the matter further.
Beth's rating for the week:
Diane: 8 million bajillion stars
Greenpeace: 2 stars
Guy in short-shorts: 1 star, with an option for a possible future restraining order
Jehovah's Witnesses: 0 stars, and a $50 gift certificate to Specs