When we see a bag, there’s guilt by association

By Joe Thomson

I remember as if it were yesterday; July 1, 2014, just about 2:53 in the afternoon. I know that because we were just leaving Applebee’s with our cardboard doggy box of leftovers when Mary Lee checked the clock to make sure we’d given Kaiser enough time to fill a prescription.

As we turned out of the driveway onto Research Park Drive, there it was, blowing in the wind, bold as you please, a plastic bag. Not just a plastic bag, but a black plastic bag.

My wife, with her instinctive sense of modesty, averted her eyes. I could not help but stare as the thing bore down on the defenseless young pedestrian couple waiting to cross at the light. I knew what was on their minds as they furtively glanced about; should they make a run for it or bear the shame as passers-by glared at them with accusing eyes?

They looked right and left; they looked up and down; they looked anywhere but back at the evil closing in, leaving them guilty by association. At the last moment, the light changed; they bolted for the other side of the road.

Realizing we were alone on the street and therefore possible suspects, I made a quick left turn at O’Reilly Auto Parts, putting as much distance as I could between us and what was now the shame of Davis, a stain on our right-thinking community that could never be removed.

As I sped away, sure that someone had seen us and possibly uploaded our license plate for all to see, I wondered, would we be on the evening news tonight, or even worse, YouTube?

I know, I know. The words of my old high school civics teacher still ring in my ear: “Don’t wait for George to do it, be a responsible citizen.” I should have gone back and picked it up. But what if someone saw me with a single-use plastic bag in hand? I couldn’t do it. My reputation would be in tatters. Never mind our proud collection of reusable cloth bags, our years of responsible pet ownership, our faithful efforts to recycle. Gone.

To this day I wonder, how did it happen? How did a single-use black plastic bag find its way onto the streets of Davis? Was it a passing motorist, a truck with an unsecured load, a transient? Maybe it escaped from some homeless person’s push cart. I don’t like to think so. Most of the homeless in Davis are good people.

Maybe it blew in from Woodland or up from the river on the delta breeze. It can’t have been local, right?

— Joe Thomson is a longtime Davis resident.

Special to The Enterprise

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