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May 5, 2020: A Hero ain’t nothing but a Sandwich

The Bright Lights Book Project resumes. You put on a mask and take your giant container of hand sanitizer with you into the recycling center. This, you think, is the new normal, soon to become the old normal. No one is sure how long the virus is going to be around, or how long we are all going to have to continue to take precautions. And no one is sure of what the consequences of the world having gone viral might be.

Your life hasn’t changed, much. If anything, the recommendation (which you followed) to isolate yourself from your kind was fortuitous because it allowed you adhere to a designated routine, one that you stuck to during break up. Had the recycling center been open at this time, you would have either had to forego working on the book project or cleaning up around your place. Fortunately, you did not have to make this decision. Rather, the virus made this decision for you.

However, today was somewhat of a day of reckoning. You entered the warehouse area and saw your work was cut out for you. Someone had supposedly dumped several boxes of mixed paper in with the hardcovered books, and it was incumbent upon you to sort through the mess and make sure that both items were separated. You grumbled upon hearing this, because you didn’t want to have deal with a

Recycled art at the state fair

mess that someone else made. You mentioned this to three floor workers, none of whom had any interest in giving you a hand or finding someone else to give you a hand.

But you did this task. You filled and lugged several boxes of mixed paper over to the mixed paper bunker and emptied them. At first you were edgy, but after a bit, more accepting. Someone had cranked 80s tunes up really high, so you sang loudly – your mask muffled the sound, thank dog.

You and the other workers had presumed that the box was three quarters full of hard covered books and one quarter full of mixed paper, but all presumed wrong. You sorted half a Gaylord and then discovered that it was an equal mix, all the way down to the bottom of the box. You got halfway and then decided to move on to sorting. There were several pallets of small cardboard boxes of books – and it was of course way more fun to go through these than it was to deal with mixed paper detritus.

As you sorted, you had a revelation, one that while not life-saving, was project changing. This is that you are a front runner in dealing with re-use materials at VCRS, a recycling center. Some, you realize, are not thinking outside the cardboard box. To them, the books are not worth saving; that is, unless there is suddenly a market for mixed paper. The books are everywhere, a real hinderance. One day they’re too close to the balers, and the next, blocking the first aid station. And you, who are schlepping these books around, are also a hinderance.

You of course know what needs to be done, and after today, you are even more committed than ever before to doing it. But first things first. You have a lot going on on the home front, so you are going to have to figure out how to budget your time. If only you had the time to read the innumerable books on this subject that keep surfacing as you resort. If only . . .

Next: 126. 5/6/20: A Conversation with Raudi

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