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The Bottle Lady

The Bottle Lady

One Monday morning I was putting my garbage at the end of the street, for curb side pick, not unusual as pick up in our city is Monday. I dragged out all the rubbish, boxes and other empty containers of ‘stuff’ that cannot be taken to recycling and piled them up so they wouldn’t blow away. Without realizing I had brought a bag of bottles among the trash.

What happened next to this day still brings tears to my eyes...

It was about 15 minutes later; I was hanging laundry, noticed an old car driving slowly past my house. The car was belting out Spanish Christian music. Bear in mind we are in the far-east corner of the USA so that in itself grabbed my attention. A moment later, the car stopped and slowly backed up, a scruffy heavy set, dark lady with long salt and pepper hair stepped out. Nearly, as round as she was tall she moved with some difficulty around her car and looked at my trash pile. She looked up and in broken English said, “Me have your bottles?” I peeked around my clothes line and smiled and agreed.

As she picked up the bag, I watched her every move, my mind wandered off to the families that work the Guatemala City Dump and the terrible conditions they are exposed to daily. My heart sank deep inside my chest as my mind returned to the scene playing out in front of me. 

This was not Guatemala, this was my hometown. I thought my God and not because I was afraid, not because she disgusted me but, because we have really taken a terrible turn in the USA...Call me naive but aren't we supposed to be one of the richest in countries in the world?

Clearly not from where I was standing.

The sweet older lady plopped the bag in her trunk slammed the cover down and hollered, “thank you!” Because I recognized her music and her distinct accent I replied back in Spanish “De nada.” She looked straight at me and beamed waving her hand, moving gingerly around to her car door, climbed in and drove away.

The following Monday she passed by again as I was hanging laundry. I hadn’t put any bottles out and didn’t think anything of it. She slowed down passing by with her Spanish Christian music playing, she yelled out the window, “Buenos dias!” I smiled and waved greeting her as she drove away. Returning to my laundry it occurred to me she was looking for bottles. I stopped my laundry and went inside and bagged up the few I had and brought them to the end of the driveway. I didn’t know if she’d be back. She hadn’t returned before I left for work but when I returned that night they were gone. I smiled thinking ah ha I was right, good.

It became a routine after that. Every Monday I put the trash out to the curb and a bag of bottles off to the side for her. Every Monday the bottles were gone before the trash. I seldom see her now, we don’t converse but somehow I feel a kinship towards this woman.

This has been going on for a number of months. I don’t know anything about her, who she is, where she comes from, all I know is on Mondays she collects my bottles, and when I am around we greet each other in Spanish. She is a sweet, polite old bottle lady in a way I feel like she is a friend and together in a strangely unique way we help each other out.