If you see a problem, be the solution.
Gary Reitmayer is a good guy. People tell him that all the time. And when they do, he gives them what he calls his “spiel”, telling them it’s easy; they, too, could be a good guy. If you see a problem, be the solution. Take responsibility for something.
In Gary’s case, that something is the vast swath of Surrey known as South Surrey Athletic Park. It’s an enormous park studded with recreational facilities and flanked by forested running trails. There’s a waterpark, tennis courts, soccer, football and baseball playing fields and more. If your kid played a sport, there’s a good chance you’ve stood on the sidelines at South Surrey Athletic Park. If you were impressed with the park, some of that credit goes to Gary.
You see, Gary picks up after you.
He picks up the bottle caps, the water bottles, the Coke cans, the cigarette butts – sooo many cigarette butts! – the granola bar wrappers, the discarded frisbees, the Subway wrappers, and those weird little sticks that Starbucks now puts into their cup lids. All the flotsam and jetsam that people were just too lazy or too cavalier to deal with properly, Gary picks up.
Gary cannot abide litter. He sees no reason for it. Dumping your Big Mac wrappers in the parking lot is simply inexcusable. Treating the planet like your personal waste basket is the sign of a serious personality disorder. Okay, that’s my assessment, not his, but it is, isn’t it?
… “How you learn is how you live”
Gary’s a retired electrician. He has plenty of interests but he makes time for this task once every week. He’s always been a good citizen. When he and his wife, Elaine, were raising their two kids, they’d take them for walks where they’d pick up garbage along the way. Gary references an old German saying: “How you learn is how you live”. It was important to the Reitmayers that their kids learn to be active stewards of the environment.
Gary’s litter collecting went rogue while he was living in Delta. Coming home late one night, he noticed three men dumping a load of stucco mesh into Kitson Park. Gary slammed on the brakes.
Gary is fit, and he’s tall and he has a certain quiet authority about him. “Nope. Nope. You’re not doing that”, he told them. He made them load it all back up into their truck and then he called in their licence plate number to the police.
Gary’s vigilantism isn’t just based on apprehending jerks dumping construction debris in a park. He got in touch with the Municipality of Surrey when he was concerned about the amount of garbage he was seeing in the park near his new home. He also wondered why the park looked so neglected. Planters were untended and blackberry vines were consuming the pathways. It turned out that the municipality’s 50 horticulturists were spending more time dealing with illegally discarded materials and litter than on horticulture. Gary said the amount of debris was amazing. He was literally tripping over trash.
He started taking photos of the litter he encountered on his walks and his media-savvy daughter, Niki, persuaded him to create an Instagram account – Trash Tripper. (@trashtripper). That’s where I learned of Gary’s one-man campaign.
And oh my, but there ought to be a special place in hell for the people who carefully bag and knot their dog waste only to fling it into the woods.
Trashtripper findings indicate that Tim Horton’s customers are especially inclined to dump their cups and bags in the park. Discarded Covid masks have become an abominable nuisance that will outlive us all. And oh my, but there ought to be a special place in hell for the people who carefully bag and knot their dog waste only to fling it into the woods.
Gary invited me to join him on one of his collection expeditions. As I have the soul of a hausfrau and demeanour of a kindergarten disciplinarian, I leapt at the chance. The Municipality of Surrey Partners in the Park program supplies Gary with bags, gloves, and tongs; Gary says he’s getting carpal tunnel syndrome from using those tongs. I suited up, and we set off, cleaning up a stretch of 148th Street on our approach to the park.
After two hours of trash collection with one midpoint unload, we wound up our work. We headed back along 148th, the section of road that we’d cleared just two hours ago.
This is when it occurred to me that litter is, indeed, a renewable resource.
There are many mysteries in life. Why, if pizzas are round, do they come in a square box but you eat them as triangles? Why will a dog leap into a ditch full of dirty water but shrink from a nice, warm bath? And why do people hurl mostly full bottles of Gatorade and Mountain Dew out of car windows? That short stretch of road that we’d just thoroughly de-littered was now peppered with three bottles, one cigarette box and one Bic lighter. This is when it occurred to me that litter is, indeed, a renewable resource. I was furious and suggested to Gary that we organize roving death squads to deal with these hooligans. Gary smiled and just picked up the garbage. That’s because Gary Reitmayer is a good guy. Me? Not so much. I want the litterers’ heads on a platter. A garbage can lid will do nicely.
This week’s question for readers:
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT LITTER AND ILLEGAL DUMPING? WHAT DO YOU THINK OUGHT TO BE DONE ABOUT THIS PROBLEM?
Now, in return, will you do something for me? Will you sign up for The Plain Jane, my newsletter? You can ignore it, if you want, when it shows up in your inbox every few weeks, but my rotten kids will think I’m a star if I have a decent subscriber list.
Here’s further incentive to sign up: PRIZES!!!
Submissions to last week’s question:
What words were in the personal dictionary of your household? Do any persist into adulthood?
I had a laugh about Super Dogs. What no cape!? When my girls were four and two, our doctor was away. I explained to them that a Dr. Bever would be seeing us. As he walked into the examining room my two year-old exclaimed, “He doesn’t look like a beaver!Vicki Hart
These are not from our family but our neighbours across the street. Their toddler said “glubs” instead of “gloves”, and my favourite, which I still think is better than the actual word: he couldn’t say “yesterday” so he called it “lasterday”.Norm Dawson
This isn’t in the personal dictionary yet but it seems like it might be in first place in our grandson’s family. I was out walking with my 18 month-old grandson when he stopped his usual running and pointed to the sky and said, “up-up-ter” as a helicopter flew overhead! That seems to me to be the perfect name for such a great flying machine.Maureen Richmond
Our perfect daughter, many years back, bestowed us with a cornucopia of neologisms: aggilater, that fearsome beast; the hopsital you must visit after encountering him; the heckilopter that flew you there, and our favourite, the hocka cheese we ate for lunch.
Long live Toddlerese!Catherine Schechter
As a child, my son called windshield wipers “swish whoppers” and this word also became synonymous with our Sheltie’s tail! My husband and I still use this term but I am not sure if my son (40 in May) still does.Janice Black
Our grandkids’ contributions:
Hanitizer, for hand sanitizer. A real syllable saver.
Remembery, for memory. Giving that syllable right back.John Ydenberg
My youngest daughter called magazines, maz-a-geens and oranges, or-na-gez; words our family still use today.Lorne Anderson
Two expressions spring to mind. Back when she was probably five, our now 41 year-old daughter called New York Seltzer, You Nork Seltzer. Living in Tsawwassen we often visited Pink Robins (Point Roberts). Oh, and Secret Heart (Sacred Heart) church on the way to Ladner. They’ve never left our vocabulary.Sharleen MacMillan
I grew up fifth in a family of seven children back in the 40’s. My youngest sister, 10 years younger than me, coined the word “aggranoying” when she was upset about something, and I still find myself saying it when I’m perturbed. You must admit it’s a very satisfying word to say!Jean Peggie
Hawaii with my three year-old son and seeing limousines everywhere … until seeing a “little-mousine”. Priceless!
J I E Henderson From the Cosar’s kids and grandkids:
BABY SOUPS = bathing suits
PURPLE DOCKS = polka dots
TRANSFONAS = transformersBASE-TENT = basement
OOPS-A-NINNY = oops-a-daisy
DAYDEE = thank-youBette Cosar
It took us some time to figure out words that our daughter was using.
When mad at us, she would say she was going to “mayonize” us, or she’d yell “you beast, you maroon, you kayak”. When the roll of toilet paper was depleted, she asked for the “dudu” and would march around the house “duduing” like a trumpet. She proclaimed that she loved “Pludo”. We said, “do you mean Pluto?” She replied, “I love Pierre Pludo”.Alice Samworth
Of the many mispronounced and misunderstood toddler words, the one that remains with our family is ‘wankwyer’. (Who knows how it should be spelled?). For our middle son, somehow, this was his word for elephant … and he was quite taken with wankwyers, so we organized a trip to a circus that promised to have them at Copps Arena in Hamilton. There were a decent number of wankwyers and this was good but the most exciting and least expected part of the show was a lightning fast run from the Zamboni bay at one end of the arena to the hockey doors at the other, by a man in buckskins ‘riding’ a buffalo! I say riding though perhaps he was hanging on for dear life. We respect buffalos and we still talk of wankwyers.Julie Halfnights
I am well into my second childhood, and I can’t give all the credit to children making up their own language. I was out to dinner with my niece the other evening, and she asked if I wanted red or white wine with dinner. I said I preferred red, as white was too “chugg-alug-able.” That is now a new family word.Pamela Harris
I could not help myself from laughing out loud while reading your article regarding possic-ohs and cumbercues today. I am sure many felt the same. While growing up there were many words butchered by our father, Gerry. A record album was an “alblum”. Watching TV, he wanted to know what our favorite “polgrums” were. These were just a couple of examples. I believe however the most famous in our household was my terminology for what is generally referred to as “toe jam” when a toddler. When asked what I was looking for between my toes, the answer was “stomers from the bible”. Go figure.Shannon Hilton
Our kids called spaghetti, busketti!K. Aisling
Long live asghetti!Raj Dhatt
Askitty! Sn’eghetti! Psaghetti! They called it anything but spaghetti!R.L Lewis