Friday, September 5, 2014

The Art of Canning

By: Christopher Forsley

If you’re one of the recently unemployed Americans who sit in front of the television all day and night eating Sriracha flavored Lay’s while watching Seinfeld re-runs, you might think after your Food Stamps end you’ll finance your new life of leisure by collecting cans. But, as Kramer and Newman learned in their failure to transport cans from New York to Michigan where the refund is doubled, it’s not so easy. It is possible to make almost $10.00 per 1,000 cans collected, but such riches will only come to those who read, study, and practice what I’m about to reveal.

The first thing to know is that cans are superior to both bottles and plastics. Cans can’t break like bottles, and plastics can’t crush like cans. You might want the option to break a bottle in case a rival gets aggressive, but having a broken bottle when collecting cans is like having a gun when buying drugs: it’s an implied threat, and unless you’re prepared to stab, you’re going to get stabbed. And getting stabbed is as painful as trying to condense a bunch of uncrushable plastic into a bag, especially since all that plastic means you’ve been drinking water instead of beer. Beer not only reduces pain, but it also makes you a better can collector.

Beer and canning go together like Sriracha flavored Lay’s and childhood obesity. Sure a child can become obese without Lay’s, but, like canning without beer, it’s less fun and more difficult. Beer makes you bold, and if you’re going to dig through other people’s trash and then drag what other people call trash along the streets, you have to be bold.  The more beer you drink the bolder you’ll be, and the bolder you are the more money you’ll make. In fact, I never would have started collecting cans if it wasn’t for beer. . . because I wouldn’t have had any cans to collect.

The downside of drinking while canning is that people will think you’re homeless, and people don’t like the homeless digging through their trash. In reality, the homeless are mere hobbyists. Canning requires one to walk at least twenty miles a day, and the homeless are too malnourished to pull off such a feat. And they usually don’t have a proper can collecting cart anyway, or, if they do, they will fill it up with items more significant than cans — items like blankets and books and kittens and stringless guitars and half-eaten burritos and Tickle Me Elmos.

To avoid getting harassed like you’re homeless when collecting cans, you could stop drinking beer. . . but I don’t recommend it.  You won’t collect as many cans — you’ll be less bold and there’ll be less cans to collect — and you’ll probably still look homeless because of your can collecting outfit. Every serious can collector needs an outfit that includes a hat with a brim wide enough to block your face from falling seagull shit, a housepainter’s used overalls so that the seagull shit covering everything but your face will blend in with the house paint, and some good rubber gloves and boots to protect your hands and feet from used heroin needles when reaching and climbing into garbage cans.

The only reasonable way to avoid harassment is by joining a canning clan. Every major city has dozens of these clans, the most notorious of which is the Push Cart Prowlers.  The PCP controls the most fruitful turf from Boston to San Francisco, and if you become affiliated with them, you’ll not only learn their slang — which sounds like a mixture of Chinese and Gallic with a Puerto Rican accent and is useful when confusing dim-witted cops trying to bust you for trespassing — but you’ll also be protected from the bottom of Big Fucking Frank’s big fucking boots when he catches you weighing down your can deposits with rubber cement.

But if you do join the PCP, don’t try to quit the PCP. You’ll get withdrawals, but you’ll also get thrown into a can-crusher, and your remains will be fed to a seagull. The seagull will then take a shit and you’ll land on a can collector wearing the housepainter’s overalls that you used to wear. So if you have a problem with commitment, don’t fool around with the PCP, and definitely don’t fuck them.

Freedom, however, has a price and you won’t be able to afford it unless you do what I do: on weekdays I hang around affluent elementary schools where obese children wash down their Sriracha flavored Lay’s with can after can of Coca-Cola, and on the weekends I hang around hipster bars where anorexic lumberjacks wash down their vegan sausages with can after can of Pabst Blue Ribbon. But if you do do what I do, be prepared to have those obese children accuse your drunken ass of touching their fat asses and to have those anoxic lumberjacks create ironic memes of you and your can collecting outfit.

Lastly, remember that collecting cans is an art and, like any art, it requires sacrifice. You’ll have to sacrifice your health because walking twenty miles a day in rubber boots will irreversibly warp your feet and digging through trash will cause an assortment of incurable rashes. You’ll sacrifice your finances because, honestly, you’d make more money collecting pennies than you will collecting cans. And you’ll sacrifice your relationships because no one wants you digging through trash cans at your family’s BBQ, your friend’s birthday, or your fiancée’s wedding. . . especially if you are the groom, which you won’t be.

Illustration by Cameron Forsley