Because unburdening can be liberating, and sometimes you just need to travel…
An empty, capless, two litre Coke bottle was jay-rolling across a busy Goldman Street near the pedestrian crossing. I had fetched my ten year old son from the primary school down Sixth Avenue. At 2.07pm, that part of Florida, Roodepoort, can be a traffic nightmare for about another twenty minutes but the 2-litre did not care. It does not go to school and—and now that it was empty—no home to go to either.
So it skipped and hopped across the street. I thought for sure that my front tyres would crush the life out of the bottle but no. It somehow dodged our wheels and of the two-way traffic by inches. I looked in my rear view mirror and saw that it did not wait for the traffic light at the pedestrian crossing nor did it allow the traffic officer, on duty for pupils, to halt any of the cars to give a Coke right of way. If plastic bottles have a gust of wind at their back, who needs right of way?
When it hit the curb on the other side of the road, it spun a few times and continued to roll in the direction it was going. All along Goldman Street it rolled. On the concrete between the curb and the road, it looked as if it was merrily making its way towards the Goldman Shopping Complex. The way it rolled, with its ends bopping as it hit stones and debris, it looked as if it was hopping to a beat.
The car radio was on and I imagined the Coke bottle going down the street to the sound of Justin Timberlake’s My Love.
I can see us holding hands
Walking on the beach,
our toes in the sand
I can see us on the countryside
Sitting on the grass,
laying side by side
But 2-litre plastic bottles don’t listen to music and don’t care much for Justin Timberlake even though they may have much in common as Pop Music is often referred to as plastic. It did not bother the bottle either that Coke often uses popular music to promote its product to consumers. It did not see the irony.
So we cannot tell what gave the Coke bottle its rhythm as it made its way towards the next intersection. As the bottle went out of sight I wondered whether plastic bottles going for a stroll really need an observer to ensure that their story will be documented?
So, anyway, as it rolled past Seventh Avenue, a guy on his bike was standing at the traffic stop with one foot on the road, waiting to make his way into Goldman. His eyes trailed the carefree Coke bottle roll along in front him. It seemed to be almost dancing. He thought to himself what an interesting metaphor for life. The emptier you are—with less worries and stress—the happier you will be. Freer. He smiled to himself.
The 2-litre did not look up or contemplate the biker because Coke bottles don’t cycle and could not be bothered by philosophical thoughts about life and what it all means. So it passed by the guy on the bike without even a nod and on it rolled…
The Coca-Cola logo was now a spinning red band when the 2-litre reached the busy traffic intersection on Eighth Avenue and Goldman. Wreckless buses, expedient mini-taxis and impatient BMWs were not going to slow down or honk at a plastic bottle who cannot understand what the red man means on pedestrian light.
I cannot say that our Coke bottle smiled when it bobbed unscathed across Eighth or that it even looked back to admire what it had accomplished. But even if I could, it was short lived because just then the bottle deflated.
Some heavy guy, dressed in rags, had stepped on the empty bottle with his worn out boot. He jumped a bit on the bottom part to ensure that there was no air left. He took off the wrapper and put both in a huge canvas bag squatting on his trolley. There were hundreds of other squashed plastic bottles, plastic wrappers and an assortment of other used junk in his treasure.
He pulled the rope on his trolley to haul it for another 10 kilometres to the recycling dump. He thought to himself: Why don’t all the bloody plastic refuse come rolling down the street like this empty 2-litre Coke bottle. Then he had another brain wave: When they pay me at the dump, I am buying myself a 2-litre just for myself. The plastic Coke bottle said nothing.