When I was in Poland I loved the Tour de France and the annual bicycle races that take place throughout Europe. We had our own version of the competition right outside our building block. All the kids that lived in my building would go out in the morning and we would make a huge, snake like track to compete on. We made the track with our feet. Dragging the dirt away like we had a limp. Sometimes with my only, good pair of shoes, which did not go over so well with my mother.
Before the track was made I would walk around the whole neighbourhood looking for bottle caps. I would take them home and make tiny little flags to put inside of them. Australia and New Zealand were my favourite for some reason.
It took me hours to crate our racers, and the other kids did the same.
I don’t know who started all this, but it sure spread throughout all the neighbourhood quickly, probably because it was inexpensive and we all felt connected to the world somehow.
When I got to Canada, I tried to duplicate the experience with my friends. The problem was unlike Poland where there were lots and lots of bottle caps everywhere because, well, beer was consumed outside at a higher and faster rate than Canada, and clean up was not high on the Communist priority list. But I digress.
Whatever the reason I found bottle caps extremely hard to come by in Canada and so I did a very silly thing. I couldn’t find beer bottles so I eyed the pop bottles instead. In the 80’s they were made of glass, and the top was sealed with a very soft aluminum cap.
I could not afford to buy the pop, and I don’t think my parents would allow me to buy such large quantities to stage a great Tour de France and so I did the only thing I could that was left.
I would walk in to random convenience and grocery chains and I would steal the bottle caps. I might be the only unarmed bottle cap thief in the world, but I assure you that I have been cured of my childhood habit.
I don’t remember how many stores I robbed of their precious aluminum bottle cap, but I do remember the last one. I was chased out of that store by an asian man who was quite mad at me, once he discovered what I was doing.
I remember running away with my bag full of prized possessions. I found a quiet neigh hood park. It was abandoned and I buried the bottle caps in the ground with my bare hands, hiding my loot. Hoping that no-one would ever be able to find the evidence.
That night. When I heard the sirens, I assumed and was certain that the cops were coming for me. That the convenience store owner called the police and that I would pay for the serious crime I committed.
I was only thirteen years old but I still remember how frightened I was. My perception of reality was so flawed. What I thought I knew I didn’t know.
Although this brings a smile to my face today, it is a reminder that being in my late forties probably makes things a little easier to perceive the world as it is. But as this memory came to me this morning, I was wondering what things I am missing and cannot see in my life. I wonder what things I am perceiving incorrectly although I hope never to hear sirens outside my window every again.
Cover photo generously provided by photographer Stefan Cosma.