One good way to keep grandkids coming around is to keep cool toys around. Not expensive toys, necessarily, but interesting ones like parachutes, butterfly nets, ride toys with obnoxious sirens and horns, plastic bats and a thousand plastic balls, old buckets, assorted sizes of rakes and snow shovels, galvanized tubs and a 9-setting nozzle for the garden hose.
That said, there are times you should drop some hard, cold cash. On grabbers.
For the uninitiated, a grabber is a hollow aluminum rod about 3-feet long with a jaw-shaped contraption on the end that you open and close by squeezing a lever on the handle. Grabbers enable grabees to grab things out of reach—cookies on a high shelf, interesting things on stacks of boxes in the garage, your cousin’s leg, your cousin’s arm and your grandpa’s hat right off his head.
Our two grandsons were with us for a short weekend and noticed shiny new grabbers hanging in the garage. They immediately inspected them and demonstrated how to adjust the angle of the jaws. We’d never noticed that before and probably never would have.
There wasn’t much (or many) to grab in the backyard, so we suggested branching out. We asked if they’d like to pick up trash. They were ecstatic. Their thought process probably went like this: “If they take us to pick trash this time, maybe they’ll take us dumpster diving next time.”
Keep dreaming, boys. Keep dreaming.
We grabbed plastic gloves, buckets, a 30-gallon trash bag and headed to a neighborhood strip mall known for lackluster maintenance.
I told the boys we were putting the Broken Window Theory into practice. Their eyes grew huge. Grandma was talking trash only moments ago and now she’s talking broken windows.
“It goes like this, fellas: Trash, litter and broken windows may seem like small things, but they can lead to an increase in crime. Before you were born, the mayor of New York City put the Broken Window Theory to work and had graffiti erased and broken windows repaired nightly. The result was a decrease in crime and the Big Apple became known as one of the safest big cities in the world.”
“Cool! Can we go there?”
“Um. Maybe someday.”
Our destination did not disappoint. Stores, a gas station and bus stop all provided a hodgepodge of finds. Big plastic cups, empty soda cans, beer cans, tiny liquor bottles and disposable coffee cups with lids and stir sticks accounted for the greatest amount of trash.
The problem with “disposable cups” is that a lot of people take it to mean right where they are at the moment.
Tobacco products and masks were the second most frequently found items. Empty bags from the big three of fast food nutrients— crackers, cookies and chips— made an excellent showing as well.
The best find of the afternoon? A smashed car bumper.
“No, we’re not taking it home!”
Although it was productive couple of hours, albeit gross and smelly, nobody wants to go back soon.
That said, the parking lot looked good.
For a whole two days.