By Ben |

When I was a teenager, for whatever reason one of my favorite summertime activities was to go out on the country roads east of Bartlesville and pick up recyclables. I called it "canpicking."  I would generally do this on a bicycle, and usually alone, but sometimes I brought friends. We'd hang bulging bags of cans and bottles from the handlebars, and if we crushed the cans tightly enough, we could sell enough at the recycling center in Dewey to afford a can of pop for the return trip. (We rarely brought any water with us, even in the peak of summer.)

When I first started doing this in middle school, I was understandably pretty naïve about alcohol and the people who drink it. I would pick up discarded beer cans and bottles and note that they usually still had some liquid in them. Not wanting to carry extra weight, I'd open the (glass) bottles and pour out the liquid. I couldn't help noticing that it smelled a lot like urine, but I figured that was from sitting out in the sun for weeks.

I also couldn't help noticing that by far, most of the beer cans and bottles we found were Budweiser. Overwhelmingly, like 3 to 1. So I started to wonder what it was about Budweiser that made people want to throw it out the window. Was it because it smelled like piss? Was it just more accessible somehow to people who were new to drinking and driving, such that they'd get out into the country and then realize they didn't want an open container of alcohol in the car after all? (A few times I found an entire discarded case of beer with just one or two open.) There were so many containers that I imagined hundreds of people buying Budweiser and then reconsidering once they got into the country.

Over the years I thought back on it and realized that at least some of the liquid certainly was piss. People would drink some, piss in a bottle, and toss it out the window, only for me to find it. But that still didn't explain the preponderance of Budweiser.

Finally, some 30 years later, I had a realization: It might have just been one guy! Every day on his way home from work, he'd drink a Bud or two, pee in one of the bottles, and throw it out the window along the same stretch of road. There didn't need to be any other people, just one with a really regular habit.

The moral: Never doubt that one person can change the world. The only question is whether the change is for the better or worse.