Funny story. At some point, probably around 2008 or so, I began saving the plastic bottle caps from the Diet Mountain Dews I was consuming during the day at work. I don’t drink coffee (at all; ever). I get my caffeine via the DMD (which actually isn’t anywhere near what you find in coffee).
Anyway, channeling ancient college dorm protocol, I began building a pyramid of bottle caps on an unused area of my desk. It was mildly interesting to watch it grow and to try to stack them (wish I’d taken a picture). The color of the caps changes when they’re running some kind of promo, so my pyramid had some color variety.
The problem was I couldn’t stop. Once I started saving the bottle caps, I developed some kind of compulsion to see how big the collection would get…
Seven grocery bags bulging full.
In my defense, all along I had an art project in mind. I’ve been saving ticket stubs (even from the movies) most of my life — got a shoe box full — with the idea that a collage would be really cool. Ticket stubs of a lifetime (more or less).
Back when matchbooks were a thing, I used to save those, too, with the same goal: a truly awesome collage. (Awesome because of the time span it involves and because of the variety.)
I tossed the matchbooks quite some time ago. I still have the ticket stubs. They’re a little too personal to toss just yet.
But the bottle caps.
The idea was a sculpture of some kind. A “sand castle” made of bottle caps (and a lot of epoxy, which is one problem right there: most glues won’t stick to plastic bottle caps).
But then the soda companies decided to help us be healthier and moved to smaller sizes. I’d been sucking down those 16-ounce bottles they sold in six packs. Very convenient. There was almost always an open bottle near to hand. (Like some people always seem to have a cup of coffee handy.)
And I was vaguely bothered my liquid intake consists almost entirely of Diet Mountain Dew and (as the only alternative) beer. (Maybe some ice tea once in a while.)
Diet Mountain Dew, for the record, is mainly carbonated water and concentrated frozen orange juice. Plus some other stuff, but mainly that, so I didn’t feel like it was as bad as, say, cola (with all the phosphates).
I drink the diet because I can’t stand the taste of sugary soda. Makes my teeth feel coated. DMD just seems like flavored water.
Anyway, faced with buying lots of tiny bottles or switching to the two-liter big ones, neither really appealed. The little ones wouldn’t last, and you pay for all that tiny packaging, of course. (Almost more plastic than soda.)
I couldn’t see myself lugging a two-liter bottle around all day.
But then I decided that I wanted to try to reduce the soda intake, and this offered a chance and reason to change things up.
So, for a couple of years now, I’ve been buying the two-liter bottles and Ice Mountain spring water (from Michigan). I use the water to make ice cubes (my local tap water sucks).
Now I drink my DMD from a big 32-ounce thermo-mug filled with ice. I keep the DMD at room temp and pour it over the ice (seriously diluting it). And I restrict myself to one two-liter bottle per day (at least a 50% reduction).
So, much more water, much less Dew. (There’s still beer.)
And I stopped saving the bottle caps. (One a day? That’s just silly!)
But what to do with those seven shopping bags full of bottle caps?
Would I ever really make that art project? (These art projects I planned to enter in the Minnesota State Fair Art Competition. Thought I might get recognized for at least being something they hadn’t seen before.)
I decided I was (as tends to be true with me far more often than I like) just dreaming big ideas. The reality of my ever solving the glue issues, designing a sculpture, deciding on how to mount it, and then actually doing it?
Nope. Not likely to happen.
(To be honest, I just don’t have the fire I used to have. I just don’t care.)
I’d been mulling over the unlikeliness of my cloud castle, so my plan “B” was how much fun would it be to fill my recycle bin with just bottle caps and then watch the surprised reaction of the recycle crew.
Except these days those guys have an automated system on the truck that hoists the bins and dumps the contents. They never leave the cab.
Besides, what was I going to do? Lurk in the bushes with a camera?
So I finally set it all aside and decided to just get rid of the caps.
Recycle is every two weeks here, and I have stuff to recycle, so I couldn’t fill the bin.
I filled it halfway (my life footprint is small enough I could recycle every four weeks just fine).
For three pickups, the bin was half full of bottle caps.
All that remains of my dream, of my years of collecting, is the picture I took of the last load (click on it if you want to see it in all its full-sized glory).
It’s the image of a dead dream.
But that’s okay.
I have dreams to spare.
Stay dreaming, my friends!