Should North Dakotans be trusted with glass bottles?
The evidence suggests no. Ask especially those who walk, run, bike or walk their dogs.
You have to keep an eye on the pavement or sidewalk for broken glass.
A few years back I was lucky to be wearing some shoes with fairly thick rubber soles. I noticed a slight scratching sound as I took a step with one shoe. I checked it out when I got home.
What looked like a small piece of glass was actually a thick curved shard from the bottom of a bottle, an inch and a half long. Somehow it had worked its way in, the inserted edge curving up, over and slightly back down again, leaving only the other edge exposed. It never made it to my foot.
With a pliers, I managed to get it out in one piece without cutting myself.
This summer, I've been doing more walking at my doctor's orders, and I've noticed the broken glass. The new footbridge on North Hill, where I've seen people walking dogs across, had a scattering.
I called the city about this, and the bridge was cleared of glass. Later, however, there was a broken liquor bottle on the path just off the west end of the bridge.
We apparently cannot be trusted with glass containers. It seems time to limit the off sale of beverages to plastic, aluminum or paper containers.
Beer is now in plastic and also aluminum bottles with twist off caps, along with good old cans. Some booze is in plastic bottles, as is some wine, along with good old paper boxes. Pop is almost entirely in plastic bottles or aluminum cans.
I first noticed all the North Dakota broken glass on driveways, parking lots, sidewalks and streets the spring of 1977.
We'd moved here the previous winter unaware of what lay under the snow. The amount of broken glass was considerably more than it was in our former home, a Wisconsin city of almost exactly the same population as Minot.
Of course times were different back then. More pop was sold in glass, including quart bottles. More beer was sold in bottles. So there was more broken glass.
Wisconsin also had more returnable bottles than North Dakota, which was probably one reason for less broken glass there. You didn't throw away empties; you just put them back in the case. When it was all empties, you took it in and got 85 cents or a dollar off your next case. Speaking of cases reminds me of attending Minnesota Gopher football games in the old stadium. A few of us had student seats in the curved closed end of the big horseshoe, near a larger group of older guys.
They were vocal and funny and got increasingly so as the game went on. They drank bottled beer, a seemingly inexhaustible supply, and cheered things like, "We want to hear bones crunch." After the game they left behind a few cases of empties neatly arranged under their seats.
Drinking was prohibited, of course. In fact, the loudest cheer at any game was when the public address announcer said: "The drinking of alcoholic beverages in Memorial Stadium is strictly prohibited."
The crowd response was a deafening chorus of boos, with most of us holding up some alcoholic beverage. It was a ritual.
Our drink of choice was rum and Coke. A friend had a leather flask with a shoulder strap that he wore under his coat. We'd pass our Cokes to him and he'd discreetly add the rum.
The previous year he attended Marquette University in Milwaukee (when they still had football). There they drank martinis out of stemmed glasses as they cheered their team to yet another loss.
The beer guys in Memorial Stadium secreted bottles in their jacket and overcoat pockets, and a few guys snuck in the cases. With no bottles in them, the cases folded flat, and were easily concealed, on their backs, under their jackets, leaving their hands free.
But, as per usual, I digress.
To get back on topic and finally conclude this: we now have the beverage container technology to significantly reduce the amount of broken glass on our walking, biking and driving surfaces. Let's use it. We can't be trusted with glass.
(James Lein is a community columnist for The Minot Daily News)