Sunday, December 31, 2006


The arrival of the new year is the perfect time to reflect on the past 12 months and try to realign anything that, in retrospect, seems a bit off. Throughout the year readers eagerly offered me alternative solutions and/or additional advice. Now and then they also asked, "What were you thinking?"

Responses to three columns in particular prompt me to revisit some issues. Links to these columns can be found below.


The most response I received was to a column I wrote last January about a reader from Columbus, Ohio, who was torn about whether to report a man who regularly intercepts bags of recycled cans delivered to a bin at a local Home Depot. [See The Right Thing: WHO'S STEALING MY TRASH?] I wrote that this scavenger was no more in the wrong than the guy who visits my neighborhood every Friday morning, before the recycling truck arrives, to collect recyclables from our neighborhood recycling bins.

Readers such as Mario Fiermonte of Mission Viejo, Calif., continue to e-mail me that this practice can divert funding from a municipality's recycling efforts. That's a valid point. In addition, many municipalities have city codes comparable to Columbus' statute 1305.07, which prohibits anyone from removing waste set out for collection unless given permission by the "owner of such waste." If you're willing to give your recycling to an individual collecting cans, the smartest thing is to tell him that it's OK to pick up yours.

Given the minimal effort needed, the choice should not be whether or not to recycle in the first place.


In February I wrote that it was up to people setting up wireless Internet connections to make them password-protected if they don't want others to use them occasionally. I was deluged with responses from readers on both sides of the issue. [See ]

In March, after my column appeared, an Illinois man was fined $250 for tapping into the wireless connection of a not-for-profit agency while sitting with his laptop in a parked car outside the agency's office.

I still maintain that the ethical responsibility for securing the connection should fall on the person setting it up. Rest assured, if you're caught parked outside my house tapping into my wireless connection, and I have not made it password-protected, I will not press charges.


Finally, in October I wrote about a trucker from Orange County, Calif., who had received a speeding ticket for going 63 miles per hour in a 55-miles-per-hour zone, even though he had set his cruise control to 55 miles per hour. [See ] His boss refused to pay the ticket. The trucker discovered that the speedometer on his truck was out of calibration, and I told him that his boss should pay for the ticket and whatever it cost to check the calibration.

"Shame on you for such bad advice," wrote Cathy Worley, a retired attorney from Columbus, Ohio. "A person who travels for a living does not need a speeding violation on his record when he is not personally at fault."

It wasn't enough for the boss simply to pay the ticket, Worley argued, since the incident would still be a black mark on my reader's driving record. The trucker's boss should also pay for any court costs involved in fighting the ticket, which should be dismissed on the grounds of mechanical failure. Her counsel is wise, and I'm happy to pass along her advice.

I trust I can count on Fiermonte, Worley and my other readers to do the right thing by continuing to share their wisdom with me as the new year progresses.


Anonymous said...

Sometimes we make decisions or offer up advice in the moment. We are not always wise enough to look down the road at the consequences of the decision or advice. If we could rewind time, a lot of decisions, advice, and etc. would change.

Anonymous said...

This is one issue that Mr. Jeffrey Seglin has revisited with the conclusion of 2006. Individuals scavenging through others trash for resaleable recyclables is not illegal. Various local and Federal courts have ruled that trash that is put out on a public conveyance, no longer holds the status of personal property. Various criminal courts have ruled, that evidence that is removed from one's trash on public property, such as a street, is not subject to illegal search and seizure laws.

Todd Brklacich
Murray, UT

Anonymous said...

I am the writer of the question about the man collecting aluminum cans from a private recycled dumpster. I want to give you an update. The gentleman, weather permitting, is still collecting cans. Home Depot put a picnic table near the bins so he has a place to sit while he waits. What I am doing to help is, I sort through my container and leave the cans on the pavement--as other recyclers are doing too. I figure he is an icon at this location and people know what he wants. He does not speak English and is an elderly gentleman. My conscience thinks he is doing wrong. But what the heck, there are other important things to worry about.

Chris Beale