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It's a bird, it's a plane, it's POPOV MAN!

Who doesn’t enjoy a calming walk along a country road? A nice stretch of the ol’ legs in fresh air is not only good for the body, but it also does wonders for the soul. The trees, the grass, the birds, the empty vodka bottles… Rrrrrip! Empty vodka bottles? Yep.

For a couple of years or so, empty half-pint bottles of Popov vodka became a regular sight along our road. Additionally, there were pint Sunny D empties discarded a few yards from the vodka bottles. Someone was

enjoying screwdrivers while driving home. Why? A tough job? An unpleasant spouse awaiting them? One could imagine several scenarios. Whatever the reason, this person was leaving the evidence of their benumbing indulgence along the roadside. I was indignant. Who buys vodka, cheap vodka at that, and mixes it with an artificial beverage to slam while driving? And leaves litter on my road! The insult! The depravity! The danger.

The identity of Popov Man (it had to be a man, a woman would mix vodka with Minute Maid) became a topic of much speculation. Had anyone seen him? If we were to alert the police, what time of day did he drive by? Did he have short hair, long hair, facial hair, dark hair, blonde hair, red hair, or no hair? And, last but not least, where did that littering, inconsiderate, slob live? Not that we intended to confront Popov Man. We were profiling him for our amusement, painting a portrait of a soul in need of intervention—and a never-ending trip down sobriety lane. An image developed, surely he was in his late forties or early fifties, a laborer who wasn’t paid much (I mean, Popov? Really?), had a miserable job and a miserable home, and assuaged his misery with his one pleasure - cheap screwdrivers. Oh, and we were sure he drove a decrepit truck.

His misery was readily evident. New empties turned up regularly along the road. At first, I picked them up, but with so many bottles accumulating, I eventually began to eye them with disgruntlement and leave them where they lie. Not that this was right, only that I was sick and tired of picking up this man’s trash. Our neighbors made mention of the empty bottles and the speculation went to a whole new level. Was he driving drunk? Hopefully get got home before the alcohol fully kicked in. Would he injure someone? Pray to God not. Was there anything we could—or should—do? Hey, Mr. Sheriff Dispatcher, there are empty vodka bottles along our road, would someone please investigate? Yeah, right. Big eye roll. So we made jokes and laughed it off.

We suspected Popov Man was purchasing his goods at a small neighborhood store that was on his route home. His identity remained a mystery until…

One day, Hubby was at the store when he queued behind a worn-looking man in his late forties or early fifties purchasing a half-pint bottle of Popov and a bottle of Sunny D. A positive sighting at last! It had to be the legendary Popov Man! Hubby raised a brow at the store owner who returned the gesture. Heading back home, hubby watched the man’s older pickup turn onto our road.

“Did you get his license number?” I asked when hubby returned home and related the story. I got a long look and a tired shrug. Meanwhile, Popov Man drove off into the sunset, the vodka anesthetizing his brain.

Everyone has a story and no doubt, Popov Man had his own. Who knew what led him to slam alcohol on his way home? In a day when veteran suicides, murders of beautiful young women, devastating floods, overdose deaths, and the ever-rising cost of goods (otherwise known as the worst inflation in forty years) are constantly in the news, it’s easy to become inured to the suffering of others. We cope as best we can when adversity directly affects us; when it affects others, we draw in a long breath and thank God it wasn’t us.

I cut Popov Man some slack and prayed he found a better way to cope with his difficulties. He must have, as the littering abruptly ceased. Perhaps he was caught or moved, but whatever the reason, I no longer fume over empty vodka bottles, only the beer cans that occasionally grow along the roadside. Guess I’ll keep taking a trash bag on my walks.

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