The other day I bought some batteries because I wanted to change the batteries in all of our clocks and flashlights since we always forget to do that and sooner or later they cease to function like an over-the-hill energizer bunny. I took down a clock and removed the battery and chucked it into the kitchen garbage can. Suddenly I felt a tug on my trousers and I looked down and discovered the source of my interruption was Gina's little five year old grandson. His name is Ian, whom we call Chiqui (CHEE-key) which is short for "Chiquito" (little one). He said, "Grampa, you shouldn't throw the battery in the trash because it will hurt the animals and the plants. You must take the old batteries to a place where they destroy them properly". I asked him where he had learned about that and he told me in kindergarten. Hmmm, that's strange, I never learned that in kindergarten.
I began to wonder why they didn't teach him something more practical like how to wash my car. Just then Gina chimes in and says, "Why don't you change the rest of the batteries and then we can all take them down to the IMSS (Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social)? They have a collection point there". I said "Duhh, okay" and proceeded with the battery change-out. I had barely resumed my task when there was another annoying tug at my pants leg. It was Chiqui again. He said "Grampa, what about the battery that you threw in the trash? We must take that one too. So, there I was half upside down in a trash bin and searching through the egg shells and coffee grounds for an AA battery. Lucky for me I was able to grasp the battery and stand up before I passed out.
We went down to the IMSS and walked through the entrance and down the hall to the battery collection point with Chiqui clutching his little treasure bag full of old batteries and skipping along like Winnie the Pooh. The collection point looked like an environmental altar with various bags and bundles of used batteries piled on it and a bunch of slogans stuck to the base. There was one large banner in particular that said:
Ponte las pilas a limpiar Irapuato!
This is a very cute sign with a double meaning. On one hand it suggests "Put your batteries here to clean-up Irapuato" and on the other hand it means "Get busy (or get to work) and clean up Irapuato".
The word "ponte" (POHN-teh) is a very handy word. It is the second person singular imperative form of the reflexive verb "ponerse" which means "to put on" as in clothing or "to become" as in "get busy".
¡Ponte las pilas!
¡Ponte a trabajar!
Get to work!
¡Ponte a jalar!
¡Ponte de pie!
¡Ponte en forma!
Get in shape!
Get ready! or Be sharp!
¡Ponte el sombrero!
Put on your hat!
¡Ponte a escribir!
¡Ponte a estudiar!
The word "pila" of course means "battery" as in dry cell battery but it can also mean a "font" such as a "pila de agua bendita" (Holy water font) or a "pila de bautismo" (Baptismal font). There is a verse in the Spanish birthday song "Las Mañanitas" that goes:
El día en que tu naciste nacieron todas las flores
The day you were born all the flowers were born
En la pila del bautismo, cantaron los ruiseñores
On the baptismal font the nightingales sang
So, how did our little excursion to IMSS to save the Earth turn out? Fantastic! We left there in great spirits after having done our civic duty with heads held high and chests puffed out. Ian held each of our hands and skipped along between us, happy in the realization that every now and then he can teach old grampa a thing or two. I don't know how many birds and bees and trees we saved this time but the next time I see someone throw a battery in the trash I will stand up straight and put my hands on my hips (if I can find them) and say "Hey! What the heck are you doing?" knowing that I have already earned the right. Why don't you join us, the Irapuato Battery Police. Hmm, I think I'll start working on our theme song. Oooo! Oooo! We will need uniforms too!
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