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October 4, 2012 3:57 PM   Subscribe

Why do I keep finding individual latex gloves on the sidewalk in my neighborhood?

Yes, it is pretty ridiculous that I am spending my weekly Ask on this, but inquiring minds want to know! My husband and I have been wondering this for years.

Four years ago when I moved to my new neighborhood (Capitol Hill, Seattle) I noticed that anywhere I walked I could usually spot a single latex glove discarded outside. Walk to the corner store? Oh look, there's a latex glove hanging out on the sidewalk! Going into the garage to get my husband's car? Latex glove on the stairs! Sitting on my stoop on a cool evening? Latex glove in the bushes next door!

Please help me brainstorm where/who they might be coming from? My first thought is that they are related to needle drug use but wouldn't there be two discarded gloves, not just one? There's never a second glove anywhere nearby. The gloves look stretched out, indicating they were worn, but they never look dirty/bloody/covered in, um, fecal matter or anything else that might give clues as to their origin or use.

I'm also curious why I see this in my neighborhood but not elsewhere. As far as I know, Capitol Hill does not have any uniquely large camps of people in need of latex gloves or clinics where they may be coming from. Ideas, anybody?
posted by joan_holloway to Society & Culture (44 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: My very first thought was "pet owner with their own unique method of poop disposal". My second was "vigilante prostate examiner".

My more logical thought is that sometimes people who deal with a lot of cash use rubber fingertip thingies to separate the bills; maybe someone is using gloves instead?
posted by elizardbits at 4:09 PM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Maybe the mail delivery person uses them? Wouldn't explain the littering part, but would be an understandable use of latex gloves. Alternatively, maybe a newspaper delivery person. Could also be some other type of driver.
posted by Dansaman at 4:11 PM on October 4, 2012

Best answer: The detritus of hand jobs by conscientious prostitutes?
posted by scratch at 4:23 PM on October 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I see these from time to time and always just assumed it was a drug thing. But I don't really have any evidence for that.
posted by chatongriffes at 4:26 PM on October 4, 2012

Best answer: Anecdata: The phlebotomists who draw my blood usually only wear one glove.

Mobile Red Cross donation, FAST service or other health service?
posted by xyzzy at 4:29 PM on October 4, 2012

As I understand it, scratch has it - in our neighbourhood they've been known to come from those who work primarily by mouth and hand. Are they inside-out?
posted by peagood at 4:29 PM on October 4, 2012

Best answer: Police frisking then littering
posted by hobo gitano de queretaro at 4:30 PM on October 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Postal letter carriers go through those things like kleenex.
posted by Divine_Wino at 4:41 PM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Any bakeries or food service places around?
posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 4:46 PM on October 4, 2012

Best answer: My assumption has always been either a drug thing or a cruising/sex thing, but I've always wondered, myself.

Letter carriers is a good idea. I'd like to think they throw their gloves in the garbage, but probably some don't.

Any kind of official Red Cross or health service is going to be disposing of their gloves properly, so probably not that. Also, you typically see this in shitty neighborhoods, not places where blood drives happen.

Food service, too, is most likely disposing of their gloves on the premises, in trash cans along with other food service waste. Even food trucks have to have permits, and would get dinged HARD by the city for leaving that sort of thing strewn around the street.

AFAIK police in my area don't wear latex gloves, but I could be wrong about that.
posted by Sara C. at 4:49 PM on October 4, 2012

Response by poster: Interesting guesses so far! There are lots of businesses around here, but then, there are lots of businesses in other Seattle neighborhoods that don't appear to have this sidewalk embellishment. Same with postal workers. Definitely never seen any sort of mobile health services around here though.
posted by joan_holloway at 4:51 PM on October 4, 2012

Best answer: EMT's have been known to leave their latex gloves all over the place. If they are nitrite gloves, nobody would be spending the extra money for them except EMT's or Cops.
posted by couchdive at 4:53 PM on October 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: After wanting to say the same as scratch, then laughing, I think the mail delivery person may be dropping them. I use them when I clean the floor or the bathroom, but when I remove them, they usually are inside out and rolled into a ball with the dirty part on the inside. Anyway, could it be that it finds its way out of the trash after a cleaning person has come by for a shift at an office, store or home?
posted by Yellow at 4:54 PM on October 4, 2012

Best answer: Okay, totally different direction: Any woodworkers? My shop is kinda small, so I do a bunch of finishing outside. Often I'll only bother to put a glove on the hand that'll hold the rag, and if I'm using an oil based rag I won't wrap the rag in the glove lest it ignite. If I run late in the evening and don't clean up, I could see gloves migrating out in a rainstorm or something. If someone like me is sloppier than that...
posted by straw at 4:55 PM on October 4, 2012

Best answer: My husband works in a lab, and has littered our lives with gloves he accidentally brought home in his pockets. They are never dirty.
posted by Coatlicue at 5:08 PM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Yeah, this happens on our street. I think it's the cooks at the Chinese restaurant on the corner. They come out for a smoke and take a glove off. Any restaurants around you?
posted by lunalaguna at 5:11 PM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Also wanted to add: this is not just something I see in a couple of blocks around my house. It's pervasive all throughout the neighborhood, which is 5.8 square miles and full of a blend of residential and commercial spaces. So, it seems like there must be some population of people doing this.

Now I'm going to start looking at whether they are inside-out or not!
posted by joan_holloway at 5:12 PM on October 4, 2012

Best answer: I'd guess cops for frisking as well
posted by animalrainbow at 5:12 PM on October 4, 2012

Best answer: Injecting drug use was my first thought. They might be part of a kit handed out by your local syringe exchange.

I believe the abscess care kits we give out in Tacoma include gloves, although we don't, to my recollection, typically give out gloves for injecting purposes. But Capitol Hill exchanges might have different practices, and I haven't worked on the Tacoma van in years anyway.

Many of the clients who would be receiving the kits are homeless, which might help explain the odd geographic distribution.
posted by zjacreman at 5:15 PM on October 4, 2012

Best answer: There was an area in Boston I lived in where cars were broken into about four times a month. I used to walk by smashed windows and there were sometimes latex gloves near by.
posted by KogeLiz at 5:18 PM on October 4, 2012

Best answer: A lot of one-armed EMTs in your area?
posted by kamikazegopher at 5:23 PM on October 4, 2012

Data point: I live in Capitol Hill and have no idea what you're talking about (though I'll certainly be on the lookout now...).
posted by 0xFCAF at 5:25 PM on October 4, 2012

Best answer: Maybe the mail delivery person uses them? Wouldn't explain the littering part

Don't know what kind of fancytown you live in, but mail carriers around here litter like crazy.
posted by phunniemee at 5:30 PM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I saw more than 50 in an intersection near you yesterday! Maybe the blood bank customers take them and litter? Lots of medical buildings around, rehab places too.
posted by jennstra at 5:45 PM on October 4, 2012

Best answer: I used to see them frequently around my neighborhood in Chicago, and when my apartment got broken into, the very nice cop explained it to me: burglars wear them to conceal their fingerprints, and then toss them the minute they're done.
posted by Oktober at 6:13 PM on October 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

burglars wear them to conceal their fingerprints, and then toss them the minute they're done
... thereby leaving their fingerprints on the insides of the gloves. Stupid burglars!
posted by exphysicist345 at 6:33 PM on October 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Dogs or birds going through some restaurant/lab/business trash and leaving bits scattered around (but the gloves are the bits you notice)?
posted by K.P. at 6:35 PM on October 4, 2012

Best answer: Sometimes I've seen people going through public garbage bins wearing gloves (although I cant remember if they were latex or not).
posted by el io at 6:49 PM on October 4, 2012

Best answer: news story about emt litter I mentioned the emt litter because I myself witnessed it with an incident. After they took them away the street had gloves, plastic twists from something or another, a section of cloth scissored away from them, Etc
posted by couchdive at 7:07 PM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This is a big reach, but some cyclists carry gloves in their bag for making repairs and I have seen some use one glove at a time.
posted by 99percentfake at 7:08 PM on October 4, 2012

Best answer: What sort of businesses are in the area?
I've worked in a day spa that had several staff who smoked.
The smokers would wear a latex glove on their cigarette holding hand when they went out for a smoke so their hand wouldn't stink.
posted by goshling at 7:31 PM on October 4, 2012

Best answer: I assume food service workers. Why? Because that would explain, possibly, why my foolish dog once swallowed a latex glove. Here's what it looked like on an x-ray.
posted by judith at 7:33 PM on October 4, 2012

Best answer: Are you on the South end of Capitol Hill that's closer to the hospitals? I thought the slang term for that neighborhood was "Pill Hill" Hospital density might have something to do with it.
posted by amoeba at 7:49 PM on October 4, 2012

Best answer: Capitol Hill is a big gayborhood, right? Safe sex kits I've received at Pride often include one glove for fisting/finger/whatever. Maybe folks are ditching the gloves but keeping the lube/condoms/dental dams?
posted by c'mon sea legs at 10:31 PM on October 4, 2012

Best answer: I was about to suggest illicit queer safer sex behind every cafe & pho restaurant & in every alleyway.
posted by soviet sleepover at 10:53 PM on October 4, 2012

Best answer: I often see them around Manchester, UK. Usually just one glove, usually inside out, and often dirty-looking. I'm definitely not going to get close enough to work out what they are dirty with.

I've mentioned this phenomena to other people and most have never noticed them. I once worked as a street-cleaner so I might still be scanning litter as I walk.

They are never near restaurants. My theories are that they're from car crime or street sex. I once joked they they were from freelance proctologists but that might be close to the truth...
posted by BinaryApe at 1:35 AM on October 5, 2012

Best answer: It's not a very lesbian neighbourhood, by any chance?
posted by Acheman at 1:45 AM on October 5, 2012

Best answer: One hand and clean is the key. It's food service or janitorial workers taking a smoke break. They strip off the glove, light up, and put a new one on when they go back inside - gloves are dispensed one at a time, not in pairs, from these big containers that work like a tissue-box. They'd grab a new glove when they went back to work. Smoking usually stains the glove, and just feels weird, so they strip it off the smoking hand, but can't be assed to take off the other one.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:15 AM on October 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I'm going to guess graffiti writing. You wear a glove so the spray paint / sloppy marker / shoe polish "mop" filled with paint doesn't end up on your hand and links you to the crime.
posted by wcfields at 12:51 PM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: It is a VERY gay friendly neighborhood. My number 2 guess (after needle drug use) was something to do with sex, as c'mon sea legs suggests.

0xFCAF, I swear, once you start looking for them you'll never be able to stop seeing them. They really are a ubiquitous part of this neighborhood in my mind!

And for all the locals, I have seen this in north capitol hill, I-5 shores, the more apartment-heavy areas of 15th Ave E, and of course the Pike/Pine corridor. I don't really venture towards Pill Hill so I don't know if it's a thing there too, but I wouldn't be surprised.

Thanks everybody! I am going to mark this as resolved and give points to everyone because, really, how can I possibly say which answer is the best? They're all awesome.
posted by joan_holloway at 1:07 PM on October 5, 2012

I live on lower Capitol Hill, not far from Bauhaus and City Market. I know exactly what you're talking about. I have seen blue nitriles a few times, and once, I even saw a cop drop a used pair. (Jackass.) But most of the ones I see aren't nitriles-- they're the ultra-cheap, ultra-thin, cruddy latex ones. I see them most in the alley behind The Crescent, which is also a place where used condoms are not uncommon. Given that, my guess is that the non-nitriles are from quickie alley hookups and/or sex work.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 12:40 AM on October 6, 2012

You could ask your local beat cop.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:44 PM on October 6, 2012

Within two days of reading this I started seeing them on the sidewalk in Savannah. Is this a new nationwide fad? Aliens?
posted by mareli at 11:41 AM on October 8, 2012

Now I'm looking forward to noticing them in the above described areas
posted by herbplarfegan at 3:53 PM on October 9, 2012

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