In Times Square, Saying Good Riddance To 2011

It's the fifth annual Good Riddance Day in Times Square. There's a giant shredder, a dumpster and a sledgehammer, and people can discard their distasteful and depressing memories of 2011. Anyone can participate, and leading off is Kate Selman of Tampa, Fla., who will shred the military deployment papers for her husband.

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Times Square is famous for its massive New Year's Eve party, but a few days before the big event, it also hosts Good Riddance Day. As NPR's Margot Adler reports, it's a day to trash all your bad memories of the past year.

MARGOT ADLER, BYLINE: In the middle of Times Square was a huge shredder, several dumpsters and lines of people waiting to put the bad stuff away before welcoming the new. The first to shred - they'd won a contest to do it - were Katie Selman and her husband, Army Major Steve Selman. Katie's brother spent a year in Iraq. Katie's husband Steve was deployed several times. They have five kids between four and 12, so what will Katie Selman feel as she shreds those deployment papers?

KATE SELMAN: All the sleepless nights, all the sending packages and emails, always worrying - it's just going to be out the door when I shred these papers.

ADLER: Posted on the giant center shredder were scores of pieces of paper with things that people wanted to get rid of. Forty-five pounds, being broke, the bully I endured in high school, wasted time and effort, Bob's brain tumor, three sewer backups in three months, backstabbing people, on and on.

And tourists and New Yorkers lined up waiting for their chance to say good riddance to something before the new year. Daisy O'Malley.

DAISY O'MALLEY: My memories of my bronchitis prescriptions.

ADLER: And when she stepped up to the dumpster, she noticed particularly the sheet with all the side effects listed of the medication she was taking.

What are you here to toss? I notice they look very foamy.

KAREN ROMAN: I don't even know what it's called. I broke my wrist and I had to have surgery, and for several days, I had to have my arm strapped into this foam apparatus to hold it in place.

ADLER: Karen Roman wasn't the only one with medical issues, but Leonella Chai(ph) and Vertania Craft(ph) were dealing with what was clearly on top of the list of things to get rid of.

LEONELLA CHAI: Ex-boyfriends.

ADLER: Ah, now, how are you going to do this physically? Do you have papers or do you have...

CHAI: Yeah. We're going to get a paper up on, I guess, the front of the desk and write our worst memories or whatever and just let it go.

VERTANIA CRAFT: I'm shredding I guess you can say ex-boyfriends.

ADLER: Ah, you, too?

CRAFT: Yes.

ADLER: How many?

CRAFT: I would say about three to four. For me, this is the first time that I've done it and it seems pretty great just being able to say, I'm through with this. I'm on a new chapter in my life and I'm ready to let loose.

ADLER: In fact, at one point on the line, I saw several people with sheets of paper that just said, Mike.

Are they all getting rid of the same Mike or are these different Mikes?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: No, no. Different ones.

ADLER: In fact, a very small boy named Jacker Ebbs(ph) said his Mike was a bully.

JACKER EBBS: A really annoying kid that was in my class last year. I hate him. You're going to go into the shredder.

ADLER: And so it went. Many religions have rituals to cast out and release the bad things of life, but this may be the only such ceremony dominated by tourists and camera crews.

Margot Adler, NPR News, New York.

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