Monday, Jan. 21, 42 A.B.

Trash Talk

Today was Trash Day - the most dramatic day of the week for us fans of street theater.

From the moment the bags and cans start appearing again along the curbs Sunday night straight through until the last blown lid has been retrieved some 24 hours later, no other day has so much to offer people like me.  Perhaps you know the type.  Perhaps you are the type - a voyeur who enjoys the intimate peek into another life which all trash provides, or a fellow Walter Mitty who savors the vicarious thrill of imagining himself rich enough and good enough to be throwing that away - the box a new gas grill came in, perhaps, or the styrofoam packing which protected a 32" Sony TV.

My neighbor to the north prefers big black bags.  I think he must be an exhibitionist, judging from the way he boldly puts them out every Sunday afternoon.  This week he had a box, too - with styrofoam packing, no less!  Alas, I lacked the courage to investigate further - to get close enough to read the writing on the side of the box.  No matter - there's always next time.  And - truth be told - just having such a box so near to my own home generated all the excitement I could stand.   

Oddly, my neighbor to the south put nothing out this week - for the second week in a row!  I know he's over there.  I've seen his car.  I can hear his watch ticking.  Has he become a hoarder?  Or is he secretly disposing of his trash at work in an attempt to fool everyone into believing he doesn't have any trash at all?  Such a man bears close watching....

Before I moved, Thursday was my Trash Day.  I used to have trouble sleeping all week long for fear that I'd miss it.  Monday is a much harder day to overlook.  It's the only one that begins with an M.

Before I moved, I used to have a company-issued can.  I had to buy my own here.  It was both a thrill and a heavy responsibility.  For four years I had the company-issued can.  For 10 years before that, I used a common Dumpster.  Thus, it had been almost 15 years since I'd had a can I could call my own.  I was a bit apprehensive, a bit unsure of my ability to pick out a can that was both functional and stylish, but I think I did ok.  I choose a big green Rubbermaid.  It has the cutest wheels!  AND a black handle on the back which rotates up and locks the lid in place.  I am very pleased with it.  Someday I'll post its photo - maybe some sunny day after I've given it a thorough scrubbing but before the tree leaves have started to emerge again in a vain attempt to compete with its manufactured beauty.

Before I moved, I used to have to cart my recyclables to a collection center some 10 miles to my south.  My area didn't have any recycling centers, so every few months (or whenever the stack of newspapers toppled over in the garage - whichever came first) we'd load up the car and drive off to deliver our papers and pop cans to faraway strangers - volunteer sorters (often mere kids) who didn't really care if they got our stuff or not.  They made us drive there on the first Saturday of the month.  They forced us remember not to come before 9 AM or after noon.  I'm not sure how we managed - I really don't - but we did.  We simply did.  Just one more triumph of the human spirit, I guess.  "Yay!" for Homo sapiens.

Now they pick up our recyclables every Monday.  Yes, they come to us!  And they even gave us two spiffy little red plastic crates to put our things in.  One is strictly for newspapers and cardboard - things like that.  The other is strictly for glass, aluminum, and #2 plastic containers.  The one for newspapers has a tight-fitting gray plastic lid to keep the papers dry even when it rains.  It took me a few months to get the hang of this new system, and to remember which container gets what, but... I did it.  I managed.  Now I'm an old pro, ready to serve as Trash Day Counselor to any newbies who might come along.  I only need to figure out how much I should charge....

Not everyone in the Columbus area has this same system. Some suburbs do not offer curbside recycling.  Some, on the other hand, do not require their residents to get their trash to the curb themselves.  While we're busy wheeling and carting our things down the drive, other residents of other suburbs are sitting in their leather wingbacks, smoking their cigars, swirling their brandy snifters, and madly chortling up their sleeves.  I sometimes enjoy imagining them spilling their brandy on the wingbacks as they do this, then accidentally immolating themselves with a spark from their cigars in their haste to clean things up.

For awhile, I'm told, one of these other suburbs didn't even require residents to set their trash outside.  Workers would actually go hunting for trash inside sheds and garages.  Now they limit themselves to the outside acreage - kinda like the way some kids hunt for eggs and other goodies at Easter time.  Personally, I'd just as soon these workers keep their distance since so much of what I value most can easily be mistaken for refuse.

One suburb requires its residents to buy stickers at grocery stores and other places.  These stickers cost $2.25 each.  If you want a bag picked up or a can emptied, you need to slap one of these stickers on it.  We just pay the city a flat $11/month instead for virtually unlimited pick-up.  I think I prefer our system.  Even though I don't need to have a refrigerator hauled away every week, it's nice to know that if I ever do, I won't have to scurry around to find a sticker to slap on it.  Any slapping I do will be purely optional.  If you ever have to end a relationship with a heavy appliance, I just think that's the way it should be.

Perhaps the best part of Trash Day, of course, is the actual pick-up.  So much of the work we pay to have done anymore gets done out of sight.  Car repairs, cross country mail deliveries, psychic hotlines and much else involves people taking our money in exchange for doing things we never actually get to see getting done.  Trash pick-up is different.  I like that.

And I like the fact that the trucks they use here have two steering wheels so the driver can navigate while sitting in either of the two front seats.  This speeds things up, since the driver not only has to drive but stop and get out and pick the trash up himself.

What really intrigues me about these double steering wheels, though, is that there's nothing I know of that  prevents two drivers using them at the same time.  In my mind, I can see them not struggling against each other but having some central processing unit under the hood averaging their steering motions together and then sending a compromise result to the wheels.  It'd be a kind of Driving By Committee which would lead to far better results than any one driver could achieve.  Because committees always come up with better results than lone wolves - right?


Ok, so I admit there's a down side.  The two steering wheels thing brings back troubling memories of the the time I went to an amusement park with my half-sister and her half-brother.  They went on a ride - kinda like that Mad Hatter thing at Disneyland.  Riders sit in spinning teacups which themselves sit on a big, spinning platform.  There was a "steering wheel" in the center of the cup.  Turning it one way made the cup spin faster.  Turning it all the other the opposite direction basically kept the cup from spinning at all (except as part of the bigger, spinning platform).  When my half-sister and her half-brother got off this ride, she was telling him what a jerk he'd been for turning the wheel so that the cup spun faster.  She - seated across from him - had tried to turn it the other way, but his superior arm strength won out.

Funny thing was, as harsh as her words were, her face told a different story.  Her face was smiling and laughing even as her voice was full of ardent protest.

I was maybe 4 years old.

It was my first exposure to the often sado-masochistic nature of male-female relationships.

It confused me then.

It confuses me now.

If a married couple is ever assigned to the same double-steering-wheel garbage truck, would my innocent trash have to suffer the consequences?


So much for sleeping well tonight!

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(©Now by DJ Birtcher using his left keyboard
for all the words with an even number of letters in them
and his right keyboard for all the others)


Confidential Reminder To Mrs. Ruth Easterton Of Philadelphia, PA: If you get a kick out of cow porn, you're standing too close!