Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Taking Out the Trash

I'm watching TBG collect the cans from the curb.  There's some detritus surrounding them; neatness doesn't count when the pick up is mechanical, I guess.  He's bending and replacing the spillage and now he's dragging them into the garage.

Yes, we keep the cans in the garage.  It's a long walk from the kitchen to the side of the house, the only other logical storage site, and there are always signs and sounds of small animals rustling around in the culvert which could be a space for them to rest.  The three car garage has room for them, and there's no chance of disturbing a pack rat or a snake or a racoon or anything else behind the closed doors.  At least, that's been our hope.  So far, we have not been surprised by anything larger than a big black beetle.

Daddooooo and G'ma had decorated metal cans when we were growing up.  Don't imagine flowers or Picasso-like faces. Daddoooo painted the family name and address in all the colors of the rainbow; using up left over paint must have been on the agenda when he began the project.  The cans were bumped and dented and scratched.  They had no wheels.  The lids lifted off with a handle on the top; flipping up an attached lid on a plastic, light-weight, easy to roll receptacle was far in the future. 

In the cold, those lids were a challenge.  So was getting the cans to the curb.

G'ma insisted on dragging them out to the street herself.  Living alone, walking with a cane, impaired shoulders and hips impinging on her physical abilities, she insisted that she was just fine and that no one should worry.  The thought of my mother slipping and falling on the slanted driveway, cans in hand, and then lying there all night until someone drove by in the morning led me to plead with her to take the cell phone in her pocket when she went out to do the chore. She agreed.  I'm not sure she really followed through with it, though.

The fact that her wonderful next door neighbors would have carried the damn things themselves was never mentioned.  She was independent and going to stay that way, for crying out loud.  Why didn't we find something else to worry about.  She was fine.

The neighbors did cart them back up the driveway after they were emptied in the morning.  They did it without asking.  She didn't have a chance to refuse the help.

When she moved to an apartment after selling the house (taking out the trash being only one of many reasons living there had become untenable) the trash closet was only across the hall.  The problem was remembering the location - of the chute and her apartment.  We developed a sing-song-y set of directions and we sang them for the weeks I stayed with her, organizing her move-in.  There were so many steps to be included - unlocking the door latch, exiting the apartment and crossing the hallway, ignoring the elevators (a major distraction... where am I going?.... oh, I have trash in my hand...) and then repeating the process to get her back home. 

Who knew that garbage could be so complicated?

In New York and Chicago, trash collection was part of our taxes. Imagine my surprise when we moved to California and found that we had to pay for private companies to do the dirty deed.  I never remembered a problem with the garbage men (nary a woman in my 60 years of watching) leaving a mess on the curb before I was responsible for a separate payment.  Once it was privatized, though, the situation changed.  Broken recyclables next to my driveway made me nutty; the dispatcher in Marin became familiar with my voice in a very short time.  If I had to pay for a service, that service would be done well. 

Apparently, that was a novel concept for them. Still, they always came back, with a broom and a dustpan and a scowl, and I always wondered why it was so much messier when the weather was so much better.  The answer still eludes me.

The kids were responsible for dragging the cans out to the curb, though in our first California house that was quite a challenge.  The driveway was as steep as it could be, and the kids were as little as they could be, and the cans were as heavy as they could be, and there was always the possibility of disaster.  How would I explain her injuries if Little Cuter were to be mowed down by the trash?  We moved after a year; that driveway was one of the main reasons we left.

And now, here in Tucson, there are many pick up options.  Amster opted for the tan cans from a less expensive company.  TBG and I, and all our neighbors, use Waste Management.  The recycling can is smaller than the garbage can, though we'd be better served if the sizes were reversed.  There's a perverse message there - we should be recycling more and the can should reflect that.  Our garbage is picked up twice a week; the can contains two or three small bags of plastic wrap, straws, and used tissues. Pretty much everything else goes in the tinier receptacle.  It's just not right.

SIR salvaged a dresser-with-perfectly-good-wood from the trash outside his college apartment, and built a media center out of the parts. Little Cuter and I rescued a couch from the dumpster after her real furniture had moved to Chicago but her graduation party required seating for adults.  An elderly woman picked up a swath of tire tread from the road this morning and placed it in my open trash bin before continuing on her way.  And then there's the way they recycle in Ann Arbor. 

There are so many restrictions, instructions, caveats and warnings one wonders why anyone would approach the container at all.

Who knew that trash could fill an entire post? 


  1. It's funny you mention about the trash. I was taking out the recycling to the garage and hubby had move the cans outside the garage. I was somewhat annoyed because it's quite cold here. But he forgot to put out the recycling last week and now it's starting to overflow.

    And here's to dumpster-diving. ;)

    Happy Election Day.

    Megan xxx

  2. Funny to read this post. I was thinking today (garbage day) about the "rag picker" who comes each Tuesday morning to pick through the recyclables for cans and bottles. Thought he would make for a good blog post, or a post on Cowbird. I've gotten to writing more there than on my blog.


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