Is there anything more shaming than to set out your trash cans in the morning and then to come home at night and see that your cans are still full, but all of the neighbor’s cans have been emptied?
In your heart you know it’s not simply that the trash collectors unintentionally skipped your cans. Your cans are a bright, nuclear-dawn orange. You need sunglasses just to get within five feet of them. No, it goes deeper than oops we missed you pal, getcha next week.
As you stand at the curb staring in disbelief at your full cans, the neighbors are happily hauling their empties into their garages. Some are humming. Some are even whistling. But there you are on the brink of tears. Life is so damned hard and now this.
It’s not a matter of messing up the recycling. You have a separate can for metal, one for paper, one for plastic, one for last nights’ uneaten Brussels sprouts that never should have been let out of Belgium, one for multi-colored leftovers that got stuck in the back of the fridge behind the cantaloupe, one for cantaloupe strategically placed to hide the leftovers in the back, one for vacuum cleaner lint, one for dryer lint, one for upstairs junk, one for downstairs junk, one for impure thoughts, one for Peter, two for Paul, three for Him who made us all.*
Deep down inside you know what happened. Your garbage simply wasn’t good enough for the discriminating eye of a garbage collector. Your competency as a human being has essentially been recalled. The only way it gets lower than this is when they turn you away at the crematorium.
The ultimate humiliation is hauling those full cans of trash back up the driveway and into the garage, aware of neighbors smirking behind their blinds. The best you can manage is a hollow “Heh, Heh,” as if you find it darn jolly to be moving the garbage in and out of the house, like taking the dog for a walk.
Through the week you carefully monitor every item destined for the trash against a detailed check list of putrescence standards mandated by the American Garbage Can Inquisition.
Take for instance, those 400 paper napkins you used to wipe your fingers at last night’s dinner of chicken wings. According to the AGCI, anything above two napkins for wings falls into the dreaded “Faux garbage” category. And then there’s all that lint. Did you know you can weave that stuff together to make a blanket or a reasonable facsimile of an Armani suit? Check the duds on the guy next door some time.
But your diligence pays off. A week later as you arrive home you feel a stab of joy as you see your empty orange cans rolling around in the street.
“They took the garbage,” you exclaim to Katherine as you resettle your empty cans in the garage. “We passed the smell test.”
“Speak for yourself,” she says, wrinkling her nose. “Now will you please take off that ridiculous crocheted spaghetti and meatball sweater?”
*Lyrics from “A Soalin,” by Noel Stookey
©Patrick A. McGuire and A Hint of Light 2013, all rights reserved.