Yes; you read that correctly. Garbage cans.
“Why rant about garbage cans?” You may ask.
My good friend, Joyce, once gave me a very wise and useful piece of advice: Always be good to your garbage man. It doesn’t matter how rich and powerful you are; if the garbage man doesn’t show up for work and take your garbage away, you will be unhappy.
It is an irony that Joyce never extended this metaphor to being good to wait staff at restaurants. She was notorious for badgering servers, even for whistling to get attention. As a result, I went for a period of about 8 years once, when anytime I had dinner out with her, it was a sure thing that I would end up eating the wrong dinner order. Cold. We cook at home now. It works out better for everyone..
But I’m getting off topic here.
As I have mentioned previously, I live in the far outskirts of North Coast Metroland. We have no sidewalks, no streetlights. We have a septic tank, which is the subject of mild and intermittent floating anxiety for me, I will admit.
We also have a private company haul away trash. There is one. It’s Allied Waste Management. They are a ginormous company with landfills scattered hither and yon across the country. If you want your trash gone, you have to contract with these guys. They own the landfill, so you can’t show up with your own garbage. There is no alternative. They are a monopoly. Got the picture? They have the entire county by a sizeable handful of short hairs.
Earlier this week, a large blue trash receptacle on wheels arrived in my driveway. By “Large” I mean it’s about half-again as big as each of the two wheelie garbage cans we’ve been allowed to have until now. It’s also about twice as heavy as a standard garbage can, and it’s nearly 4 ft tall. So it’s big, but not big enough to give us as much volume as the two cans we’ve used to date at Camp Beanie
It and its compatriots were all just there, lined up at the end of every driveway in the neighborhood, when I got home from work. No accompanying documentation. They were just there, like silent sentinels, tall and heavy and shiny and blue.
I asked Mr. Bean: “When did it get here?”
He briefly looked up from his computer screen. “What?”
“The big honking garbage can? In the driveway?”
He looked down again. “I refuse to see the garbage can. There is nothing there.”
I called Allied Waste to inquired about the potentially imaginary garbage can.
“Yes; we are now requiring that all of your refuse be placed in the provided cans.”
“Ask?” I inquired. “I see no ask. There was no accompanying letter or even a sticker on the cans. And I don’t see anyone asking me anything. The blessed things just arrived, like locusts.”
“Ah, yes; well, we’re a little bit behind on getting the flyers out.”
“I see. So how did you determine that we were in need of these cans?”
“We have made a modification to our collection process, to better serve our customers and protect our employees from injury. The new cans can be lifted and dumped by our automated trucks now”
“Oh? You are protecting your employees from injury? Have paychecks become a source of injury now? “ I was, perhaps, allowing my sarcasm to bleed through a bit.
“You’re sure it wasn’t so you can decrease your workforce?”
“OK, how about my next question. How is my 85-year-old neighbor lady going to haul this behemoth of a can out to the street? Because it’s pretty heavy. Have you tried to wheel one of these around?”
“We have alternative solutions for those customers who need them.”
“Oh? Is that information in the flyer that is not accompanying the new cans? What alternative solution should I share with the neighbor lady? Better yet, what should I tell the next-door neighbor who has five kids and probably won’t be able to put all their garbage in this wonderful can?”
“Um…well, I’m not sure. They haven’t told us. Your refuse has to fit in the can.”
“So you don’t have an alternative solution?”
“Oh yes. We do.”
“But you can’t tell anyone.”
“Um…I’ll have to talk with my supervisor. Thank you for you comments ma’am.”
I called the county commissioner.
"Oh, I got one today too! I'm so screwed! I have a small business, and they won't give me a second can..."
Thursday morning, the garbage trucks showed up. All the new blue behemoths were lined up compliantly on the street – the next door neighbors had rigged it to contain an overflow. Apparently, in addition to not getting the flyers out on time, they didn’t get the new trucks out on time. The new cans were too big and heavy for the garbage crew guys to lift, so they had this one guy, with REALLY long arms, reaching into the cans, one at a time, and pulling the bags and associated jetsam out of the cans and putting it all in the truck. He fell into the can across the street.
I pointed this out to Mr. Bean.
“He has not yet learned to deny the can. When he denies the can, he will be able to lift it. I suggest that next week, we make a pot of coffee and bring out the lawn chairs."
I don’t know whether to write to the better business bureau or go watch The Matrix again.