October 11, 2007

Garbage Day in Worcester: Strange Drugs and Mutant Superpowers

LL spoke a funny line this morning:

The apocalypse is happening but I have to take the garbage out.
Of course, once we got the garbage and recyclables to the curb, we noticed that nobody else on our street had taken theirs out. Monday was a holiday, so trash pickup is delayed a day this week. We took the garbage back up. Leaving it out overnight results in squirrels, cats and skunks tearing open the bags and making a huge mess.

While I'm on the subject of garbage, this seems like a good time to mention the stringent rules that comprise the trash regimen here in Worcester. I have lived in a lot of places, including environmentally-conscious San Francisco, but I have never seen so many rules about trash anywhere else.

First off, one cannot simply buy some Hefty bags and leave one's garbage at the curb here. No, there are special yellow bags that you have to put your regular garbage bags into. Those are only sold at the checkout stand at our local supermarkets, not on the shelves with the other bags, so they were something of a mystery to us when we first arrived here. I'm not sure why there's this behind-the-counter policy about garbage bags in Worcester. It reminds me of the rules about pseudoephedrine-bearing over-the-counter cold remedies, though I can't figure out how one might be able to synthesize methedrine from a yellow plastic bag. Why else would there be a need to so control the availability of these mysterious trash bags, though? Clearly, there must be a problem with kids smoking the things. Somewhere in a 7-11 parking lot, teenagers are selling illegal yellow bags at 3:00 AM. There must be a buzz involved somewhere; the logic is probably the same as that behind only selling alcohol at package stores ("packies"). We must stop schoolchildren from getting high on garbage bags!

But the rules don't stop there. There are also strict rules about when one can bring one's trash to the curb. In my neighborhood, for instance, the trash has to be at curbside no earlier than 6:30 AM and no later than 7:30 AM on the day of pickup. That means that all the neighbors get to see one another in their pajamas and bathrobes. I know what everyone in my neighborhood looks like before they've had to time for personal grooming. It isn't pretty. We're all out there at about the same time, though, so it's inevitable. Seeing 20 or so people with severe bedhead every Thursday morning makes me glad I'm bald. I, at least, do not have a bad hair moment upon waking that I am forced to share with all and sundry. On the other hand, there's one woman living in the house across the street who looks simply smashing in her flannel nightie. No, wait, not smashing... I meant smashed. That's it.

Wait, there's more! We have very strict rules about sorting recyclables, too. Sorting glass, plastic, metal and paper makes perfect sense, but that's not enough. They must be sorted in rather particular ways. Pizza boxes present a particularly sticky problem. They don't go with the rest of the paper and cardboard; they must be placed under the yellow bag. I stress these words because if we don't do that just right, we apparently piss one of our garbage men right off. Not only will he not take a pizza box that has been placed anywhere but squarely underneath the mysterious yellow trash bag, but he'll fling the aberrant box onto the lawn and leave it there. If a pizza box is next to the yellow bag but not beneath it, if it is under our recycling bin instead of the bag, if the box has been disassembled, folded, and placed into a paper bag with the rest of the fiber-based recyclables, this one trash guy seems to take personal offense and make a point of expressing his displeasure by throwing the box from curbside onto the grass. We then find it sitting there when we retrieve our recycling bin later in the day.

Now, let's think about that for a minute. This guy is clearly bending over and picking up the box before throwing it. I'm assuming here that we don't have a garbage man with the amazing power of telekinesis working in our neighborhood, though perhaps that's what happens when one somehow ingests bits of mysterious yellow bags purchased on the black yellow bag market (shhhhhh). So there's this garbage man holding the pizza box just after 7:30 AM, and now he has two choices; he can fling it onto the lawn or he can simply turn around and, with even less effort, put it into his truck. Right? He's got the thing in his hand, and if it wasn't under the yellow bag he goes to the extra effort of throwing it. This has happened even on one occasion when LL was absolutely certain that she'd put a pizza box under the yellow bag and I'm pretty sure I saw her do it... but that damned pizza box still wound up on the lawn.

Maybe what we have here is a telekinetic garbage man who hates pizza. He arrives every Thursday morning mulling over in his mind how he'd like to use his superpowers to rid the world of warm cheese with tomato sauce on bread. It's all part of his evil plan to make pepperoni disappear forever. "Ha ha ha ha!" laughs Garbageman in that special evil way that supervillains laugh, "If these mere mortals insist on having pizza delivered to their homes, I shall make them pay! I will bring a reign of terror with a rain of empty boxes on every lawn!" And then he squints his eyes, fingers at his temples, as he uses his yellow-bag derived mutant superpowers to levitate empty pizza boxes simultaneously down our street, sending them spinning through the air and onto the lawns of his hapless victims. The only reason they don't see is that they're all inside trying to fix their bedheads. It's all quite surreptitious, which is only fitting for the actions of a supervillain.

What's really odd is that it's only pizza boxes — literally — that get such special treatment. A couple of weeks back, LL bought a bathroom scale that came in a box that was exactly the same size and shape as a pizza box. She put it under the yellow bag with a pizza box. The garbage man took the box from the scale and deposited the pizza box on our lawn, even though one was stacked atop the other.

Why, oh why, do the garbage men of Worcester so despise the noble pizza?

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