Wretched Refuse

Here in New York City the Sanitation Department will pick up pretty much anything you leave out for them. Unwanted furniture, old stoves, Christmas trees, paint cans, wooden planks, TV sets, you name it – just leave it at curbside and it’s gone the next day, gobbled up by the big white truck’s insatiable hydraulic maw. But a while back I managed to find the one thing that you can’t throw out.

Garbage cans.

After years of using the same old rusty metal container that had come with the house when we moved in, I finally decided it was time for a new one. So I went down to the hardware store and bought a spiffy replacement, a durable plastic model by Rubbermaid in a tasteful and attractive forest green. But getting rid of the old one was not so easy.

First I simply put it inside the new one – I wasn’t optimistic, but it was worth a try. The garbagemen kindly unpacked it for me.

I put it out on the street with a note taped to it instructing the crew to haul it off. I didn’t think reading notes attached to garbage cans was included in their job description, though, and I worried that it wouldn’t work. It didn’t.

The garbagemen ply their strenuous trade frightfully early – often well before seven o’clock – so interacting with them personally was out of the question. Not having a lot of options, I tried increasingly prominent and importunate notes. But each time the old can was still there the next morning, rusting and forlorn. It began to haunt me a bit, like when you are trying to dump a body and it keeps washing back up on shore.

Finally I had to resort to drastic measures. With considerable difficulty I crushed the old can into a ball – no easy task, as in the days before World War I when this can was forged, they built things to last, and this one was apparently designed to survive an asteroid impact. I put the crumpled mass out by the curb in the new can. Sure enough, the next morning it was gone.

The new plastic one is holding up very well. That’s good, because I intend to hang on to it for while.

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One Comment

  1. Duncan says

    Of course the solution to this problem is quite simple. When trying to discard a garbage can, just place it in front of your neighbor’s house.

    Problem solved! And once you recognize the simplicity of the solution, you needn’t feel any guilt about dumping the problem on your neighbor, since (unless he decides to keep it) he can just pass it off on his neighbor. And so on.

    And just think, in a few years’ time it might make it all the way around the borough and back to your house, right around the time your shiny new plastic garbage can has worn tired and thin. Then you’ll have a convenient place to throw it away.

    Posted February 1, 2006 at 5:29 pm | Permalink