I’m ‘that guy’ when it comes to recycling – the one who pulls shampoo bottles out of the bathroom trash while giving my wife the ‘seriously?’ face, or lecturing my son about how keeping that cardboard pizza box out of the landfill will make a better planet for him to inherit. And so far neither has killed me in my sleep.
As I write this, however, the wind is screeching down from the foothills and out across the prairie, wreaking havoc on most everything but in particular, all that garbage I have so painstakingly diverted from the refuse stream. You see, today is trash day, and the bins – regular and recyclables – are standing at the curb waiting for pickup. At least they were standing when I first rolled them out this morning. But on days like this, all bets are off.
On more than one occasion the recycle bin, the lighter of the two, has been tipped over by a particularly exuberant gust, its contents thereby emancipated and sent skittering merrily down the street. Cracker boxes, plastic coffee cream bottles, pop cans (soda cans for those non-Midwesterners out there), the cardboard tubes from the inside of toilet paper rolls, all cart-wheeling eastward at break-neck speed. And I – looking every bit like a homeless person in my ‘morning uniform’ of sweat pants, rumpled tee-shirt and five-day beard – am left to give chase. One moment I’m quietly enjoying my morning coffee and the next I’m running bent over and barefoot across the neighbors’ perfectly manicured lawn at the precise moment they are leaving for work, a free-form string of expletives leaving my lips as I grab after a stray yogurt cup that is bouncing along just out of my reach. I’m pretty sure they think I’m a serial killer anyway, so I offer a pinched smile and continue scrambling crab-like into the rising sun because the rest of my trash is already halfway to Omaha.
The wind in these parts can do more than just make for an exceptionally bad hair day – quite often the interstate between Fort Collins and Cheyenne is closed when the blustery conditions are enough to start flipping semis into the median as if they were Matchbox toys. So keeping that plastic trash container upright can be a challenge.
I’ve tried setting a random, heavy object on top of the bin to help weigh it down, but that solution is frowned upon by the collection company. The reason being, the trucks are highly automated in order for the firm to employ the least number of humans possible – that person who used to hang off the back and jump down at each stop to actually pick up your garbage is, like the caboose on a train, gone forever. Now there is just a driver, who pulls alongside the bin while sending a remote-controlled claw to grab, dump and return it to the curb. If a foreign object is resting on the bin, the driver has to get out and remove it and then get back in his seat before the whole ‘claw’ process can take place, costing him and his employer precious moments. The next thing you know, productivity drops alarmingly, trash begins to pile up, rats and other vermin gather, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria…you get the picture.
So then I tried waiting until the last-minute to roll the recycle bin to the curb. This is always a bit of a crap-shoot, though, as it requires keeping an ear out to listen for the approach of the truck in order to meet it just as it arrives. Because the garbage man waits for no one. Thirty seconds too late (an impatient bladder, a new level on Candy Crush, another vacuous yet inexplicably viral tweet from a nearly-naked Kardashian) and you’ve missed your window and will have to wait two more weeks for pickup. Now the trash begins to pile up again, rats and vermin, cats and dogs…
As you can see, it’s a conundrum. But until the government steps in and fixes the problem, I would say to my neighbors, don’t call the cops on that homeless guy in your backyard stuffing his rumpled tee-shirt full of pop cans. It’s just the serial killer from next door trying to save the planet.