Good grief. I already knew it was going to be a bad week — what with the financial bailout and the fact the city hadn’t picked up our recycling last week.
The recycling snafu — well, it was terrible. My husband had to haul the bin back into the house, the blue plastic box overflowing with newspapers, beer and soft drink cans, and empty wine bottles. He grumbled every step of the way. “Where are we going to put this junk?” he wanted to know. “Why do we pay property taxes?”
We stored it under the stairs, which made us look like we were some pathological strain of extreme hoarders. “Can you imagine how bad it’s going to be by next Tuesday?” my husband said. “We’ll need an army to move it out.”
Monday evening, he re-hauled our bulging recycling box back out to the curb. By this time, the box was overflowing and — given the newspapers and used drinking receptacles — it looked like we’d hosted a convention for alcoholic journalists. “Didn’t you know,” one of our neighbors called out to my husband, “they changed our recycling day to Friday?”
Well, no. We hadn’t known. Nobody had told us. Frankly, I blamed our next-door neighbor, Leila. If she hadn’t moved to Colorado last month, she would have let us know about this extreme change in our schedule. But, no. Leila was in Golden, where it’s already fall, and we had been left to fend for ourselves.
“What do you mean, Friday?” I yelled at my husband. “We’ve always had our recycling picked up on Tuesdays. This ruins our schedule. Completely.” Like, I thought, we had a schedule.
My husband shrugged, then moved our recycling out to a side street. “It looks better there,” he said. “Maybe they pick up on Tuesdays on the side street. Anyway, at least we won’t have to look at it.”
They didn’t, of course. So our overflowing recycling bin sat there, drawing flies and mosquitoes. But by then, the week had gotten worse. Once again, we learned, neither my husband nor I had gotten a MacArthur genius award. Stiffed another year!
I listened to two of the MacArthur recipients on NPR, trying not to get too unattractively bitter about my disappointment. One had developed an artificial nose. Big deal, I thought. What’s wrong with real noses? What’s so genius-y about that? Some other guy had developed a musical instrument. I guess that was just great, too. (I play the piano and marimba and my husband plays the clarinet. I guess that’s not good enough for them.)
This morning, I looked at the whole MacArthur winners’ list. Ancient bridges, rural health clinics, whatever. Yawn. I didn’t see anyone struggling with the great personal hygiene and environmental problems we were trying to overcome at our house, what with the city bamboozling us about our recycling.
In fact, this year, we didn’t even know anybody who got an award so that we could complain, with great accuracy and as many snide personal anecdotes as possible, about how that person hadn’t deserved the prize as much as one of us.
So, no phone call once again this year. No getting called a “genius” by somebody who wasn’t being sarcastic. No surefire mention in our eventual obituaries.
In the meantime, our recycling sits on the side street, waiting. Maybe for Friday. Anyway, that’s what they tell us. But I don’t know. I’m just not sure I can trust ever again.
(Copyright 2008 by Ruth Pennebaker)