Certified Non-Geniuses Tackle Environmental Hazards

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)

5 comments… add one
  • There’s something to be said for living in the middle of nowhere in Tiny Town.  Trash pickup is on Wednesdays.  Usually late morning.  But if they swing by early, they thoughtfully stop their truck outside our house and honk, so we can run out tardily with the trash.  (The “sanitation workers” seem to enjoy watching us run.  They have huge grins on their faces as they watch us run.  Well, waddle.)

    There is no recycling here, despite my efforts several years ago to get that going.  So out it all goes into the old-fashioned trash.  Deceased printers?  No problem.  Dead phones?  No problem.  If it doesn’t fit in the trash, you leave the debris laying on the ground in the general vicinity of the trash cans. 

    In a pinch, there is always good old-fashioned burning. 

    a Rhodes Scholarship reject

  • You always make me laugh so hard!  I never won a genius award, not even a Who’s Who or a “most likely to succeed.”  But I was class clown.  Does that count?

  • strange synchronicity. we’ve been having problems w/ our recycling, too. the day of pickup has been a closely guarded secret here. the alderman wouldn’t tell us, and streets and sanitation wouldn’t answer the phone. we were so excited yesterday when they finally came to get it and we could start filling it up again. we’d been putting our boxes and such in other people’s cans.

  • I find that putting out recycling is like hanging up laundry. These are healthy for the earth. But there are no secrets left for the neighbors. Unhealthy drinking habits? A splurge at Victoria’s Secret? Should be none of their beeswax. 

  • ruthpennebaker Link

    Our recycling is gone — finally.  I kept peeking out the window, knowing they’d leave it once again.  That would be embarrassing, even for people of very low standards, like my husband and me.  But now, we can hold up our heads.

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