The Garbage Can Conundrum

Funny story:

17 years ago, my garbage can got run over by the garbage truck. The lid popped off, the body racked sideways, and the wheels went a bit woogley. The garbage crew must carry repair materials, because by the time I got to it, having heard the crunch, seen the horror show out the window, and gone to survey the damage, they had reattached the lid (or at least a lid, it was three inches too short and wouldn’t close all the way), and driven off. The resulting H.R. Giger-worthy abomination couldn’t be pushed straight, leaned and twisted while being moved, and let rainwater and critters in.

So I called the city about a replacement, since they require a certain special kind of can. One afternoon, entirely free of charge, a new can just showed up randomly on my sidewalk while I was at work. At this point I had two garbage cans. This seemed like a good thing, since I figured that in a town that won’t take naked bags, having a second can for emergencies (even a woogley one) wasn’t a bad thing. Thus, for nearly two decades, we have had two garbage cans.

Last week, we had a crazy windstorm on garbage day. Both our garbage and recycling cans had to be located and returned several times. Apparently, at some point during the workday, our “new” can also got run over. When I found it, one of its wheels had fallen off and one side of the lid’s hinges had been sheared nearly through, such that when you open or close it, the edges slip past each other, which causes the lid to warp and bounce back if you try to do it with any speed other than glacial.

So this week, I called the city about a replacement. On garbage day, the garbage crew emptied the can, then took out some hardware and reattached the wheel, and drove off. I was kinda ticked. This did not solve my problem! I had a long day of meetings, so I put it out of my mind. Later, my wife called to me “Hey, we got a new can!”. I thought she was being sarcastic. However, it turned out that during the day, some garbage ninja had stealthily delivered a new can, setting it right next to the can “repaired” by the garbage crew earlier.

I’ve learned two things from these experiences. First, our city’s garbage crews carry spare parts and tools to repair garbage cans, which I never would have expected. Second, our city has garbage-can ninjas who sneak up on you to randomly deliver garbage cans.

Now, some of you may have already twigged to a small gap in this system: There seems to be no mechanism for removing the old cans! We now have three garbage cans, two of which are barely usable.

It occurs to me that there may be no good way to “throw out” a garbage can. Thinking of this from the perspective of a garbage crew: If I saw a garbage can in front of your house, even an empty, battered one, I’d say, ‘Yup, that’s a garbage can.’ and move on. If I saw a garbage can with ‘Garbage’ scrawled upon it, I’d say, ‘Well duh!’ and move on. If I saw a garbage can labeled, ‘This can is garbage.’ I’d say ‘Well yes, that’s what they are all for!’ and move on. If I saw a can with a sticky-note on it that said ‘Please throw out this can!’ I’d assume that it was a note from one member of a household to another reminding them of their chores and move on.

Apparently, we are doomed to accumulate garbage cans endlessly until we die. Then, perhaps the only thing we can do is ask to be laid in state upon a massive bier built of all our accumulated woogley garbage cans and set fire to as the sun sets, so as to prevent our burden from being visited upon our children.

On the upside, the smell alone will make our funerals more memorable!

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