b Papa Dog's Blog: My War with the Recycling Bums

Papa Dog's Blog

A Thing Wherein I Infrequently Write Some Stuff

Friday, September 17, 2004

My War with the Recycling Bums

To elaborate a little further on the hurried disclaimer paragraph that ended the last post – yesterday I had to actually work at work, mais quel dommage. Not only did I have to work, but the work I had to do could not be reasonably completed within the confines of an 8-hour day; no real lunch hour in which to faversham, and I was there an hour past closing time. Somehow I thought I wouldn’t be doing this anymore in my new incarnation as a parent, but the job doesn’t seem to care about that. When I got home, there was just enough time to scarf the supper Mama Dog so kindly prepared before we sat down to watch Survivor. Yes, I know it’s crap. I used to denounce it all the time before I’d ever watched it, just like you. It’s insidious crap, though. It sucks you in. Every season we go through an “Oh, let’s not watch it this time” period, then we watch the first episode and get sucked back in. Maybe it won’t happen this time. Last night seemed particularly lame, though it could be because the baby was crying and it was kind of hard to pay attention, even with all the boobs and pig blood. But hey, there’s a one-legged guy from Oakland for whom to root. So who knows. Anyway, after that, I sat down to bang out the faversham and promptly got overwhelmed by another sleazy virus attack. Gambling and pornography programs started rapidly installing themselves, literally filling up the desktop with icons. I had to spend the rest of the night scouring out the infestations, lest my darling wife think I’m so dim-witted I don’t know to hide my gambling and pornography links in a place where she won’t find them (a folder marked “Star Trek Episode Guides,” perhaps?). So with all that I think it’s kind of miraculous that I got a post done at all last night.

Today hasn’t actually been much easier, but at least I had a lunch hour.

So…my heart bleeds as much as the next East Bay liberal. I give money to homeless people based on some rapid and not entirely sensible calculation involving my present employment status, the actual amount of money in my pocket, and the level of obnoxiousness of the panhandling.* I’m given to random whim spikes, too, like the time I handed a $20 bill to a cardboard sign guy on the divider because I was mad at a bank. Don’t puzzle it out too much, but it made sense to me at the time. (Made the guy’s day; he headed straight to Boston Market.) But I have to admit – I’m this close to setting my recycling bins on bear traps to keep the recycling bums out of them.

For those unfamiliar with the phenomenon, the recycling bums are the guys who come around the night before garbage day and pick through people’s recycling bins for those items that can most easily be exchanged for cash at the redemption centre. Most of these guys ply their trade with shopping cards loaded up with great huge garbage bags full of cans and bottles. You can hear their clatter echoing through the neighbourhood from dusk ‘til dawn before a garbage pickup. Some of the more enterprising fellows have pickups, enabling them to widen their area of operations and take bigger loads to the redemption centre. What they all have in common is that they’re willing to go to the trouble of learning all the garbage pick-up routes neighbourhood by neighbourhood and spend the whole night picking through other people’s garbage, but somehow or other they can’t get around to getting a job. Hey, that’s okay. It’s a lifestyle choice. As I think I’ve documented herein, I don’t really want a job either, but we all have our own rows to hoe and vaya con dios and all that. What set me at war with the recycling bums was a simpler matter of common courtesy. Hell, I didn’t even used to call them recycling bums. I used to say “recycling guys” or “shopping cart guys.” I used to actually go to the trouble of sorting my recycling so that the easily returnable stuff was on the top and the less easily returnable stuff – the milk jugs and razor blade holders and what have you – were on the bottom. That’s kind of how the war started, really. What happened is, some ignorant bottle-carting street clatterer came to my garbage and disrespected the very careful sorting job I had done for his inconsiderate garbage-picking ass. He skimmed all the coke cans and booze bottles off the top where I left them for him. But then this pygmy-brained crap vulture had to go second-guessing my bottle-sorting acumen and dig and rummage to the bottom of the pile of miscellaneous recyclable plastic, looking for the Sprite bottle he was sure I’d overlooked. And then – as though to make sure I’d know about this affront to my OCD credentials, he scattered all the shit back and forth between the paper and plastic bins. Here in Oakland, that’s the yellow plastic/glass bin and the blue paper/cardboard bin. Maybe I’m not being clear here. He tossed leaky juice bottles into the nice dry stack of Chronicles. He shoved perfectly recyclable New Yorkers into the sludge at the bottom of the yellow bin. He got chocolate in my peanut butter. He fucked my shit up.

If this had been an isolated incident, things could have gone on as they were before. But no. This miscreant repeated the show three weeks running. Well, I’m sure you know the old Scottish saying: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me three times, an’ ah’ll camp oot by the garage so’s tae catch ye in the act an’ beat yir brains tae fuck wi’ a great big knobbly stick, ye doss raecylin’ cunt.” Well, okay, it didn’t go that far, but I did stop taking the recycling out the night before. I started leaving it until the last possible moment before leaving for work, so as to absolutely minimise the number of salvage scoundrels who’d have a crack at my refuse. It was great when I was on leave. Sometimes the recycling truck wouldn’t come until eleven in the morning, or even after noon. On a work day, that leaves three or four hours during which my poor cans and bottles would remain undefended on the kerb. With me at home, I could leave things until the last possible moment, running out with the yellow bin as I heard the truck approaching. So there you go. All it takes is one bad apple to spoil things for an entire alternative socioeconomic paradigm.

Of course, this has been a bit of a bone of contention with Mama Dog since one day a long while back when the truck showed up much earlier than expected and I missed it. It happened again last week because the Labour Day holiday discombobulated things. Pickup came on Saturday instead of Friday, and in an almost unprecedented turn of events, the recycling truck came before the garbage truck did. We went through a lot more recycling with my parents in town, so the two weeks’ worth of accumulated cans and bottles filled the yellow bin almost to overflowing. When Mama Dog saw this morning that I still hadn’t taken the bin out by 7:30, she started to get observably tense. I assured her that I wouldn’t forget and extracted a promise to trust that I know what I’m doing, but I don’t’ think she breathed easily until I left the house with the bin in hand. Of course, pickup didn’t happen until the very late morning, and Mama Dog had other things to do than keep an eye on my garbage. I’m sure some recycling bum reaped a great bounty from our consumer detritus. But god damn it, he did it without my help.

In other things… I’m making great progress with Nana, which is a corker. I’d tell you all about it, but I don’t have time. Oh, okay, a little bit. There’s a really funny bit in the chapter before the one I’m on now about a guy whose wife is a stage actress who, like (apparently) all the other actresses in the Variétés, is essentially a high-priced prostitute. The husband jovially pimps her out to rich old guys and doesn’t much care what goes on as long as the money keeps rolling in. Difficulties arise when the actress takes a fancy to a journalist who gives her nothing but flattering notices in Le Figaro. The husband can’t quite make himself say no to his meal ticket as she embarks on this unprofitable enterprise, but it starts to gnaw away at him – not the infidelity, but the lost revenue. Finally, he figures out the thing to do is to kill the journalist with kindness. The husband is a big guy and the journalist is not, so he takes to thumping the little man heartily on the back every time they meet, grabbing him in spine-crunching bear hugs, punching him “playfully” but bruisingly on the shoulder, and so forth. Things escalate until they’re rolling around backstage trying to choke one another to death as a visiting from England takes a tour of the premises. The whole thing’s extravagantly theatrical and I wonder why there’s never been a great movie version. There should be someday.

Haven’t had much time for the newspapers since last I mentioned them. Finished August 8, but that’s about it. Ol’ paul S says he’s now read the faversham through August 26. I don’t think I’m going to be catching up with him anytime soon.

We watched The Little Foxes tonight. Or rather, we started it Tuesday night and finished it tonight. Rockin' Bette D bitchfest! No swear words for Baby Dog to absorb! But villainy aplenty! See it some time or other if you haven't!
*Someday I’ll tell you the story of my fateful acquaintance with Thomas the Homeless Guy in New Orleans, but not today. I’ve been dipping back into the days of yore a little too much lately, I think.


Blogger Twizzle said...

Another cause for anxiety: recycling bins placed on sidewalk, next to car, hidden from view. This happened about a month ago and we were skipped by the recycling truck that week.

Garbage anxiety... does anyone else have it?

Mama Dog

10:22 AM  
Blogger Brownstein said...

The main garbage anxiety I've got is the electronic shit that takes to clogging up my work computer. Since I don't have a computer at home these days, it's very important that the pornography I view at work is properly disposed of before it fucks up this machine or network. I've found success in using the Mozilla browser to minimize this kind of stuff. It doesn't catch everything, but I haven't had to deal with any pop ups since installing it early this summer, which is reason alone to switch to this browser.

1:39 PM  

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