Spring isn't the only thing in the air

Elise T. Chisolm

April 20, 1993|By Elise T. Chisolm

I'm not a neatnik. I don't clean the fridge with a Q-Tip, dus the tops of chandeliers or pick up trash along the highway. But I do have an obsession about flying garbage cans, especially during the windy weather we've recently experienced.

When I take my early morning walks and if it's garbage collection day, I retrieve my neighbors' cans and put them back on the curb. And yes, I do wear gloves.

I like being the garbage can police. It kind of makes me feel good about my civic worth, which isn't much. I don't crusade and I don't demonstrate, I just talk up a storm.

The garbage can duty gives me a feeling of belonging. And besides, empty garbage cans are interesting: the different styles, different weights, different odors. Do they match the owners' lifestyles?

Maryland garbage cans are especially smelly due to avid crab eaters. In summer, the empty shells and goo make the cans pretty ripe.

We have good garbage pickup around 6 in the morning, so I am witness to a lot of empty cans and sometimes flying tops.

If it's windy the cans roll or bounce down the hill faster than a speeding bullet, or a speeding car, which we also have a lot of in our neighborhood.

It's funny how anxious people are in our neighborhood to get to work in the morning. They rush through here like a fleet of bombers. They try to duck the cans, which itself is a tricky maneuver. Careening cans are dangerous to commuters.

Now, I've observed this sociological phenomenon. People seem

to care about what their front walks, driveways and garages look like, but they don't care about their trash cans. They never clean out their cans, and they don't care if their lids and cans are dented or have blown to the next county.

My neighbors do not know about my hobby, and that's OK. But this year I have saved about 40 cans from being run over. My husband does not know about my hobby either.

But what you have to understand is that I study the cans and imagine who the owners are, how they live, what they eat, waste and don't recycle.

The very wealthy have huge designer cans that hold 30 to 45 gallons of garbage. They can cost up to $30. They have big wheels or rollers and are heavy plastic. They are not called cans, they are called "refuse containers" or "collectors."

They have good-fitting lids, handles and are kind of dung colored. Well, some are sky blue. But even the upper-class cans fly on a windy day.

The middle-class cans are usually not on wheels. Some are in push carts and you have to roll the two empty cans back over the curb and off the street.

When I first moved into the neighborhood I had tin cans. You remember them. I like them, they remind me of the old June Cleaver days when I had a bevy of kids who had to take turns taking out the trash, and I'd hear, "Oh, no it's not my turn . . ." and then they'd make as much noise as they could with the cans to show their distaste for garbage duty.

So when the kids left home for their own garbage duties and housekeeping, we trashed our tin cans and bought the designer cans. And of course, we have less garbage than ever.

Suggestion: Get the wheels and the handles, and I can do a better job. Then recycle. Save the landfills. And please, folks, bag your used cat-box litter.

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