Down in the dumps? Not this birthday boy

March 14, 1998|By Rob Kasper

I BOUGHT MYSELF a birthday present this week, a new trash can.

It was one of those gifts a guy has to pick out for himself. Besides, no one in the family seemed to care much either about the trash can or the birthday.

A kid's birthday is a big event, requiring much planning, endless discussions and the issuing of invitations. But a dad's birthday usually generates about the same amount of household excitement as the return of a lost sock. A few congratulations may be offered, but other topics quickly become more interesting.

I went for the galvanized-steel model of birthday trash cans. I had been giving this purchase a lot of thought, wavering between the subdued curves of the plastic models and the gleaming, high-tech luster of the metal numbers.

I also had some doubts about the timing of the purchase. Was this a propitious time to replace the old stock, to make an investment, to take a risk? But because it was my birthday, I splurged, getting the top-of-the-line model, and few trash-can attachments.

I spent a lot of time considering these matters, because, let's face it, trashy thoughts are primarily a guy thing. In my house, however, trashy thoughts seem to be an older-guy thing.

I have attempted to get my two sons, now teen-agers, attuned to the rhythms of the municipal trash pickup schedule. The arrival of trash night, the night the household refuse is supposed to be carried out to the alley for pickup the next morning, always seems to take younger guys by surprise.

I have seen the trash-night pattern with firstborn son and now with his brother. You wait for your kid to recall that tonight is his big night.

There are clues. There are other trash cans, from your neighbors, already in alley. Maybe the kid will realize that the neighbors are ,, onto something.

And, there is the kitchen wastebasket, overflowing, begging to be relieved of its burden.

These signs of trash crisis are so obvious to an older guy. Yet they rarely make a blip on the younger guy's radar.

Eventually you remind your offspring of his household duty, and rather than thanking you, he groans and slowly, ever so slowly, gets to work. A simple, five-minute task is turned into an angst-filled, 45-minute production.

As the oldest male in the household, I see myself as Lord of the Trash. This is an important position. In my house, being Lord of the Trash means that in addition to keeping the younger trash toters in line, I can also toss the money around to get a new trash can, the kind that sits on the curb.

There is no limit on trash-can expenditures, as long as I claim them as a birthday expense.

This week, for example, to celebrate my birthday I brought home not only a new metal trash can, but also a length of thick metal chain, some nuts and bolts, a new drill bit and a masonry anchor.

These are components of my trash-can-preservation system. The plan is to use the bolt and locking nut to fasten one end of the chain to the trash can handle. The remaining components will be used to fasten the other end of the chain to a brick wall in the alley.

Securing the trash can with the thick metal chain will definitely keep the can from blowing away. And it will lower the chances of the trash can's getting carted away by thieves.

Trash-can thievery is a fact of modern life. If you leave a trash can with a tight-fitting lid unprotected and out in public, you are tempting fate.

Where the stolen trash cans go I do not know. I figure they might end up in some lot, where, like used cars, they are sold at bargain prices. Over the years I have searched for missing trash cans, but have never found them or the mythic used-trash-can lot.

I have employed a variety of tactics to keep the trash-can thieves at bay. One of the most effective seems to be to make the can so ugly no one will want to steal it. You do this by spray-painting your address, in a very crude style, on the outside of the can.

Another way of lessening the appeal of your trash can is letting it go topless. A lidless trash can rarely disappears. It is the rule of the alley.

Of course, one of the primary benefits of owning a trash can is that it gives you a place to put a lid on life's smellier items.

What does the Lord of Trash choose to do: to lid and risk losing it all, or not to lid at all? It is a difficult question.

This time around I chose to lid and to batten down the hatches. This means I will replace my old, ugly, lidless trash can, with a new metal can with a tight-fitting lid. The lid will be fastened to the can. And the can will be fastened to a brick wall with a metal chain, the kind often used to secure motorcycles to telephone poles.

The other night the 13-year-old, who up to this point has not shown much enthusiasm for any trash-related duty, happily sprayed-painted the new trash can. Soon the can will be so ugly and so chained down that no thief will take it. And if one does, I can always replace the can on my next birthday.

Pub Date: 3/14/98

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.