2007's trash-pickup calendar prepares him for the long haul

January 06, 2007|By ROB KASPER

Of all the 2007 calendars I came across, the one I couldn't wait to get my mitts on was the one that tracks trash pickup. As soon as the 2007 Baltimore Department of Public Works calendar arrived in the mail last week, I flipped it open to make my plans for the year.

Right off the bat, I saw that today and tomorrow are opportunities to feed my Christmas tree to the blades that will be whirring away until 2 p.m. on the Polytechnic Institute parking lot at Cold Spring Lane and Falls Road. Watching the yule tree being pulverized is a ritual that reminds me of mortality - someday we all will meet our mulcher - and brings to mind a harrowing scene from the movie Fargo, as well.

Mulching the Christmas tree also feels strangely cleansing, like getting rid of the debris of the holidays. Rarely have I taken up the tree crew's offer to take home a bag of the resulting wood chips and use them as mulch. I simply enjoy the buzz of destruction. Back in the days when my sons lived at home and rose before noon, I used to take them with me to the mulcher. It was my idea of family fun.

A trip to the mulcher also serves as a reminder to me that it is time to take down the holiday lights. Baltimore, it has been said, is a community of magnificent churches and terrific bars. I would add it also is a town that has a hard time removing Christmas decorations. Some stay up until Valentine's Day. Twelfth Night, the traditional end of the Christmas season, is today, hon.

Getting rid of the Christmas tree and other household trash is my bailiwick. Every year, I resolve to expand my areas of interest, to think bigger thoughts. Recently, for example, I tried to get worked up about how CEO Robert Nardelli of Home Depot got a $210 million payout after years of screwing up. I also tried to comprehend the international ramifications of Russia's playing hardball with Belarus on the supply of natural gas. And I wondered how the University of Alabama, an educational institution supposedly instilling values, could justify paying $32 million to a football coach who prides himself on being a good liar.

But all these concerns took flight, like plastic Rite Aid bags in a winter wind, when I read my new trash calendar. I found it fascinating because it not only told me when the trash and the recycling materials would be picked up, it also told me when they wouldn't. Anyone who is caught unaware by a skipped trash pickup day knows that it is not a happy experience for you or your downwind neighbors.

I am a creature of habit, especially late at night when I haul the trash out anticipating pickup early the next morning. As I scanned the new calendar, I saw that I will have to change my routine the week after next. Monday, Jan. 15, the birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., is a holiday, and there will be no trash pickup in Baltimore City. I noted that February, a month filled with presidential birthdays, would be tricky with trash. The trucks will roll on the real birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington, Feb. 12 and 22, but not on their faux birthday, Presidents' Day, Monday, Feb. 19.

Deciphering these hieroglyphics and remembering my neighborhood's recycling schedule - paper on the second and fourth Fridays of the month, bottles on alternating Mondays except Memorial Day, Columbus Day and Veterans' Day - keeps me alert, or so I believe. Researchers have speculated that doing so-called mental gymnastics helps keep aging brains sharp. While I don't do crossword puzzles, keeping track of the myriad trash and recycling schedules will, I hope, maintain my mental fitness. This year, for a personal best, I am trying to memorize the particulars of the Household Hazard Waste disposal days, Oct. 27-28 on the Poly parking lot.

If memory fails me, I can fall back on the calendar. I got mine in the mail, and city residents who need one can get it by calling 311. Baltimore County residents can get a calendar plotting trash and recycling pickups by calling 410-887-2000. Residents of Howard and Anne Arundel counties can learn their trash pickup and recycling dates by calling their public works operations: 410-313-6444 in Howard, 410-222-7500 in Anne Arundel. Harford County residents living in unincorporated areas can contact their private trash haulers, while residents of Harford cities can contact their municipal governments for pickup schedules.

Trash removal is a big deal in big cities. William Donald Schaefer, who is spending his last days in office as state comptroller, was a fanatic about trash removal when he was the mayor of Baltimore. He was known to send aides scurrying to find and remove a pile of trash he had seen somewhere in the city during his morning ride to City Hall.

The connection between political power and trash removal struck home with me when I saw a message from "Mayor Sheila Dixon" in the new city calendar. Dixon, the City Council president, will not officially be elevated to the mayor's office until Jan. 17, when Mayor Martin O'Malley moves from City Hall to the governor's office. But she, like many politicians before her, seems to recognize that when you control the trash trucks, you rule.

rob.kasper@baltsun.com

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