Monday, September 8, 2014

The Vanishing Trash Can

Some things make no sense to me.

Like when My Lovely Wife uses the word “geehawing,” for example. Whenever she utters the word, I expect a jug band to start playing and Roy Clark to introduce the next Hee Haw Honey.

Mohawks on grown men also bewilder me. If you’re over the age of, say, twenty-three, and you’re not a member of a punk band, yet you insist on sporting a Mohawk, then you need not wonder why you keep getting passed over for that promotion. Well-coiffed hair and clean shirts just might open doors to new opportunities. Mohawks and ear gauges do not have the same proven track record.

One recent mystery that has perplexed me is that of the vanishing trash can.

Years ago, someone came to the conclusion that the reliable old trash can was lonely and needed a friend. Recycling bins soon were paired with trash cans in high-profile locations, such as shopping malls and airports. This was sensible and offered convenience to millions of recycling-minded people who didn’t care enough about carbon footprints to stop using plastics, but wanted to feel good about their used recyclables being reused by someone else who also didn’t really care about carbon footprints.

In the past few months, however, I have noticed a reduction in the number of available trash cans in certain places, even to the point of there being none where, not too long ago, there might have been several in plain sight at all times.

The airport at Charlotte has always made sense to me, in as much as an airport can. The layout is simple – concourses leading out from a central hub, gates numbered sequentially, conveniently located eateries, and, until recently, plenty of trash cans dotting the landscape. Now they are all but extinct. In July, when I flew out of Charlotte for a business trip to Denver, I must have walked off half the calories from that Manchu Wok teriyaki chicken bowl before finding a can in which to deposit my trash. Not that there weren’t bins. There were plenty of bins at my disposal if I had plastics, or aluminum cans, or unsoiled paper products I wanted to get rid of, just no trash cans. I started all the way at the end of Terminal B and moved methodically from gate to gate without luck, until I finally dropped off my goods in the nearest bathroom. I was so miffed, I didn’t even bother tipping the uniformed man who hands out mints and pretends to clean the toilets (but who actually just stands around singing and watching everyone pee).

Not trash cans.
Even cruise lines seem to be following this annoying trend. During the Royal Caribbean cruise we took this summer to celebrate our upcoming twentieth anniversary, we dared to sneak bananas out of the Windjammer CafĂ© and eat them while kicking back in the lounge chairs on Deck 4. I know what you’re thinking: “Blackmarket Windjammer bananas on Deck 4? What extravagant luxury!” But, when I hoisted my widening cruisy keister off the taut plastics straps of the Deck 4 chair to dispose of the banana peels, there was no trash can to be found anywhere.
  • Twenty feet down past the sleeping old couple? Recycling bins.
  • Around the workers chipping rust off mysterious rusting cruise ship parts? Recycling bins.
  • Another twenty feet beyond the happy family trying to kill bystanders with shuffle board pucks? Recycling bins!
It might be paper. Maybe. (Shhh…)
Eventually, it came down to either chucking the peels overboard or defying the stenciled lettering on the bins and letting the crew sort it out later. I chose the latter.

I’m not against the idea of recycling. I’m happy to pretend my diet soda bottle will – without the use of harsh chemical processes that promote acid rain, fish kills, and a depletion of the ozone layer – be magically transformed by communal hippie pixies into a sparkly, clean, brand new diet soda bottle for someone else to use tomorrow.

I just want some consideration for the times I’m not trying to save the planet. I want consideration for those times I’m carrying banana peels, or an empty Manchu Wok bowl, or seven candy bar wrappers and a crumpled Dorito’s bag. In short, I want the world to start geehawing with the idea that, no matter how many recycling bins it thrusts in my face, sometimes I just want to throw crap away.

© 2014 Mark Feggeler