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Just Plain Garbage

by Martha Powers

There are certain areas of our marriage that Bill and I cannot discuss rationally. Take our garbage. The United Nations Security Council has an easier time dealing with world peace than we do in handling trash removal. 

Entering into marriage, I never realized garbage was such a complex issue.  Before you crush the first empty soup can, you have more difficult decisions to make than King Solomon on a tough day.

For example, what kind of trash holder should you buy?  Nobody ever invented a really good wastebasket. A man who never set foot in a kitchen invented the swing-top wastebasket that's only good if you have three arms. In the first place, no one ever puts one thing in the basket. You invariably have two hands full and then you have no way to get the top open. You can use your foot, but you either end up kicking the whole thing over, or getting your foot stuck. If you shove both hands in, the top swings back and pins them inside. The other problem is that you can only fill the basket half way up or else the top won't swing anymore. And as everyone knows, nobody takes garbage out when the bag is only half full.

And what kind of garbage bags should you buy?  Bill likes those heavy-duty garbage bags. You can usually get a couple days' worth of trash in one bag, but by that time you can't get into the kitchen and you need a two wheeled dolly to get the bag outside for pickup.

Where should you put the trash can?  We've never had much luck with garbage. Some houses are built with little niches that work out just right for garbage cans and wastebaskets. Our house is curiously devoid of spots like that.

And how do you place things in the garbage? My husband, a grown man, will literally foam at the mouth when he discovers I have not crushed a large box before putting it in the trash bag.

And finally why, in my well-run household, do those little tie things just disappear. I use some to tie up plants; others are ideal for craft projects. Of course the grandkids use them for everything from shoelaces to arm splints for injured action figures. Once, in desperation, I suggested Bill close the bag with tape, but the pitying look I received was answer enough.

Not too long ago I dreamt that Bill had made trapdoors in all the rooms so you simply dropped the trash down the chutes to a central receiving point in the basement. There, the trash was compacted to the size of a rolled-up newspaper so that a small dog could carry it outside. When I woke up,  I was so excited I drew up a set of plans. It occurred to me that I could publish these and similar do-it-yourself ideas for the retired husbands of the world.  As every woman knows, give a man tools and a project and you have several days free of stress.

On garbage day we move to the final crucial aspect of trash removal.  Taking it outside.  For Bill, this undertaking has all the trappings of a primitive rite.  He approaches the trash bag cautiously, checking for any protrusions. Then he hefts it suspiciously, looking like the statue of justice peeping under her blindfold. Passing the bag from hand to hand, he tests it for light areas where I have failed to push down the trash.

The solemn ceremony concludes when Bill safely deposits the bag in one of his neatly-aligned garbage cans. We have the kind that comes with a lifetime guarantee. The waste management people haven't been able to dent them. I'll confess that the crease I put in one of the lids when I backed over it with the car didn't improve its appearance, but I tried suggesting to Bill that it gave the can a sort of rakish, devil-may-care look. He was not amused. Never mock a man and his rituals.

Martha Powers is a former humor columnist who left behind the winters of Chicago for the sun and sand of Vero Beach, Florida.  She is the author of eleven published novels.  Martha writes fiction thrillers but finds that killing off the bad guys isn't as much fun as writing for laughs.  She can be reached at:


©2004 Martha Powers for SeniorWomenWeb
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