The Dreaded Garbage Lady
It began on Thursday when our garbage collector didn’t pick up our trash. It often begins that way: some insignificant little flotsam of our everyday life inexplicably snags up one day, and before we know it we are hurled into the Dusk Dimension (something akin to the “Twilight Zone”), thrust headlong into the clutches of our worst nightmare personified. On that fateful Thursday, I encountered my personal nemesis: the dreaded Garbage Lady.
Our first conversation was downright congenial, albeit somewhat expensive. I telephoned the sanitary service office to report the collector’s gauche garbage gaffe and to ask if we could put out two cans the next week to compensate for the one missed this go around. That was fine with the Garbage Lady, but, well, upon checking her records, it appeared a mistake was made when we signed up for collection services six months ago (and she distinctly recalled that her husband was manning the office during that period), and subsequently we were never billed. Now we owed six months’ worth of fees, plus another month’s worth because we should’ve been paying one month in advance each time.
So if we could just forego eating this month, or hawk our major appliances or something, and pay up this bill we didn’t realize was accruing, well, she’d let bygones be bygones. I paid the bill, and the Garbage Lady sent me a payment booklet for future use, along with some literature on how and when to contact them about problems or questions.
Everything went swimmingly until the next time the collector missed our can. I telephoned the Garbage Lady (or G.L., as I fondly thought of her now), two days before our next scheduled collection (as the literature instructed) to say we would be placing two cans out instead of one. I found myself on the squirming end of a good old-fashioned inquisition.
“Are you sure you put the can out in time last week?” G.L. demanded to know. “Did you put it in the proper location? Could the driver see it from the road?
“Well, yes, I- I think so…” I stammered.
“Did the can weigh more than sixty-six pounds?” her shrill voice persisted. Sweat formed on my forehead.
“I didn’t really weigh it, but I’m sure – “
“Are you now, or have you ever been a member of the Barry Manilow fan club?” G.L. railed accusingly.
“Huh?” By now my heart was racing, my hands were shaking, and I was seeing double. Perhaps that last question was only a stress-induced hallucination.
“I’ll check with the driver of your route and see if your can was out in time,” G.L. snapped. “And the next time this happens, call me the following day, not the next week.”
“But your literature says to—“ Bang! The phone went dead.
The next time I retrieved our empty garbage can from the curb, it was hunkered over like a mugging victim who’s had his ribs kicked in. A dent creased one side of the can, bearing an uncanny resemblance to the lip of the garbage truck’s tailgate. Was this a coincidental mishap from an overzealous collector, or was this a message from G.L. regarding future complaints?
Subsequent conversations with the Garbage lady continued in pretty much the same vein. I tried to assert my rights as a (now) fee-paying customer, but I always came away feeling like – well, like garbage. Admittedly there have been times when we are at fault. On these occasions, my husband comes in the house apprehensively.
“Honey, bad news.”
“Oh, no! Please say it isn’t true. You didn’t – "
“Forget to put the garbage out? I’m afraid so. You’ve got to call – " Lightening cracks nearby, and thunder shakes the house as the sky turns suddenly black… “the dreaded Garbage Lady.”
I now loathe Thursdays. The tightness begins in my throat on Sunday evening as I remind my husband, “Garbage day is coming soon, you know.” I continue a daily countdown, until by Wednesday evening I don’t know which is worse: getting my husband ticked off by mentioning it again, or having to call G.L. if we forget again.
Now that [my home town] has its new garbage truck, do you suppose they’d consider expanding their routes? I’m only sixty-some miles away…
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