Mark over at boing boing is having problems with his garbage men, and i would just like to chime in, even tho his are in LA and mine are in snohomish county. Perhaps it’s some epidemic sweeping the west coast (you heard it here first!) and if i learned anything from playing SimCity, you can’t ignore refuse problems.

Incidentally, i would usually try to find a way to say “garbage men” so that it’s less gender-specific, not because i buy completely into the political correctness and oh-perish-the-thought-we-offend-anyone litigation-fueled mess we have going here, but because i really think that female postal carriers get just as tired of being called “mailmen” as male flight attendants do of being called “stewardesses”. But honestly, i have never seen a woman on a garbage truck. Beneath the initial turn-off of handling nasty messes and picking up after people (which the moms of the world would no doubt argue women are certainly capable of, much to their chagrin) i think there’s a small seed of macho-ness in lifting large sacks of heavy trash and flinging them aloft, then planting one booted foot on a step, one gloved hand on a rail, and signaling the truck to roll along while you flutter loosely from the side like a flag of manliness. I just don’t think women are genetically inclined to prove themselves in this manner.

So, much like poor Mark, whose garbage men with nary a sideways glance of concern, my garbage men seem to have a mission to make what small part of my life they have control over as difficult as possible.

Let’s travel backwards in time to november, 2004, when i moved into lush, scenic, strip-mall-infested snohomish county. Forging out on my own, you’ll recall, into a ‘tweener’ rental – somewhere between an apartment and a house, a duplex where my neighbor is practically nonexistent and i avoid some of the house things (lawn mowing, water bills, property tax) but don’t share my walls with anyone but me and my garage, and said virtually-empty neighboring unit. I was all excited about this diet coke of homeownership, and made a prompt visit to home depot to act all domestic and stuff. The largest item in my cart was a big ol’ rubbermaid trash can, the kind a real house has, and being the considerate and forward-thinking person i am, i spent a little extra on the sturdy one, with a nice lid that snapped on really firmly and would likely not spill even if a drunk neighbor gave it an enthusiastic bumper kiss. I mean, being a garbage man can’t be easy, but i could spend 38 bucks to at least make picking up *my* trash as painless as possible. I’m a good guy like that.

Fast forward to three weeks later, when i’m still staring at three weeks worth of garbage and recycling, and the first bill from the PUD has shown up. Short story: i call, nice phone reps apologize, special “catchup” truck comes next day. Lather, rinse, repeat for two weeks. Then i get two letters in the mail from the PUD, on the same day. One says “your trash day has been moved to tuesday” and the other says “you may have recieved a notice your trash day was changing; ignore it”. Very helpful, thanx. They were dated the same day, btw. I call, phone reps are nice, my day has really not changed, they are *pretty* sure.

February: miracle of miracles, trash pickup occurs on schedule. I come home from work, can is empty – i can tell because the lid is off. Speaking of that, where is the lid? Gone, that’s where. I don’t know if they used it to carry their pizza out of dominos at lunch, or what, but even a dark, rainy walk around the neighborhood flashing a light into bushes and muttering like the confused drunks asking for my change outside my office every day did not turn anything up. Lame!

In case you didn’t make the leap, it rains a lot here. Open plastic drums in your yard will soon become heavy, stinky, toxic birdbaths of floating plastic bags and things i’ve swept up in the garage. Yuck. But hey, i’m not the one hoisting it in the truck, right? They must like cans full of stinky water, or they would keep better track of customers’ lids. Especially when those lids are brand new and really nice.

That was over two months ago, and since they can’t actually lose my trash can without assumedly some recourse from their superiors, my garbage men have since resorted to smaller things. Like leaving just one item in the can, as if growing good garbage requires seeding it with an item from last week. Tossing the can *over* the bushes and 10 feet away into the only parking spot other than my driveway, where it lolls around blocking traffic. Or tagging my barrel with one of their insipid little yellow notes, with some ludicrous claim like “trash must be out by 6am monday” even tho (1) i put my trash out sunday nite and (2) it seemed to have been out in time, since, you know, they took it.

I don’t understand. I bought them a nice trash can. Why do they hate me? I’m just glad the power lines are protected by a curb, a large tree, and my neighbor’s giant dodge pickup. I’d try to bribe them with cookies or krispy kremes or something, but i think they’d throw the treats into the bushes and ‘mysteriously’ lose the plate.