This week’s Independence Day arrived with a revolutionary shift from the old way of getting rid of our food and recycling waste. The new regime made itself known a few weeks ago when marching through our neighborhoods like a victorious Roman army.
Driving about a block from our house, my wife, Tia, seeing a pickup truck hauling a flatbed of what looked like porta potties for Munchkins, said, “What’re those?”
“I dunno,” I answered, “but with the price of water these days, maybe our neighbors decided on outhouses to help reduce their utility bill.”
When coming back from doing errands, we saw in our driveway a forest green plastic column like something out of “2001: A Space Odyssey.” I half expected to see apes clubbing each other to death over territorial rights to our backyard koi pond.
“What is it?” Tia asked again.
“Not sure,” I replied, “but we should shoot it before it attacks.”
We circled the monolith from a safe distance. In neighboring driveways, citizens began approaching the alien form, some bravely pawing and poking it.
“There’s writing on top,” Tia announced.
“Probably hieroglyphics,” I warned. “Just like in a Stephen King novel. Gaze at its message, and you turn into a demon-possessed, lunatic writer.”
“Something you’re familiar with,” she said. “Hey, I think it’s for recycling.”
“Recycling what? Our second floor?”
I wheeled the eighth Wonder of the World into the garage, its girth pinning our two cars against the walls. Once parked, the beast allowed Tia close enough to whisper its needs to her, King Kong courting Fay Wray.
“It says ‘No Styrofoam, electronics, ceramics, food, plastic grocery bags, motor oil or hazardous waste containers, bulbs, windows, or yard waste.’”
“What’ll we do with the thousands of plastic grocery bags we come home with filled with one brick of cheese and the receipt?”
“Start taking our own canvas bags, like we do to Aldi,” she said.
“The bin takes ‘glass jars and bottles, aluminum cans, junk mail, paperback books, mixed papers, flattened boxes, and newspapers,’ ” I read. “Just don’t get any ideas of feeding it my paperbacks,” I added, alarmed. “Those are sacred cows.”
“Yeah, well, your sacred cows could use a different holding pen.”
I wondered if other towns were experiencing the same foreign invasion. Indeed, the Batavia and St. Charles websites offered information about the changeover to Advanced Disposal, including the towns’ changing refuse pickup days.
The transition to new garbage stickers and recycling bins has not been entirely smooth. Our neighbor across the street, Mr. Magnanimous, put out the new recycle bin a week early, and the former waste management company left it sitting on the curb still full.
“He’s like the student who doesn’t read directions,” I remarked to Tia, “both are left with something they don’t want.”
So, read the cover letter, folks, and enjoy your new curb appeal – keeping the bin, as instructed, three feet from other refuse. There’ll be a test each garbage day.
• Rick Holinger has lived in the Tri-Cities area since 1979. He teaches high school in Aurora, and his poetry, fiction, essays and book reviews have appeared in more than a hundred literary journals. He founded and facilitates the St. Charles Writers Group, and earned his Ph.D. in creative writing at UIC. Contact him at email@example.com.