Thursday, October 18, 2007

Nothing a little wine can't fix

A few weeks ago, I made a list and asked for votes. Overwhelmingly, I was asked to blog about number two on the list, and I had one vote for number three on the list. But since this is my blog, I'm blogging about number three: "A day at the recycling center turns sour - as in sour grapes. Although it may very well have been fermented potatoes."

Considering the fact that this is such a "green" city, one would think that Austinites would be more eco-minded when it comes to trash. I think I've mentioned before that on trash pick up days our recycling bin and trash bin are nicely juxtaposed - one ridiculously small and the other ridiculously large - as they wait to be emptied. Don't forget that in addition to dumping the 5,000 gallon trash bin that, for no extra charge, the trash people will also take up to four extra bags of trash.

"Well, what ever can you place in a recycling bin so small," you ask? Hardly anything. Glass. Some plastics (actually, ONLY plastic BOTTLES - #1 and #2). Newspapers. Tin cans. Aluminum cans. Steel cans.

One item they take only sparingly is cardboard. It has to be cut into 2 x 2 squares, bundled, and secured with twine. I used to be able to throw it in a local paper recycling bin, but they don't take CARDBOARD any more. And because I had a whole car load full of cardboard to dispose of one day, this is what lead me to visit the local recycling center.

Let me first mention that this all transpired on Labor Day; I wasn't even sure if the recycling center would be open. When I arrived, the gate was open, so I took a chance and pulled into the large sheet metal barn. I saw two workers sitting at a small table and chatting. We made eye contact, but that was it. Neither made an effort to assist me - or even to stand up.

But I saw the ginormous stop sign, so I stopped. I saw a solitary guy sitting a ways away from the barn - he was sipping coffee at a round plastic patio table under the shade of a huge oak tree. He didn't make a move in my direction either. And because no one seemed to stir in the booth beside me (although it was hard to tell with the mirrored windows - you know, the kind of windows you can't see into, but they can see out of from the other side), I decided to pull around.

When I got to the other side of the building, the guy that was sitting under the shade came over and asked if I had been helped. That's when I realized that he wasn't drinking coffee over there under that shade tree. I was getting a buzz by just having a conversation with the guy. It's a wonder he could stand up straight. I wondered if they knew this guy was "lit" on the job. But seeing that this was the only guy engaging me in conversation, I figured that he was one of those functional drunks. Which was fine with me as long as he could function my cardboard out of my car and into the recycling pit.

So I backed into the barn, opened up my trunk, and began lugging my cardboard out of my car as the three employees stood by and watched. What the heck they were being paid to do, I'll never know.

Finally, a large dude wobbled out of the mirrored booth and yelled at me, "Hey, whatcha doing there!?"

"Uh, recycling my cardboard."

"Didja stop at the stop sign and get a ticket?"

"Well, I stopped, but no one gave me a ticket."

"Oh. That's because I was sleeping in there."

"Ah. Okay then." I didn't know what he wanted me to say to that. Eventually, the three employees reluctantly began helping me toss my cardboard into the appropriate bin.

Then the guy yells over to me gruffly, "Haven'tja ever been here bafore?"

"No. This is my first time."

"Well it costs two dollars. See the sign?"

Sure enough. I finally saw the sign. And while the employees finished unloading my rig, I dug through my purse for the appropriate change. In the mean time, another guy pulled up to the stop sign. Of course now that the guy in charge was wide awake, he scurried over to collect two bucks from him. I, on the other hand, was going about this all wrong, and I found myself in the little booth attempting to pay my fee and being chastised simultaneously.

"It's this guy's first time too," the fat boss sneered. "He knew to stop. See, he's doing it right, so you'll just have to wait there 'til I'm done with him."

"Yeah, I guess he wins the recycling prize," I quipped. Really, I didn't know what else to say. I just wanted to pay my money and get the heck out of there. Luckily, the drunk one pushed his way in there and took care of business for me. Apparently I made a friend that day; actually, the alcoholic probably felt sorry for me, so that's why he was helping me out.

On my way out, I managed not to run over anyone. I noticed that the employees were back to their business of sitting, too.

I can't wait to go back to the recycling center.

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