Wherever the Road Leads

Trash Talk

I shouldn’d be composing this. There’s a Monica Bellucci movie calling out to me. Sort of. It’s “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” with Nicholas Cage from 2010. Very popular, the movie has grossed over $200,000,000 in world-wide box office revenue, a very impressive-sounding income but not when compared to its $150,000,000 budget. Still, it’s been seen by many.

It’s classified as “Adventure”, where Merlin et al, who first appear in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae, written c. 1136, somehow come to modern-day New York City. The special effects are terrific and there is some humor thrown in. But to me, it’s as close to Sci-Fi as damn is to swearing and I am not a Sci-Fi fan. It’s playing in the background and when Monica comes on, maybe I’ll quit being excited about my new acquisition… a trash can.


We don’t think about trash, taking its collection for granted. Perhaps it’s because I’ve lived in so many places, each with its own method and cost, that I’m confident I can make a lengthy post on this mundane topic.

My first exposure to U.S. trash was in Huntsville, Alabama. We had two pick-ups a week, run by the City of Huntsville. We paid for it on our utility bill, which included electricity, sewer and water. The charge for trash collection, whatever amount it was, paled by comparison to the power and water consumption in an electrically heated and cooled home of a woman who liked to boil in winter and freeze in summer, two teenagers and a swimming pool. We managed quite easily to fill the forty-gallon container twice a week.

When I moved to the Chicago suburb of Aurora, they had the most ridiculous system for trash collection that I had ever heard of. You had to buy trash stickers, available at grocery stores, corner stores or the city offices. You attached these single-use, adhesive-backed stickers to your trash can or bag.

trash sticket

It was contracors, not the city who did the collection. If there was no sticker on your bag or can, your trash was left at the foot of your driveway. After burning through a bunch of stickers attaching them to green garbage bags, I soon figured out that I could fit two bags in one trash can, eventually saving money.

Off I went to Lowe’s for a sturdy can that should be able to withstand the snow, salt, cold and abuse… all the joys one experiences as a Chicagoland resident. Proud of myself for stuffing two trash bags into a single $30 can, thereby saving $1.25 on the extra sticker, I was thrilled to return home to an empty can then go on a search for my lid which had blown a few houses down the street.

The next week, I did the same thing, though with completely different results: the trash can, sticker still attached, had not been emptied.  Thinking perhaps I had been missed, I waited until the next week and returned the full can, now plus a single trash bag, sticker duly attached, to the end of the driveway.

When I returned home, the single bag had been taken but the trash can remained untouched, sticker still attached. About to call the City, I thought I would do a little research first. Sure enough, there was a limit on the size of receptacle that you could use… 32 gallons. I went out to my trash can to discover it was 40-gallon can. Throwing good money after bad, I returned to Lowe’s for a smaller can and had no pick-up problems going forward.

At the time, I thought it was yet one more heathen northern way of doing things wrongly. However in hindsight, it’s not a bad system; it is indeed, “user pay”. I had, say, one bag a week. I paid for one bag a week. The family with a woman, two teenagers and a swimming pool who produced three times what I did, paid three times what I did.


Fast forward a good number of years where, in the interim, Winn-Dixie had all but gone under, Proctor and Gamble bought Gillette, Quaker Oats bought Snapple, Sprint and Nextel merged and my former bank, SouthTrust was bought by they Polish fellers at Wachovia.

Is there ever a corporate merger that benefits the little guy… from the hourly employee making minimum wage to the mid-manager at about $45k? When Exxon and Mobil merged and there was a Mobil station on one corner of an intersection and kitty corner was an Exxon, did both stations stay open? Hardly. These companies merge then depend on “synergy”, pooling resources, meaning that they no longer need two HR departments, or Accounts Receivable departments or Purchasing departments, so many people lose their jobs.

I was using American Waste to collect my trash. Everything ran smoothly. Each quarter-year, they charged $45 to the credit card that I had registered with them. Each Wednesday, they came for my trash. Life was simple with a minimum of effort. But not forever. Last October, I received a bill from Waste Management for trash services for the coming quarter. Waste Management? What happened?


I phoned American Waste and sure enough, they had been bought out. Let the comedy of errors (on my part) begin.

I now had to go online at Waste Management to set up payment. Well, not today, I want to wash my truck. Not tomorrow either, as I have to do laundry. The following day I’ll be busy matching my socks. The days continued to go by. Finally, I went online and registered my credit card. I saw, though, that my account had attracted a $35 late payment fee.

I called the company to plead my case, after all they were the ones who had changed everything, not me. The customer service lady was very gracious and credited my account.

The weeks went by, we started into a new quarter and I assumed that Waste Management had charged my credit card for the $45. Wrong. Their set up is different and they had not charged my credit card. Nor, apparently, were they picking up my trash… once again I had a late payment charge on my account and I was cut off from service.

Okay, I explained to the customer service woman, enough is enough. This match between Waste Management and me simply was not meant to be. Especially as I had received a flyer in the mail from their competitor offering to do a pick up for $30 per quarter. I straightened it out, got my service resumed until the last pick up of the quarter – tomorrow – and got set up for service with the new company.


And White Oak Sanitation Services dropped off my new trash container today. The first pick up will be next Thursday. I’m so excited, I can barely wait.

Though I wonder when Waste Management will gobble them up as well?

By the way, Monica finally showed up at the 77 minute mark of the movie, contributing little. But she did little so beautifully.

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