So a few days ago, I learned (via the ever reliable BBC) of a blog chronicling the migration of British English into the day to day American English usage. I recommend it if you have even a passing interest in language and its changing usage. Innit (Which alarmingly didn’t trigger a spell-check error with WordPress!). Not One-Off Britishisms is its locale.
So anyway, I liked what I saw, and signed up as a groupie, er – I mean “follower”. The reward for which is the occasional notice of there being a new posting. The other day, I was rewarded for my herd behaviour with a notice of a posting called “Rubbish” moves south. This tells of a semi-official notice from the City of Philadelphia informing its citizens of a change in their refuse collection schedule.
“Rubbish” it seems is becoming used as an alternative to the more usual Americanism “garbage”. This is made fun of in my circles by saying it Frenchified as “ga-Barj”. In the same way we ridicule the popular US chain store Target, by calling it “Tar-jey”. How did I get here? Ah yes… refuse collection!
So, I live in Surrey, BC. The city started a wide-spread advertising campaign months ago to pre-warn its tax-payers that they would be rationalising and simplifying household refuse collection. This was done under the auspices of reducing the amount of rubbish entering the landfills by being smarter about recyclables – organics as well as the more usual glass/paper/metals/plastics. No problem there – all for it, in fact.
Then, the new bins started to arrive. In order to simplify (there’s that word again – take note… it’s important) the collection, every household was issued with three bins, colour-coded for (you guessed it) simplicity to differentiate waste, organics and recyclables. These bins are pretty large (240L) and in the UK would have been referred to as “wheelie bins”.
They’re massively over-engineered so that the special (and therefore presumably EXPENSIVE) dustbin lorries can automatically pick up the bins and tip them into their innards. Having witnessed the collection of similar bins during our holiday in Victoria my observation was that this automation came at the expense of much manual set-up on the part of the dustbin men. Instead of just picking up a dustbin and lobbing its contents in the back of the lorry, they now had to load up the special bins onto the proper hooks at the side of the lorry, wait while they were hydraulically lifted (slooooowly), tipped, shaken and returned to the ground for wheeling back into position.
There were lots of apparently friendly statements saying not to bother writing your address on the bins as they were all uniquely embossed with a number so they can be identified with the correct address. We occasionally have gusty winds, and it’s always an amusing game trying to retrieve your bin lid out of a neighbour’s tree. These city-provided bins have flip-tops and presumably are immune to that particular problem. Not least because they weigh about the same as a minor continent even when empty. It remains to be seen if the raccoons can figure out the new challenge.
Anyway, the 1st of October arrived – “first day with the new bins”. We dutifully wheeled out our bins, and equally dutifully measured out the requisite 1m spacing between them (well – not really, I’m not that anal!), facing the specified direction (they’re embossed with arrows for the hard-of-thinking) and not under any offending trees, all as per the simple instructions (All 4 pages of them. This is a rubbish bin we’re talking about!).
I went to work, safe in the knowledge that despite the city now requiring me to hang on to my rubbish for two weeks instead of one, it was all so much more simple, it would be worth it. Doing my bit. Community spirited citizen. Yeah – all that bollocks.
And then I came home. Initially I had my usual irritation at my teenage offspring having not bothered to retrieve the bins from the side of the road. There used to be one rubbish bin (plus or minus the lid depending on the Beaufort Scale) plus a couple of blue recycling bins - upturned to indicate they were empty and not available for filling up with rainwater today, thank-you very much. I know it all sounds incredibly complex, but it seemed to work pretty well.
Now there were three minor industrial installations to be moved, but same difference – teenagers could walk past a writhing hydra without noticing it. So, having deposited the car in the garage (pronounced ga-ridge, me being from Yorkshire), I went back to the street to retrieve our lovely new bins after the loss of their virginity. Ask how it went. Tell them the next time would be less awkward. Maybe suggest that perhaps that dustbin lorry wasn’t the right one for them. That kind of thing.
And then I stopped dead.
I’d been “written up”!
It turns out that this simple collection actually involves only putting 2 of the 3 bins out each week. To put out the wrong bin results in the binman having to go to the trouble of writing up a citation and sticking it on your bin. A badge of honour, I reckon. I wonder how many I can collect before the bin gets so ridiculously heavy that they stop adding them.
A violation?! Are you kidding me? For putting out the wrong bin? Notice numbers 3 and 4 on the list! They can refuse to collect your rubbish because you didn’t space it out correctly… or someone (presumably from out of Surrey, or is that Airstrip One?) inadvertently parks within 2m of your bins, no matter how carefully you yourself space them. I have a good mind to park next to the mayor’s bins on collection day. See how universally the rule is really applied.
So – you can imagine this put me in a bit of a strop for the rest of the week. I hate bureaucracy, and particularly when it has been justified in the name of simplicity.
As I came home on Friday, I noticed one of those large electronic notice boards they use to warn of impending roadworks. This one was informing residents that bin collection would be on Monday as usual (it’s Thanksgiving here in Canada), and specifically which 2 bins to put out. Needless to say – I forget which they were. Since then I’ve noticed two more such electronic noticeboards on major ingress routes to White Rock/South Surrey. (I still can’t remember which 2 bins are the ones to put out).
It’s nice to know that it’s so simple the city has to pay for such “in-yer-face” (yet apparently ineffective) reminders to its taxpayers.
Maybe they just ran out of violation stickers last week…