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Steve Hansen: My encounter with the trash police

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Posted: Friday, October 20, 2017 1:32 pm

It’s finally here — the day I feared has come to fruition.

It’s hard enough trying keep the homeless out of my recycling containers. Now I have to worry about the dreaded trash police.

He came last week, wandering down my street and looking into green containers for any violations of company refuse policies.

He had no uniform on, so it was easy to assume he was just another aluminum can connoisseur. With my hands gripped on a Super Soaker Scatter Blaster water gun, I approached with caution — just in case he was looking for trouble.

“What are you doing going through my trash?” I harshly asked.

He could see I was armed, but not dangerous.

“Oh, I’m just checking to make sure everyone is complying with our waste policies,” the young man answered.

“Where’s your badge?” I asked.

“We don’t have badges."

“I’ve never heard of a policeman without a badge. Where’s your gun?”

“We’re not police,” he insisted.

“Are you legal?” was my next question.

“Oh, yes. Governor Brown fixed that last week.”

"No, not you!"

“I mean what you’re doing in my trash can!” came the clarification.

Now nervous and anxious, the trash inspector replied, “We’re not the police! We’re just trying to help people comply with state and local rules.”

I continued with my inquisition, “What are those things in your hand?”

He had green and blue tags that were being attached to inspected containers. The green ones were for bad people who had not complied with the recycling regulations.

The blue ones were a symbolic pat on the back for those being good boys and girls — sort of like those gold star stickers we used to get in elementary school.

“Well, do I get a blue one for being a good boy?” I asked.

“I’m afraid not, sir,” the trash monitor answered. “You have a food container in your recycling bin that still has traces of tomato sauce in it.”

“You mean after my wife and I washed out several jars, smashed aluminum cans, crushed plastic bottles, broke down cardboard cartons and threw our empty pizza boxes into a neighbor’s recycling container, you’re going to deny us a blue tag for one measly little mistake?” I hotly contested.

“Sorry, sir. You’re out of compliance. Here’s your green tag. You need to do better next time.”

Now I’m livid. I raised my Super Soaker and pointed it straight at him.

“Look, I’m getting mighty tired of you and your little rules, along with all those crazy regulations coming down to our peaceful little town from those self-righteous whack jobs in Sacramento! I hope you’re wearing a waterproof vest, because now you can say goodbye to that suede jacket!”

“Oh, yeah?" he said. “Well, I’ve had just about enough harassment out of you, too! I don’t need this stinking job. What do you think it’s like for me telling my friends what I do for a living and putting up with their razzing comments? But just for being a jerk, you’re not getting a cute little blue tag or a green tag. No! You’re getting a big brown garbage can, with a large fat bill to go along with it!”

Well, now I did it. I slowly lowered my Super Soaker, emptied its contents into the street and sheepishly placed it into the green container. The wheels of my recycling cart rumbled against the pavement, as he slowly hauled it away. He disappeared while mumbling something about having to deal with all the idiots in the world.

It’s funny how one small mistake can totally change your life. If I only had run that Ragu jar through the dishwasher, I wouldn’t be in this awful predicament today. The several gallons of extra water used would definitely have been worth it.

So let this be a lesson to all of you. Spend as much time as possible making sure your green recycling can is up to snuff, and don’t argue with the trash police. As with me, you just might live to regret it.

Steve Hansen is a Lodi writer and satirist.

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