Last Friday I was finally fed up with the pile of trash bags lying on top of one of the steel containers under the underpass where our bikes are, in use by a nearby restaurant. I called the number on the containers and got a very nice apologetic woman, who said they’d had lots of trouble with that restaurant already, but she’d push it a little higher on the priority list. She also said that I should report it to the town authority.
That would have been my next move anyway, so I used the Form From Hell — I’ll have to remember to use Opera next time I need the form, because Firefox keeps the column where the input textareas are so narrow that it won’t take a longish word like “vuilniscontainer” without horizontal scrolling. I did what I always find myself doing: answered “No” to “Do you want to report anonymously” and then hurriedly did “Er, yes” because even though they are the town authority, I don’t want to give them my civil service number (and so fully identify myself with my official first and last name). I’d be willing to tell them my e-mail address, and even name and street address, but my name in daily use is completely different from the one on official records and I don’t want either to give the impression that I’m using a false name, or to be called by the name I never use. One is awkward, the other confusing. And why the bleep do they need me to be fully identified just in order to send me e-mail?
While I was at it, I also reported that the underground trash compactor was broken. I get the idea that it’s broken more often than not, but it does make sense to tell someone when it is because that usually gets it fixed within a day. Not so when reporting on a Friday, of course; we had a reeking bag in the hallway until today, Monday.
So today when I went shopping there was a man in a little town-authority car next to the underground compactor. I asked him “has it been fixed?” and he said no, he was calling the company that should have been there already to fix it. But he could tell me that our compactor was paired with another one, and where that was (about 300 meters along the street), so that we could use that one when ours was broken and vice versa. Well, good news, only I didn’t have the pass with me because the weather was too warm to wear a coat to have it in the pocket of. We talked a bit more about the underground compactors in general, and about people too lazy or careless to take their bag home if it didn’t work in particular, and he told me that the most common cause of the compactor not working was people cramming too big a bag in so it got stuck in the chute.
Then the reason that I’d got off my bike to speak to the man in the first place occurred to me again. “Can you do anything about the trash bags under the underpass?” I asked, because the apologetic woman’s company had apparently emptied the containers but left the bags where they were, or rather, on the ground where the now-empty container had been. They were stinking, and I’d already seen a rat scurry away early in the morning, and when I told that to the man he agreed that something would have to be done but he couldn’t do it right now, he’d have to have a mandate from the town authority first because then his hours would be paid. Fair enough. “I’ve already reported it,” I said, “but they haven’t done anything yet.” Then he called his superior, and the superior promised to call the Environment Police (the people who go through trash bags to find something with an address on; according to the man in the car they always find something. I think they’d have a hard time with ours, but perhaps the kind of people who leave trash just anywhere aren’t the kind of people who put all their paper in the paper recycling).
“Have you tried speaking to the restaurant directly?” he asked, so I said that I’d like to live in this neighbourhood peacefully for another twenty years, thank you very much.
Then I went shopping, and after that I took the trash bag from the hallway to try out the backup compactor, but it didn’t open, it just said “beep beep” at me. Neither did two other nearby compactors that I tried for good measure. But when I passed our own compactor again on the way home there was a repairman fixing it!
It wasn’t in working order yet, but I could throw my bag in anyway. Then the repairman wanted to borrow my pass to see if it worked (it didn’t; it said “beep beep” like all the other compactors where my pass wasn’t registered). He didn’t need it any more after that because he had a master pass to make it say “beep beep” with, so I went home and put my bike under the overpass.
And, sure enough, the dozen bags of trash were gone.