- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 18, 2004

I have come to the hard realization that the District employs the most finicky trash men in the nation.

They have incredibly high standards for trash, so high, in fact, that you can go weeks without service.

They open the lid to your Super Can each Friday, study the contents and then make the difficult decision on whether to empty it.

Theirs is a process, an inexact science, a suspenseful undertaking.

Ours is a city of a zillion Super Cans. This is the story of one of them.

It is the story of a Super Can that came to be alive, brimming with personality and feelings and creepy critters. It is the story of a Super Can that became the talk of the neighborhood, an object of ridicule and scorn, as it was left to stew under the hot sun.

Full disclosure: I only wanted what was best for the Super Can. I only wanted my Super Can to fit in with the rest of the Super Cans in the alley. I thought I knew this Super Can in richer detail than the city, and it was my unyielding belief that it needed to be emptied.

I first relayed this thought to the pleasant woman at the trash hot line.

We soon became friends, of sorts. She was not unsympathetic to the plight of the Super Can.

“What’s in it?” she said.

“Trash,” I said.

“What kind of trash?” she said.

“I don’t know — trash, stuff you throw away,” I said.

And so it went, week after week.

“What’s in it?” she would say.

“Trash,” I would say.

To the men in charge of emptying the Super Can, however, it was not trash. It was unworthy, is what it was, a Super Can sentenced to bureaucratic purgatory.

I wondered whether it would help to wrap the Super Can in a red ribbon and bow, with a poster to read: “Take me. I’m yours.” Otherwise, week after week, the trash men would gather around the Super Can, open the lid, scrutinize the contents — once with a magnifying glass, I think — and then close the lid and leave it to percolate in silence anew.

I called my friend at the trash hot line the fifth consecutive week regarding this ever-growing environmental hazard. She was her usual problem-solving self.

“What’s in it?” she said.

“Trash,” I said.

“But they still won’t pick it up, right?” she said.

“Right,” I said.

“Here’s what I would do,” she said. “I would put the can in my car and take it to the transfer station myself.”

To which I said: “You mean you want me to stick this rancid, maggot-infested Super Can into my vehicle and transport it across town? How am I supposed to do that — in a toxic-waste suit? Should I just go straight to the hospital after going to the transfer station?”

The whole idea of sticking a fully loaded Super Can into a vehicle was unsettling.

Here’s the problem: You are driving along one of the arteries to the transfer station with a Super Can in your vehicle. A police cruiser pulls up next to you. Now what? The officer sees this person riding with an overflowing Super Can and draws an obvious conclusion: This person with the maggot-infested Super Can in his vehicle has a serious personal issue and poses a threat to civil society.

Now you are under arrest and your vehicle, with the Super Can in it, is being impounded as evidence.

It was then that I elected to accept the Super Can as it was and stopped calling the pleasant woman at the trash hot line.

Then a funny thing happened in Week 7: The trash men, under no pressure at all, emptied the Super Can.

It was a mini-miracle and evidence of your tax dollars at work.

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