One of the worst arguments I’ve had with my husband was about an empty pizza box. Really, I’m not making this up. We yelled. Well, I yelled. I can’t remember what he did. What I do remember is the look on my daughter’s face, and the ducking heads of everyone else at the recycling center.
Oh, yeah. This one happened in public.
Now we like to joke about the fact we nearly divorced over a pizza box. (Not even close, but it makes a good story.) Then, it was very upsetting. How did our discussion become so heated? Read on…
I’m a keen recycler. I have a system in our garage: four separate bins for paper, plastic, metal and glass. When the bins are full, I drive them up to the center, which is on the side of a road heading into town, and empty them into the appropriate Dumpsters. I’m super careful about heeding the guidelines posted on the front of the Dumpsters because, well… I am. For instance, on the front of the paper bin—not the corrugated cardboard one, but the paper one—it says “No Pizza Boxes.”
It’s the grease, I expect. There have been other labels regarding the recycling of paper with food still attached. So, dutifully, I fold my pizza boxes into squares and put them out with the regular trash.
My husband does not.
After having reminded him of the fact pizza boxes are not recyclable for the three millionth time, I, er, lost it. In front of everyone at the center.
Obviously I wasn’t having a good day. Empty pizza boxes don’t actually end marriages, and after we calmed down (after I calmed down and he stopped breathing oddly) we talked it out and, sure, there were other issues there, but the gist of it was that I knew the recycling center was on borrowed time. People weren’t just dumping pizza boxes, they were dumping TVs and couches and washing machines. Beds. Shelves. You could have furnished a house—shoddily, mind you—with what people left behind the Dumpsters.
I think people did furnish their houses. I’d often run into someone sifting through the piles of junk before loading up the back of their vehicle and driving off—with more than they arrived with.
The township put up signs. Then they installed cameras. Then they had the police stop by now and again to remind people that the recycling center was for recyclables. The signs got bigger. More terse. We were going to lose the center if people didn’t stop dumping anything and everything. The piles of junk got bigger. People kept dumping anything and everything.
Thursday last week, the Dumpsters disappeared. The recycling center is gone.
An unexpectedly large pang of sadness hit me as I drove past. We’d failed. We’d lost an important community resource because some people either didn’t care, or were just too lazy, or both. When I drove past the empty lot again this morning, I got angry. Then sad again. Then angry again.
Because a few pricks couldn’t be f*cked taking their trash to the proper place, we now have to drive fifteen miles to the next closest center—fifteen miles in the opposite direction, away from town. The hardest part, though, was knowing that so many people just didn’t give a sh*t. They just blithely ignored the signs and did the wrong thing. Knowingly.
Regardless of when it happened, losing the recycling center was always going to make me sad and angry, but right now, it just feels like one more domino falling over. For months I have watched social media implode and explode as people hammer on one another. As hate stomps all over love and people behave like idiots. Mean and spiteful idiots.
So many days, I back away, stunned. I don’t comment. I don’t post about it. Not really my style, you see. Instead I feel sad. Or angry. Often both.
Just as I struggle to understand why people didn’t care more about our recycling center, how they could justify dropping off their broken bunks and engine parts and bags of actual waste, I fail to understand what motivates people to be so… hurtful. Or ignorant. Mean and spiteful.
Kindness isn’t hard. Honestly, it’s not. Doing the right thing isn’t cowardly. Sure, it might cost a little more—usually time. To me, it seems like it would be more effort to be an a-hole than to just get on with your day.
To take time out to make someone else’s life more difficult costs extra, right?
Or maybe it’s just like the damn pizza boxes. People don’t read the signs, so they don’t know they can’t recycle them. They just keep dumping and dumping and dumping, completely unaware of the havoc they’re causing until one day, there’s one too many pizza boxes and the whole system shuts down.
It’s a horribly imperfect analogy, I know. My point is… Don’t be the one dumping the pizza boxes. Fold the damn things and them put them away. In other words, take a minute out of your day to really think about the impact of what you’re doing.
Think constructively instead of destructively.
And if you’re just too angry to think straight, follow the Dalai Lama on twitter.