Tuesday, 29 May 2012

The Great Rubbish Bin Scandal of 2012

I guess no matter what civilized nation you live in, you always have a "Take Out The Trash" day. Whether you're in the U.K. and they call it (in a snooty manner) "Rubbish Collection" or in the southern part of the U.S. where it's simply "Trash Day" or in most other parts, "Garbage Day." Basically, you hoard your unwanted crap, food, junk, packaging, all around not needed or expired stuff until the day when the grubby, overpaid garbage men come haul it away.

So, I'm here in England now, and our "Rubbish Collection" day is Tuesday, today. Being the stay-at-home-housemate, I've got a few self-appointed household responsibilities. Mostly because I'm a neurotic Virgo, and partly because I'm home more often than my wife and Housemate Hazel. So I manage things like general cleaning. I'm also the crumb wiper, dishwasher guardian, Bissell & Dyson master vacuum'er, dining room table junk magician (my famous "disappearing junk" trick is a winner!) and I'm constantly on cat fluff patrol. Also, I share recycling bin emptying, and taking out the rubbish chores with Hazel. Not that I know much about owning a house, because I'm the DIY-inept,  not grown-up enough-to-have-an-actual-house, PROUD owner of a condominium back in Florida, where your garbage, water, lawn and pool are maintained by a company which you pay DEARLY for every month ontop of your mortgage. I digress. But, my point is, just about anywhere, your recycling bins come from your local town hall, county, whatever- public office, city hall -ugh- one of those places. Anyhow, over here in England, your rubbish bins AND recycling bins get appointed to you by the council. A brown one for your regular garbage and a green one for your recycle-ables. You get ONE of each. You have to apply for more than one, if you're that kind of needy asshole and apparently have a pretty good reason as to why, like "Enormous Catholic family...Fat bastard of a Husband.....Pregnant teenager (again).....Wild Party'ers" or something along those lines. Well, we have the standard: one of each. 

Have you ever seen the movie "The Sandlot"? It's from 1993 about a group of young boys, set in 1962, who play baseball in a sandlot, and keep losing the balls over a fence into a scary, old man's yard, played by James Earl Jones. Ok, I suppose it was about more than that, but stick with me here....


We just so happen to have a similar kind of neighbour, who shall remain nameless, because... quite frankly, I don't know their name. But, scary, just the same, in a silent, creepy, crazy eyes-way. Anyhow, last week, on Rubbish Collection Day, I went out to retrieve the bins, and noticed that Scary Neighbour's bin was in our driveway. It was clearly marked with their house number and everything, but no sign of ours anywhere. I wasn't quite sure what to do, but decided we couldn't be without a bin, so I quickly brought it up the driveway and put it off to the side of the hedge and came inside. I told Housemate Hazel what I did and she laughed and said, "Next week, we'll just swap it back and get ours from their driveway after the rubbish has been collected."  Sounded easy enough. "Mission: Rubbish Bin Retrieval" was set in motion. As my luck would have it, Housemate Hazel would be away on business this Rubbish Collection Day, so I was now the primary operative in charge of the mission. 

Rubbish Collection Day: 6:47am
Since the sun rises at 4:18am, I was up at the crack of dawn. I put on my "normal" jeans and t-shirt so I would not cause any suspicion and carried out my morning routine of coffee, twitter, and "Draw Something" as not to arouse attention in any way. Mind you- no one was home.  

8:51am- Rubbish Collection Truck Approaches 

The loud, obnoxious truck squealed and grinded down our narrow street at it's usual time. I could see the stinky, gross men in their hi-visibility vests, carelessly grabbing the brown bins and unloading the shit into the nasty mouth of the truck then shoving the bins back in the general vicinity of the house. 

Once they were out of sight and down the street, I made my move. I went out our back door, down the narrow walkaway that runs along side of Scary Neighbour's house, to the gate that opens to our driveway. I looked to the right- no sign or Scary Neighbour. I looked to the left- no sign of Nosey Neighbour. I looked across the street- no sign of Old Sickly Lady Neighbour. Everyone had their curtains drawn, no bus wankers were walking to the bus stop. I was totally clear. I hightailed it to the end of the drive and grabbed the handle of the bin, wheeling briskly and directly to Scary Neighbour's driveway. There were TWO other brown bins and the green recycle bin within my sight. (TWO?!) As I approached, I was careful not to look up for fear of CCTV cameras, and I made the swap- I was swift and precise as I left their bin, and grabbed one of their remaining two brown bins successfully. I was retrieving our bin unspotted! I got up our driveway, by the hedge, rolled the bin into it's spot and it was then I noticed it-- there it was right in front of my face: Scary Neighbour's house number on THIS bin! I had taken the wrong bin! This was a disaster. I panicked. I grabbed the bin, rolled it back down the driveway, turned left, and rolled the bin right back. This is when I noticed that all THREE of Scary Neighbour bin's had their house number on them. In my very frazzled state, I left the bin, scooted back to my driveway, looking down the street to see if any other neighbour possibly had more than one bin that could be ours. Nope. My shoulders dropped, as I moped back inside the house. I had failed miserably at "Mission: Rubbish Bin Retrieval". An epic fail, indeed.  Not only was it a failure, but I could see out the window to my right, that Nosey Neighbour was having a conversation with Down The Street Neighbour, and both were standing outside, hands on hips, looking up and down the street. It was as if Down The Street Neighbour was having the same situation. He, too, was on a quest to retrieve a lost ...or stolen...bin. "Good luck, my friend. Good luck", I thought, knowing all too well what a crafty, skillful neighbourhood this was when it came to the brown bins. 

8:59am- Report to Housemate Hazel

I picked up my cell phone and text Mission Control, aka: Housemate Hazel. I outlined the details of the blown operation and waited for her reply. A faint beep of an incoming text filled the silent room. 

"Steal it back!" - she replied. I sat, staring at the message. Blinking, sweating, biting my lip. Was she serious? 

I texted her back: "Look, I'm not going to get deported for 'Theft of a Rubbish Bin'..." and waited for her next reply.

 If it were blood diamond smuggling, lesbian model human trafficking, or a black market Persian kitten selling, I could totally understand, because those would be cool (and good movie making plots!) but 'Rubbish Bin Theft' was not worth my passport, deportation back to The States or my reputation. 

Mission Control texted back: "They have obviously re-branded our bin! This is an outrage!"

I texted her back: "There were old men neighbours outside, I can't go back out there. They'll see me. I'll be made, and then I'll have to kill them."

Mission Control texted back: "WHAT?!"

Me: "I mean, I have bed head."


Just as I was waiting for her reply, the Recycle Collection truck roared down the street. I looked up to see the men emptying our green bin, and without hesitation- I bolted from the table to save our green recycle bin and avoid any further scandal. I was NOT going to let this travesty happen again and worse - with our recycle bin!  I burst through gate, and down the driveway to grab our green bin, when Nosey Neighbour popped up from around the side of his car, "Hello there!"  I froze in my tracks. I was NOT letting go of this fucking green bin. He could murder me for it, but he'd have to pry it from my cold, dead hands. "Hi," I said, as I turned to roll it up the driveway. "Great weather, isn't it?" he said.  I nodded, making it to the top of the drive, by the hedge. "Makes for more chores, though," he laughed, holding up his rag that he was waxing his car with. Hmm.. he was cleaning his car...or was he a double agent working for Down The Street Neighbour? Ooo...cunning bastard. Ok. I'll play your game. "Yes, indeed, the weather has been awesome," I said, having put the green bin in it's spot. "Where abouts you from in The States?" he asked. Interesting approach, going right for the information to bring back to his Down-The-Street-Boss. I immediately swung into action, using my best redneck southern accent, "Flaaaarida," I said. It was a big state, I didn't give a city. That's vague but enough. "Oh, lovely. Never been. Only to Nashville. Loved it. Going back next year for a visit." 

As he spoke, I looked around, like any good agent would. I took in the sights. Housemate Hazel could be right. Not one other house had more than one brown bin, but Scary Neighbour had THREE. Probably collecting them in the middle of the night and using those peely sticky labels to put their stupid house number on them! It dawned me, I could pull off the biggest reverse bin heist this shitty town has ever seen right in front of Nosey Neighbour's face! "Yeah, Nashville is really nice. Hey, I just noticed we're missing a brown bin," I said, my eyes wide, gauging his reaction. Ooo...he was good, like some kinda professional. He didn't crack at all. Didn't flinch. He looked past me and said genuinely, "Well, they have three. One of them must be yours." I nodded slowly, "I think you may be right, Sir." I bravely walked right onto Scary Neighbour's driveway, grabbed a bin, turned it so the house number faced me, away from Nosey Neighbour, and shoved it into our hedge. I could feel Mr. Nosey watching me. Either I just totally walked into a trap, OR, because he couldn't see the number, thinks I really did retrieve my own bin, or...it's all a big set up by Nosey, Scary, and Down The Street who are part of some vigilante rubbish bin task force and they'll be sending me up the river. I'll end up in some rotten dungeon-like London prison cell, eating stale scones, and drinking cold shitty PG Tips tea, awaiting deportation back to hot, sweaty Florida- all for stealing back a rubbish bin. The very thought of it is overwhelming. Nothing worse than stale scones. It's probably why my mother always travels with granola bars & pretzels. Now I get it. But those would be taken away from me in the strip search after I'd been through interrogation and tortured with "Eurovision" music. The news cameras would be all over me when immigration officials walked me to the awaiting plane as I scream "Mr. Nosey told me to take it!" causing a huge worldwide investigation, bigger than the Phone Hacking scandal, which would eventually lead to Scary Neighbour being put in jail for stealing rubbish bins, and land me a best selling novel, a lesbian webseries and I would go on to have my own talk show.  

9:15am- Report to Mission Control 

I texted Housemate Hazel "I did it! I stole the bin back right under Mr. Nosey's nose!" 

She seemed proud enough, I guess. 

Her reply: "Good! Now, we just need to get the number off. Is it painted on?"

Me: "I think it's just sticky labels"

Her reply: "Ok, good."

Me:  "You can do that, though. Just wait until dark. I can't be an accomplice any more. My work here for today is done."

And with that, I retired from the Rubbish Bin Retrieval Double Agent life. Even though I've looked over my shoulder 17 times today, and instinctively almost hit the dirt when Mr. Nosey walked by- I think it was the right choice. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some REAL writing to do, just in case Hollywood comes calling for my story.






Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Hello, summer.

I never used to get excited about sunshine. I lived in South Florida for 25 years, and you just take it for granted. Yes, yes, it rains a lot. Those 20-minute rainy season thunderstorms that roll by out of nowhere can disrupt the sunshine here and there, but, basically- the sun in the sky... just becomes part of your life. I didn't think twice about knowing the car would be like an pizza oven, the a/c units worked harder than Chilean fruit pickers, the sand is like hot coals, and the pool would be like bath water.


These were things, that after living there long enough, you just knew. The sun would be out, the humidity would hang in the air like a wet dish cloth and if you found a shady spot, you didn't feel any cooler, really. Fruity, frozen drinks are always on the menu anywhere you go. Most people have a towel in the car, flip flops on the back seat, and are ready to get the "beach call" at any given moment, day or night. When you live in South Florida, you pretty much have a routine when you have visitors from up north. You head east, you roll down the windows of the car & do the slow crawl along A1A, the road that runs along the ocean, you find a spot to park, take a stroll past the bikini stores, the souvenir shops for a "Fort Lauderdale" shot glass, and you sit at a patio bar having frozen margaritas and people watch. When you play tourist guide like that, you tend to feel like you're exposing people to the sunshine for the very first time. It even feels like you're sharing your sunshine. "Here, kick your shoes off, order a frozen daquiri, squish your toes in the sand for a minute, put your shades on, and live the good life, like I do." The guests always seemed genuinely impressed. They have no idea that you work all day in a drab, gray cubicle, and the only daylight you see is during that brisk jaunt to your blow dryer of a car at 6pm. The last time you went to the beach was 3 years ago, because someone else visited. Your tan is from sitting in traffic. The only water you've had your feet in is from when you washed your car on the weekend and you're using a much earned vacation day to show them a life you don't really live.  But all in all, THEY think we walk around with the sun on our shoulder like a baby parakeet day in and day out- and that's fine! Listen,  I grew up in Niagara Falls, just outside of Buffalo, so I know GRAY days. I know factory smoke stacks puffin' out toxic clouds, I know massive dark snow squalls, I know lake-effect wind, I know a shopping mall with skylights in the ceiling but with flourescent lighting along side of them to FAKE sunshine. So, South Florida can be amazing, especially when you're selling that bullshit lifestyle to a pastey northerner. 

Before I moved to London last March, so many people asked me if I was ready for rain & snow again. I'll admit, the last time I was in Niagara Falls when it snowed was 1989, for my father's funeral and I was 20 years old. Seven days of it, and I was back on a plane to Florida, thanking my lucky stars that I could plan my trips around never being back there again in the winter.  It worked out well. No one died in a winter month, no one got married in a winter month, I visited in April, May, September or October and dodged the snow every time. I knew I could handle a little cold air. Even in a Florida winter, there were mornings that I woke up and it was in the low 40's. Those 6 days every year that it gets "chilly" are pretty funny- it's all anyone talks about. "Did you hear its getting down to 39 tonight!?" We pull out our ONE jacket, and ONE sweater and huddle over coffee in the office talking about when this "cold snap will be over." Look, in all honesty, anyone that moves to Florida knows what they're getting themselves into and they're okay with it. I was. For about 5 years. It just never happened for me- I never became one of those "warm weather people". The ones who don't mind sweating in November, or eating Christmas dinner on the sun deck in the 80 degree heat. The ones who could care less that the sun actually eats the paint off your car, or that if we weren't surrounded by water, the state itself would probably snap off like a piece of crispy bacon. You know, the ones who wake up, throw their hair in a ponytail, pull on a tank top, slip on those bedazzled flip flops, pick up their Maltipoo puppy, drop it in their Gucci handbag and run off to do a few errands. Unphased by the oppressive heat, getting in and out of the huge, black SUV, with gigantic Dolce & Gabbana sunglasses on their leathery dry faces, talking on rhinestone-studded iphones all the while. 

Even in Lesbo-land, the sporty dyke adapts because she finds the "perks". She can go kayaking, or take an airboat ride through the Everglades, jog with her chocolate lab, she'll pitch camp in the humidity, gets excited over lightening & thunder, like she's been cast in the movie "TWISTER" as a storm chaser, and has no issues standing on a softball field with the sun beating down on her baseball cap & drinking luke warm beer at the local lesbian bar later.

Nope. Not me. That's a skinny Florida girl's life. 

If you're even 20 pounds overweight, let alone 50 or 60 and you live in Florida, it's a very different look. Baggy shorts, oversized t-shirt with the sleeves rolled up, pedi socks in running shoes (as if!), sweaty, stringy hair that never looks toussled, just ..plain...wet and of course, the pink, chubby cheeks. I call 'em "Cardiac cheeks"- when your so hot, that it feels like your chest is going to explode out of your face because you just walked from your car into to Walgreens. You plan your outdoor events by the amount of shade at the venue. You ditch any friend who keeps their a/c at 78, and you keep a roll of paper towels in your car, not for a soda spill, but to wipe sweat from your cleavage. You bawk at the word "outdoors", you make up excuses to get out of birthday parties held in parks, and you by no means go to the beach during the daytime on a weekend to "lay out". You swim at night, in a pool. You walk your dog before sunrise and after sunset, and you always find the closest parking spot even if you have to drive around for 18 minutes and be late for a meeting.


So, really, when people asked me if I was ready for the rain & cold & snow of London, all I could think of was "No more sweatin' like a devil bitch in Hell?"  YEAH, I'm ready!

I got here LAST March, and it was cool. I was so loving the colder weather. I was the one outside when it was 50 degrees, in a t-shirt, going "You call this cold?!"- Yeah- THAT asshole. I was so excited the first time it snowed because, it was like ..still NOT that cold! It's a tolerable cold. Like..."Diet Winter Light".  So, I had no issues with the cold. It was cozy to light a fire, and snuggle under fuzzy, soft blankets. There was always that 20 second "cold bed" routine, that I got used to by tucking my feet under my sleeping wife's feet and schooching into her til I got warm. But even that didn't bother me. The bottom line was: I wasn't hot. I was so totally okay with the London winter. 


I was not, however, okay with what comes next. The rain. I don't think I saw sunshine from the middle of this past March until....today, May 23rd. Oh yeah, a sliver here & there for maybe 45 minutes at a time, but all of April, the sky was slate gray, and this odd mist like rain never stopped. The chill combined with the dampness made it a completely intolerable cold, and I kept thinking, "But, hey, I'm still not hot!" All of a sudden, THAT wasn't working. My go-to logic was no longer valid. The worst part of the constant rain, is that it doesn't seem to phase the Londoner's in the least. They just chuckle away, with their hair stuck to their forehead, coat thoroughly soaked as they enter a pub for a drink and say, "Blimey, it's pissin' down!" with a goddamn smile on their face! I'm not sure if it's cabin fever that set in, or the constant number of bad hair days in a row, or the dread I felt when we DID have to go somewhere in the rain. So.. I never thought I would be a person who could say this and mean it, but having a 78 degree day of sunshine, birds chirping, no humidity, where I could work on my laptop in the backyard, drink lemonade, turn my face towards the sun, no sweating, and feeling it in a good way- was rather exciting! The chime of the ice cream truck, the bees buzzing by, being in shorts again, the smell of the flowers, a reason to shave my legs- I was really diggin' it. It was the first time in 25 years I didn't cringe at the thought of summer. Yep. Summer is coming.


....and I just swallowed a bug.