Robot arms replace matches when it comes to garbage day

This column is all garbage. Wait a minute – before you say, “Your column is always garbage,” I just realized I missed a word.

What I meant to say was: “This column is all about garbage.”

Yes, this week, the green, black and blue flags are flying. The big bins are all in. (Bin there, done that?)

The giant machines are rattling vociferously along our alleys and streets, extending their robot arms in a hardy welcome to a colourful trio of truncated trash.

This week marked a major milestone for good old Rouge D’ear when it comes to dealing with the increasing flotsam and jetsam of our wasteful urban existence.

Those new, big honkin,’ awkwardly conspicuous black and blue bins now litter the yards of every domicile in our fair city. And we thought the big honkin’ green ones were a bit, shall we say, honkin’ big and awkwardly conspicuous.

I actually like the big boxes. They are sturdy, with a nice handle and nice wheels. In fact, I bet you could get up some pretty good speed riding in one of those down Michener Hill.

Also, I was eyeing them the other day, thinking, boy, if we had those when I grew up in Parkvale, they would make pretty cool, if not patently obvious, hide-and-seek locations. Except on garbage days, of course.

And speaking of growing up (which for me was happily unsuccessful), when I was a kid several millennia ago, we had a garbage day all right, but it was a much different garbage day.

In those halcyon, binless days, garbage day consisted of carrying out all our various and sundry refuse items that Americans call “trash” and we just call “garbage” out to a big, 45-gallon drum, which wasn’t a drum really, but just a big rusty barrel.

I have intimate knowledge of this garbage day ritual on account of I was in charge of garbage in our house.

Not that I was in charge of creating garbage in our household, although I certainly did my share.

What I mean, was part of my allowance (which was measured in weekly cents, not dollars) depended heavily on my successful execution of the lofty responsibility called “taking out the garbage.”

Gathering garbage up from all the little rooms in our big, old, two-storey house and lugging it all the way out past Bim’s doghouse and Mom’s humongous garden, all the way to the far corner of the yard to the burn bin, was the part I was less than enthused about.

The best part was the next part.

For I was also in charge of burning the garbage. This was an excellent weekly adventure for a scruffy kid with a touch of rampant pyromania.

I would pile all the household debris into the barrel, paying particular care and attention to the paper bits like cardboard and The Advocate (all seven days’ worth), arranging the readily combustibles in a strategic layering pattern for maximum incineration.

And, brandishing something you (unfortunately) don’t see much anymore – a box of wooden matches – I would strike and light a particularly tactical spot in the pile, throw the match into the barrel and do it again at another good spot of paper.

And then I would strike and toss a few more sturdy matches into the growing inferno – just because.

One big barrel, 12 matches, 3,000 cubic yards of smoke. Not particularly environmentally friendly, but back then, we were blissfully unaware of anything called “the environment.”

But hey, now the garbage is picked up by trucks with robot arms, which is almost as cool as a box of matches.

Harley Hay is a Red Deer writer and filmmaker.

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