Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Dangerous Garbage Duty

Once a month in my city they have garbage collection for what they call non-burnables or dangerous garbage. Every neighborhood's pick up is on a different day. We know which day because at the beginning of a year every single resident of the city gets a free calendar with the dates written on it. And everyone makes sure to circle it in red because until that day comes we have to save all cans, bottles, broken cups, burned out light bulbs, used batteries, and dull razor blades in various creative hiding places around the house. You don't want to miss a month.

Now the fun part is that every neighborhood has a rotating schedule of who goes out to help collect this garbage. There are usually about seven to ten households at a time who are called upon to volunteer. Our turn comes around once every five or six months. And today it was my turn.

I have to be out at the drop off spot by six thirty until eight. Which means my husband and son are on their own for breakfast and the invariable last dash...Where are my socks?! What did I do with last night's homework?!

He he he.

We line up the blue baskets and put the name plates on them--steel cans, aluminum cans, white bottles, brown bottles, green and blue bottles and a small basket for make up bottles. These are filled during the one and a half hour time slot and then picked up by the recycling truck a little after eight.

When they get full we drag them over and stack them up out of the way. You can also see the bags full of plastic bottles also awaiting recycle.

Usually I stand by the can and bottle place and think to myself. Wow, this guy sure drinks a lot of whisky or Hey, this lady really likes her vitamin drinks, good Lord!

But today I was near the strange and odd dangerous garbage. Here we get old sewing machines, light stands, antennas, the works.

Someone brought in an old clock that looked like it had exploded.

And one old woman kept coming and going bringing all sorts of wonderful trash. At one point she brought a single roller skate then returned home to lug over this anchor!

You're not allowed to throw away clothes or blankets on regular trash day. They have to be put out on the once-a-month special garbage day. Look how prettily everyone wraps up their old garments.

Mostly the job consists of directing people to the correct basket to dispose of their rubbish. But we also get to do really rockin' things like poking holes in spray cans, running enormous magnets over the aluminum stuff to pull out accidentally added steel, and stepping on cockroaches that flee old beer bottles and try to run up our legs.

I don't regret much in my life. But one thing I still regret to this day is years ago when I was on Dangerous Garbage Duty. An old woman brought these ancient porcelain dishes to throw away. They weren't broke or chipped or anything. They were gorgeous. Everyone asked to make sure she wanted to get rid of them, they were obviously worth a lot of money. She said anyone could take them if they wanted. My neighbors asked me if I wanted them. They said stuff like this was rare because while Shizuoka, the city next to us, was air bombed during the war, our city wasn't so stuff like this survived. That someone would willingly give it away was even more of a shock. I politely declined not wanting to be greedy. Now, though, I really wish I had said yes. This is kind of what they looked like. There were more, about a half dozen or so and they were much bigger.

Needless to say, no one has brought anything similar since. However, I once did get a really nice bicycle that a neighbor chucked. It was ten times better than the one I was riding so I just ran and got mine and drove hers home.

I have no shame.


Hilary said...

I've known people who find treasures by the side of the road on trash collection day - before pick-up. It sounds like being in the right place at the right time could be very interesting for you. You should volunteer more often than the usual schedule demands. And it will be good for your husband and son. ;)

Very entertaining, Kappa.

Sandi McBride said...

Ok Kappa sweets, I'd have been greedy just a little...I'd have asked to share...what's the harm? You're doing good work there!

womaninawindow said...

Wow! An astounding garbage day filled with customs and humility. This is totally freaken awesome! How can something so rubbish be so great? We have a lot to learn from you over here in Canada.

laughingwolf said...

lol... like they say: one man's junk... ;)

i'm sure there will be more treasures to come,too :)

Kappa no He said...

Hilary, Yesterday I came home to find they had...*gasp* taken out the garbage without me asking. I think I may just volunteer more!

Sandi, I know...if it had been now I would have very humbly accepted. Back then I was brand new-married and brand-new to the neighborhood. I don't know what I was thinking!

Womaninthewindow, it's an art form to be humble and polite and self deprecating and yet still get what you want. I've gotten better!

Laughingwolf, I like that way of thinking!

Gina said...

I love that exploding clock! Perhaps it cuckoo'ed or made noise once too many times? Ha ha ha. : )

I don't blame ya on the bike. Heck, I woulda went for it too! Oh geeze, I am horrible, aren't I.

Those dishes you spoke about sounded lovely. Hopefully next time it's your turn, you can find a new treasure.

We don't take turns around here. Now I am wondering why. Because it sounds like it would be fun! : )

Mary Witzl said...

Kappa, I've actually written a novel based on a couple who meet on the trash detail! When I was first researching it, I couldn't remember what they called the people who worked on it -- the actual Japanese term -- so I looked around on the internet and found Carolie, who lives in Nagasaki. You should check out her gomi post, which, like yours, is compelling.

I too have raided the sodai gomi heap -- shamelessly. I would happily have taken that porcelain! My husband once brought home a couple of dark, battered old wooden chests. I cleaned them up, and they looked okay, but they were really old and stained. A posh friend was visiting and her jaw dropped: "Where did you get those wonderful old paulowina chests?" Turned out they are worth quite a bit and my friend speculated that someone young and stupid had disposed of them after an aged relative died. My husband has never let me forget that my first reaction to them was less than thrilled.

Kappa no He said...

Gina: I never thought about that, about the clock. I did see one lady bring a tons of broken coffee cups and I thought...hmmm she must throw cups when she fights with her husband. Now, I'M terrible.

Mary: What a brilliant premise for a book. I want to read it! I find that the actual name changes from place to place. Even in our old hosue (across town) it was sodai gomi. But here it is funen gomi or something like that.

I don't suppose you were able to bring those chests with you when you moved? They sound gorgeous. My mother-in-law has actually shown me certain items and informed me of their worth. I thought she was bragging but maybe she just didn't want to see me feeding the dog out of them. Awful humor, I know.

Mary Witzl said...

We did bring them with us and have them even now! I've since sanded them and they now look like a million bucks. Insects won't touch anything inside, and the wood keeps mold away, too. If I didn't already own them, I swear I'd buy them.

Fuhin, maybe? I know of sodai gomi, but the term I was floundering over was what to call the gomi volunteers. Trash monitors? Recycling helpers?

Wouldn't fancy a cockroach running up my leg, by the way. You are good and brave to do your duty! The most I did was inform other gaikokujin about the correct method of waste disposal. God, it was a major headache. All the other foreigners were bigger than I and not much interested in how to recycle their trash properly.

Anonymous said...

I furnished my first apartment in Japan (a one dk in Nagoya) from great cast-offs from a rich neighborhood. New Year's is another good time to get stuff. I could use that now since we just moved into a house that's too big for us. After living in apartments, all of our stuff fits into the kitchen, bedroom and family room. The rest of the house is pretty much empty. Living in the suburbs is kind of weird, too. Where we used to live, you knew some of your neighbors, but you knew better than to ax too much about them. Our new neighbors are just as nosey as any Japanese neighbors I've had. Generally about as nice, too.

Katarina-bakajo said...

I didn't even realize we in B.C. had a special garbage day... Goodness, i've been throwing light bulbs and razors into the normal trash since I was old enough to shave and reach the darn things. I still don't know if we do... I'll have to fnd out and get back to you on that. I DO know however that we have separate things for clothes and such. Although I have these charity workers come around and take my old clothes to give to orphans or sick kids or something... I would have been greedy also, I would've fought for pretty pl... well just about anything.

Kappa no He said...

Oh Mary, I am so happy you got to bring the chests with you when you moved!

Here we're called "funenbutsu touban". "Funenbutsu" meaning incombustable--all those non-burnable items. And of course you know "touban"...that catch all word for 'it's your duty!'

Imomo, you moved into the new house. Send me pictures e-mail style. Hey, I should just pop in and we could have a party...give those there neighbors something to talk about. Ha!

Katarina, that is one thing we need desperately here...some charities to come around and collect stuff. I've always thought so. I wonder who I could talk to about this...

I think my parents in the states are the same way, razors and the like are pretty much chucked in the regular garbage--as are dead squirells and rabbits. Eyu!

Jim Melvin said...

Thanks for your sweet comment on my blog. For someone I've never met, you're a good friend.

Kappa no He said...

You too, Jim!!

Mary Witzl said...

We tried to donate a lot of things to a charity once. To 'donate' we actually had to pay. Crazy, huh? I was told that far too many people wanted to donate furniture. In Tokyo, you are charged a certain amount for each stick of furniture you discard.