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   Friday, December 17, 2004  
I’m mad as Hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!

A few weeks ago, we received a summons in the mail that had something unspecified to do with our trash. Whatever it was, I wasn’t going to take it lying down as I have been doing battle with the trash collection syndicate for years. They fail to pick up our trash, fail to pick up our recyclables, bill us incorrectly, ignore phone calls, letters and even me in person on those times when I have been known to run down the street after them waving my bags of empty milk cartons. Although it could have been about anything, I assumed that the summons had something to do with our leaves as our yard is apparently at the center of a vortex that deposits all of the leaves from a three block area into our pocket handkerchief sized yard. But no. When I arrived for my hearing, I was shown a photograph of our auxiliary recyclable container. “Auxiliary recyclable container?” you may ask. Yes, in an effort to be good citizens and role models, we dutifully rinse and recycle everything that isn’t nailed down. Well, that may be just a teensy exaggeration but you get the picture—we recycle a lot. Problem is that half of the time, our recyclables don’t get picked up so then we have to take them back and wait for next week. Needless to say, we end up with a lot of stuff that we then store neatly in clear plastic bags and a large blue trash container clearly and unmistakably marked as “recyclables”. Seems that was the reason for my fine of $52.50—we recycle too much. Well, not exactly, they said. It isn’t that we recycle too much, it is that what we recycle doesn’t fit in the box. Or maybe the problem is that we put the recyclables in a plastic bag. Or maybe it really is because there is too much or…well, they weren’t sure just what the problem was but they were pretty sure that whatever it was would be better once we paid the fine. Or not.

So having levied this fine, they told me I could appeal it but if I did the fine would then be $157.00!!! Then they suggested that I speak to someone in the Mayor’s hotline office to see if they could help me. Some masochistic urge propelled me to that office or maybe it was just curiosity to see if it really existed. I have called these people for years, complaining about—the fact that my recyclables are not picked up!—without any noticeable results. Actually, the last time I called them was to complain about a city street sweeper truck driver who, driving around with brushes raised, not even pretending to clean the street, stopped at a red light, opened his window and threw a bunch of papers out. I kid you not. Poor guy, I am sure that it was just a miscommunication about his job responsibilities. “Oh, you mean I’m supposed to clean up the papers and not put them there?!” Or maybe that was his personal plan to achieve a level of job security. Whatever.

Well, there is good news and bad news about the hotline office. The good news is that there were people there, answering phones and breathing. The bad news is that they (1) all had to come out and exclaim over my ticket “Wow! I’ve never seen one of those before!” (2) had no idea what the problem was that could possibly have given rise to my recycling transgression and (3) had no record of my calls and/or letters of complaint. The best they could do for me, they said, was to let me watch them type my complaint into the computer and call someone [who?] the next time the recyclables were not picked up. The fact that they made such a big show of typing should have made me suspicious. It was like that scene when Kramer was pretend typing for Murphy Brown-- showy, noisy and pretend. I didn’t insist on seeing the monitor but I should have.
   posted by Andrea at 4:13 PM

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