A Tale of Two Boxes

I had to do my first major snow clearance of the season on Hallowe’en. It wasn’t bad — took about half an hour.

The snow was still fluffy, so it was easy to move. But, as I headed to pick up some last minute goodies for the coming horde, I saw the town’s pick-up plough nosing through the back lane across Princess Street, and figured they’d undo some of my work while I was gone. Sure enough, when I got back, there was a berm across our car’s back lane parking pad and I knew it should be moved before it hardened into place.

Ploughed snow is heavier to move than the freshly fallen stuff; it’s packed together and more solid. It absorbed all my attention until I suddenly realized that I was about to scoop snow onto a patch of bare gravel. Something was missing.

It took me a few seconds to realize that it was our recycling box, one of two identical grey boxes that we made over 15 years ago — one for garbage (collected weekly), and the other for all the washed and crushed tins, milk bottles, plastic, newsprint and ripped up light cardboard. That one fills up and gets hauled off to the recycling centre every couple of months.

The weekly garbage run isn’t made through our lane anymore. The town has decided it would be more efficient, and therefore cheaper, if the collection bins were mostly on the streets and we were all told to move them to their new locations by the end of September.

So one of our two boxes was moved, thanks to a neighbour, whose small bobcat has a forklift attachment, and the other stayed where it was.

Some of the other boxes in the lane hadn’t been relocated, and the city work crew posted notices that they would be moving them. Looking around, I saw this had been done and suspected what had happened. Walking to the front of the house I saw both our boxes outside the fence.

I went inside and sent two messages to the city office, one by phone, the other by email.

“Your crew relocated my recycling box today. Please have them return it to its spot in the back lane before the next regular garbage pickup next week. All the milk jugs, crushed cans and plastic in there should not go to the landfill.

“I can see how the error was made, because both of our boxes look the same. The one we use for garbage went to the front of the house a month ago. We left the recycling box at the back. Today they were relocating boxes in the lane that hadn’t been moved yet, and ours got scooped with the rest. Easy mistake to make. It’s more than half full so it must have been awkward to move.

“When they got to the front of the house and found an identical box already in place, I think that should have alerted them that something was wrong.

“The recycling box is the one on the right in this picture. I’ll keep the spot at the rear of the house clear of snow.”

Now, it should be clear that this is not a complaint column. The crew and pickup were back before the end of the workday and everything was set to rights. They even agreed with me that the two boxes out front had seemed strange. 

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