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Trash Talk

Recently I had the chance to spend some time at the Jersey shore. Not Snooki’s version of the “Jersey Shore;” an active adult community version of the Jersey shore. My parents, Falafel and Hummus, retired there and invited me to visit for a mini-vacation. We haven’t shared a roof in 17 years, but I do remember some of their more traumatic household quirks: grinding coffee at ungodly hours of the morning and eating the stinky cheese that was a perpetual resident in our refrigerator. What I don’t remember from my time living at home was how finicky they are about their garbage.

While getting ready for bed on the first night of my visit, I discovered that there wasn’t a trash can in the guest bedroom or bathroom. Rather than disturb my parents, I just walked to the nearest available receptacle in the kitchen and disposed of my items.  That should have been my first clue about their highly structured rules and regulations for the disposal of garbage.

The following night, Falafel and Hummus slaved away in the kitchen preparing a chicken to roast on the grill. It was a treat to have someone cook dinner for me while I sat at the computer responding to comments on a recent blog post. Most of their conversation was just background noise until I heard Hummus casually say, “Falafel, don’t forget to put the garbage in the freezer.”

I rolled the desk chair I was sitting in into the kitchen. “Did you just say put the garbage in the freezer?”

“Yes,” explained Hummus. “We only have garbage pick up here once a week. In the summer, the garbage starts to smell terrible in the hot garage. We keep a garbage bag in the freezer for the stinky garbage. We take it out on garbage night and put it in the can at the curb.”

I started to snicker and couldn’t stop myself. “So, you put all of your garbage in the freezer?” I needed clarification.

“Don’t be ridiculous!” said the woman stuffing a bag of garbage into her freezer. “We only put the stinky garbage in the freezer. It goes in a Ziploc bag.”

“What exactly qualifies as stinky garbage? Do you have a specific list?” I was curious. I understood the theory of the freezer garbage, but this was too much fun to just let slide without further investigation.

“You’re making fun of me, but the wrappers from chicken and fish stink to high heaven when we put them in the garbage can in the garage during the summer. Laugh all you want, “said Hummus.

“Don’t worry. I will,” I said as I rolled my chair back into the office and giggled.

Photo of freezer garbage courtesy of Falafel who added the skull and crossbones for dramatic effect.

“You’re not going to write about this are you?” I heard her question nervously from the other room.

I wasn’t sure if they were worried about starting a freezer garbage trend or if people would think they are crazy. “I’m not going to write about this. No one wants to read about your garbage. Your secret is safe.”  I truly believed that until the next morning.

When we finished eating breakfast, Falafel reached under the sink, pulled out a gently used plastic bag, tossed the leftover banana peel into the bag and tied it before throwing it into the garbage can. I couldn’t believe my eyes. In all the years I lived with them, I had never seen even an inkling of this kind of garbage related insanity. “You have rules for banana peels, too? That seems like an elaborate process to throw out the remains of a banana. Why not put it in the freezer with the other garbage?”

They both looked at me incredulously. Clearly I did not understand or appreciate the rules for freezer garbage. “We don’t have room in the freezer for all of our garbage. Only stinky garbage goes in there. We tie banana peels up in plastic bags so we don’t get fruit flies in the house.”

As part of my Garbage 101 lecture, they opened the cabinet door and showed me the gently used Ziploc and plastic bags they stored for use as bags for banana peels and freezer garbage. “Let me see if I have this straight. Stinky garbage goes in a previously used Ziploc bag in the freezer; banana peels get tied up in plastic bags and then go into the general, unrefrigerated garbage can.  You have a garbage disposal in the sink don’t you?”

“We do, but you can’t put banana peels in it,” said Falafel.

“I’m sure you recycle down here, so you also need to sort out cans, cardboard and glass, right? It’s a good thing you’re both retired.  Determining what trash goes in which receptacle is like a part-time job. Can I ask just one more question on this topic? Is the reason I don’t have a garbage can in the guest bathroom because you felt I wouldn’t be able to adhere to your strict garbage related rules?”

Falafel and Hummus both burst into laughter. “Oh, no! We forgot to move the trash can. No one is ever in that bathroom. When we know we are having guests we just move the trash can from the office into the bathroom temporarily. Why didn’t you say something earlier?”

“I was trying to be a considerate houseguest. I didn’t realize that garbage is such a big topic of conversation around here. Next time I’ll know.”

Ben Franklin once said, “Fish and visitors stink after three days,” and that was before the days of modern refrigeration.  I was afraid that if I didn’t leave by the third day, I’d wind up in the freezer with the rest of the stinky garbage.  At the door, my parents handed me a care package. There were zinnias and leftover dessert each in their own plastic Ziploc bags. When I arrived home I transplanted the zinnias in my garden and shared the dessert with Oregano.  I was about to drop the Ziploc bags into our unrefrigerated garbage can when  I had an idea that would show Falafel and Hummus my appreciation for their hospitality and an understanding of their garbage rules. I put the bags through a rigorous two-step sanitization process (rinsing and drying) then folded them up neatly, placed them in an envelope and mailed the bags back to them.

**And now a word from our sponsor**

I’d like to thank Grace from Czech the Flip for offering the Very Inspiring Blog Award to me. Grace is an adventurous woman from the Philippines who moved to the United States where she met and married her husband. Now they have a son and live in her husband’s home country, the Czech Republic. Grace blogs in English about her adventures adjusting to her new life. Now that’s what I call inspiring. Go “czech” out her blog.

About Paprika Furstenburg

I was born with an overly developed sense of humor and poor coordination. The combination of these two character traits has taught me humility and given me the perspective to find the funny in everyday experiences.

77 responses »

  1. I have to say this is so funny. Just yesterday I recall thinking to myself that I should put my leftover raw ground beef in a baggie and put it back in the fridge because our garbage disposal isn’t working right now (I apparently brought it to its demise in the early part of the day) and trash day is 6 days away. I thought about it for a few seconds, and then decided to put it in a baggie before putting it in the kitchen trash can… Funny stuff. People are funny.

    Reply
    • I’m so glad you enjoyed the post. When I saw my parents put their garbage in the freezer I thought they were unique. As it turns out, a lot of people have used that same trick. Who knew?

      Thanks so much for taking the time to read, comment and subscribe. Hope to see you again soon.

      Reply
  2. I REALLY think your parents don’t have enough to do…… *whistles and looks around*

    Reply
  3. Quirky habits really make us interesting people and provide for great blogs

    Reply
  4. that is hilarious. don’t tell anyone, but i once actually put some fish scraps into a freezer on a warm day once to keep until garbage day, too. all double-wrapped in plastic. it was a brilliant idea, i thought. i never thought to put on the skull and crossbones, though. your dad is quite funny too. you come by hour humour, or humor in your part of the cybersphere, quite honestly 🙂

    Reply
    • This post has taught me that putting garbage in one’s freezer is not unique. It’s just not something that most people are willing to talk about. I’d like to think that this post has shed some light on the subject so that all you freezer garbage people feel like you have a support network.

      As for my sense of humor, I firmly believe that is a genetic trait inherited from my dad.

      Reply
      • i have been busy doing non-blogging things, as you may have realized, but i really have not forgotten you. i especially have not forgotten this post. although it is September, the weather has been quite warm here – which is a good thing actually, since we currently don’t have a working heating system, as you probably know from a post over at p&k.
         
        in any case, it was garbage day the other day, and that evening we had – yes we really did – fish for dinner! all those scraps that needed to wait a whole week before garbage day. so the freezer came in handy. however, your dad inspired me, and this is the first time the freezer trash has been relegated to a place of honour with some actual artwork attached to it. in fact, i took a picture of it for you, and it is posted – albeit privately – at my first photo web page over at webshots. the only public link to it is right here, at your post on trash talk, where for the first time i feel really understood. enjoy: http://good-times.webshots.com/photo/2906330020075271108oqSZpM
         
        looking forward to stopping by your posts again in due course! 🙂

      • I’ve missed your fun comments, but know you’ve had your hands full lately with things in the non-virtual world. Thanks for taking the time to share your freezer garbage experience with me. I’m going to forward the link to my parents. I’m sure my dad will be thrilled and take every opportunity to remind me what a good idea he had. I LOVE that you took a picture of it!

        See you again soon 🙂

      • you are going to think that i am fixated with this post 🙂
         
        i actually have some sad news. the photo website where my frozen fish trash is currently posted, is shutting down – very unexpectedly, quite soon, and permanently. After November 1, the link above will no longer be active.
         
        in fact, none of my photos there will be available much longer. the photos have all been safely backed up – more than 4,000 of them – however the stories that went with them were not, so that’s where i have been recently. all backed up now, and ready to blog again 🙂
         
        but am glad that you had a chance to see the photo while it was available. just wanted you to know. if you would care to have a copy of the original photo, i could email it to you for reference. if you don’t need it, then no worries.
         
        and that’s it about trash from me. i am quite sure that you have written about other things since. see you at another post soon! 🙂

      • That was so very sweet of you to give me a heads up about the frozen fish trash photo. I don’t foresee needing a copy, but I appreciate you thinking of me. Good luck saving all of those beautiful pictures and related stories. I would hate to think they have been lost somewhere in cyberspace forever.

  5. I came to your blog because the Spice of Life container is a blast from my past—my mom believed that one could keep spices for upwards of forty years. Then, halfway through your hilarious post, I realized that your pet names for your parents are two substances that reliably make me violently ill! What a fun coincidence! Don’t even get me started on garbage. . .

    Reply
    • Your mom is right. One can definitely keep spices for 40 years, whether one should eat them after that long is questionable. I bought my Spice of Life tin at an antique store and it is still filled with paprika. I have no urge to taste test the contents.

      Welcome to Good Humored! Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment 🙂

      Reply
  6. How funny. Love the skull and crossbones.

    Reply
  7. Eeeewwwww, LOL! I would have to have a separate garbage-only freezer, if this was ever to become common custom. Parents are weird. On my mothers side, they have this weird thing about being extremely rude upon being presented with a gift of any kind or value: “What on earth did you get me that for” said in anger, and “where would I ever wear such a thing”; etc. This trait seems to run strongly in my mom’s side of the family 🙂

    Reply
    • I agree with you about wanting a separate freezer just for garbage. I don’t have enough room in my freezer to give my garbage sufficient distance from my frozen food.
      Maybe you could combine these two problems. You could dispose of your garbage by giving it to your mom’s side of the family as a gift. At least then, their comments would be warranted. 🙂

      Reply
  8. And I thought that my mother collecting weird looking clowns in her dotage was odd. Now I learn it might have been much worse!

    Reply
  9. You should add a special addition of your blog entitled “Secrets of a Senior Household,” by Falafel and Hummus. I can’t wait to hear how they handle clothes washing at their home.

    Reply
    • That’s an excellent idea, Ronnie. They did do some laundry while I was visiting and I’m sad to say that it was completely mundane. Maybe I should interview them for the new feature you are talking about. Better yet, I could sneak back for a visit and observed them in their natural habitat.

      Reply
  10. Did you enjoy the Jersey shore? I hope it was one of the nicer sides of the place, coming from someone who actually lives there, I have never been anywhere that is portrayed the way that New Jersey is on T.V.

    Reply
    • I had the opportunity to visit Spring Lake and Ocean Grove while I was staying with my parents. Both were beautiful towns. I’ve lived in NJ my whole life and hadn’t been to either of those towns. There is something about seeing those colorful Victorian houses right on the beach that makes me feel like I’ve stepped back in time. That image couldn’t be farther from the one that is portrayed on the TV show.

      Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to comment 🙂

      Reply
  11. So the scary thing is I didn’t laugh out loud like I do at most of your posts……because I thought it was a great idea! I use zip loc bags to dispose of cat food cans and things like banana peels, apple cores because I don’t like them sitting in the kitchen garbage naked and smelly! The freezer…..interesting concept! Kudos to them!

    Reply
  12. OH MY: Falafel and Hummus, I love you! I am guilty of some of the above garbage protocols! When I lived in NYC, I had far too many run-ins with roaches, so I took the “stinky” trash out every day and often put it in the fridge until then (very well contained). In fact, I kept EVERYTHING in the fridge – dry cereal, nuts, sugar.

    To this day, I save supermarket bags and yes, I put things like banana peels in them 🙂 So it’s not just a practice of retirees!

    So funny. While reading this, I could help thinking of Seinfeld’s parents. 🙂

    Reply
    • This post has certainly been enlightening into the world of other people’s garbage disposal techniques. I had no idea so many people had so many different strategies for garbage. No one ever talks about it during polite dinner conversation.

      If this experience has taught Falafel and Hummus anything, it is that they are not alone with their freezer garbage concept.

      Reply
  13. I seem to recall that in “Back to the Future,” garbage was the fuel of the futuristic car….maybe your parents should get a bigger freezer and start saving up to put Exxon out of business.

    Reply
    • Wow! Good memory, Bob. The fuel for the car in Back to the Future was garbage. I’ll have to pass your suggestion along to my parents. Maybe they can fund their retirement with garbage.

      Reply
      • Deb Weyrich-Cody

        Yeah, the original intention for biodiesel (used fryer oil) and ethanol (agricultural waste… No sorry, meant to say WASTE!)
        Gee whatever happened that they’re suddenly using actual food instead??

      • I think they used banana peels and other peels etc for the fuel in Back to the Future. Who is using actual food for fuel?

      • Deb Weyrich-Cody

        Companies are making ethanol out of corn, like the grain part we (or our livestock) are supposed to eat: that was never the intent of those trying to find alternative fuels. The consequences of food crops being used for ethanol production instead of agricultural waste are twofold… The price of these grains are now growing beyond the reach of those who need it to live and an artificial shortage of food is being created. This year, with crop failure due to drought conditions, this problem will become even more exacerbated. Your compostable “freezer garbage” should be the source of the 10% ethanol being added to North America’s gasoline (yup, just like in “Back to the Future”) making “Free” ethanol, less waste to landfill and more food available for people to (actually) eat. A “win-win” for everyone, hey? (Well, everyone except those currently getting paid ethanol prices for corn [or gambling on futures], that is; )

      • Thanks so much for taking the time to explain this so thoroughly. I had no idea they were using corn that should have been used for human or animal consumption.

      • Deb Weyrich-Cody

        Sad thing is? If you’ve only got so much land/water/people farming the land and they’re offered a certain price for growing food crops or a much better price for “growing ethanol”; who can blame them for actually making money on what they grow. (What’s even worse is that corn is a voracious crop and uses HUGE amounts of resources out of the soil without putting anything back in return):

      • I know so little about this. Thanks for sharing the information.

  14. Too funny! Glad you didn’t wind up in the freezer. Best to stick with garbage bags, not body bags.

    Reply
  15. Uncle Sea Salt

    Do you ever wonder what they do with the grass clippings? Don’t ask!

    Reply
  16. Your parents are hilarious. Sounds like it was a lovely homecoming!

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  17. BUT!!! we need to know how Falafel and Hummus reacted to the unexpected garbage delivery? Did they think it was all baloney? 😉

    BTW here we have six, yes six, garbage bins!! You need a degree in applied mathematics to work out what goes in what and then one of those crime scene cover-all body suits to deal with the fallout just in case anything could be deemed a biohazard!

    Great post 🙂

    Reply
    • So glad you enjoyed the post 🙂

      I didn’t tell Falafel and Hummus about the package in the mail, but the minute Hummus opened the mailbox and saw the large envelope she knew something was up. When she opened it, slid her hand in and felt the plastic bags she started laughing hysterically.

      Reply
  18. My ex-inlaws…lol, that sounds very funny to say, anyway…they would unwrap food that had been kept in aluminum foil or plastic wrap and wipe it clean, dry it, fold it up and keep it to use again. They did the same with ziploc bags. I never understood the point, thought that was what tupperware was made for, use it, wash it…use it again! I must admit that I do put my stinky garbage into ziploc bags before dropping it into the trash can though…we don’t have trash pick up at all and have to drive it ourselves! Afraid the germaphobe in me would never let me re-use things and I doubt I’d eat out of the freezer that stored trash, haha…very fun article!

    Reply
    • I can’t imagine wash and re-using plastic wrap or tin foil. You’ve got to have a lot of time on your hands to try to wash plastic wrap. I have all I can do to get it off the roll the first time, let alone flattening it out, washing it and drying it.

      Not having trash pick up must be a pain in the neck. Thank you for making me grateful for my trash pick-up.

      Reply
  19. Very funny post! I know Hummus and Falafel were laughing the whole time. Keeping the smelly garbage in the freezer is good idea, though. I’ve saved expired food in the frig until garbage day. Why smell it if you don’t have to?

    Reply
  20. Another funny post! I think that the way Falafel and Hummus (I love their names!) handle stinky trash is pretty interesting and makes a lot of sense. You don’t want to live with that smell for a week. If only I have extra freezer space, I would do the same. I know. Do I sound weird too? Unfortunately, as with everything else in Europe, we have a small fridge with a tiny freezer. So stinky trash ends up in the common bin.

    Now I know where your sense of humor comes from. I look forward to reading more about Falafel and Hummus.

    Lastly, thanks for the blog plug.

    Reply
    • I know I teased Falafel and Hummus about the freezer garbage, but it was a clever way to deal with the problem. It was just so funny to hear them say they were putting the garbage in the freezer. I wasn’t expecting to hear those words together. So, I don’t think you are weird for thinking it is a good idea.

      It would have been impossible not to develop a sense of humor growing up in my family.

      Thanks again for the award. I was happy to plug your blog. Hope you get some new readers.

      Reply
  21. Now I am definitely scared. Your blog made me laugh, but I actually think your parents have a good idea. I guess I have already morphed into a retired person thinks about doing very strange things.

    Reply
    • and already I can’t write – add the word “who” after person and before thinks in my reply.

      Reply
    • I don’t discount the wisdom of freezer garbage, but it was just so weird to hear someone say, “Put the garbage in the freezer.”

      If you’re already contemplating garbage sorting this early into your retirement, I am concerned for you 🙂

      Reply
  22. It’s obvious where you got your sense of humor from, Paprika. We have some rituals involving garbage, but they aren’t as refined as your parents are. On the plus side, we have garbage pick up twice a week … and recycling on a third day. In Florida, the frequent pick ups are vital – given the heat.
    Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    • I definitely got my dad’s nose, his toes and his sense of humor and for that I am grateful; well, maybe not so much for the toes.

      Our garbage rituals at home seem so simplistic compared to other people’s. I know how badly my garage can smell in the summer, but thankfully, we have garbage pick up twice a week in my town.

      Reply
  23. A humorous article which I enjoyed. I had expected it to be much more cutting but, then, I know you didn’t want to be responsible for heart attacks from stress. After all, like it or not, we are now “senior citizens” and I guess you agree with the adage, “The mind is the first to go!” Love you – Hummus

    Reply
  24. Ha! My parents totally do this too and, I can see why as my garage stinks to high heaven during the hottest summer in 75 years. I love the Hummus and Falafel blog names.

    Reply
  25. This reminds me of my wonderful but crazy former in-laws. I stayed there a couple days many years ago and the rules were incredible and funny. You couldn’t use the microwave because that was the bread storage box. The cakes were in the oven all the time. The breakfast table was set before they went to bed. There were others but I don’t remember how the garbage was handled. I’m curious. Do your parents read your blog? Will you ever get invited again?

    Reply
    • My parents like to cook so I don’t think they’ll be using the microwave and oven for storage, but I’ll keep an eye out for that. Your ex in-laws sound like a riot.

      To answer your question, yes, they read my blog. The jury is out as to whether or not I’ll be invited back again 🙂

      Reply
  26. Oh my! It’s a good thing your parents don’t have cats! Can you imagine putting their “stinky” garbage in the freezer?! (they don’t have cats, do they?) This was hilarious. What makes something funny – truth. I imagine if we look hard enough at ourselves, we can all find certain idiosyncrasies to make others laugh. And I imagine as we get older it becomes easier to find them! Very well-written – especially the part where you respond to your mother’s query: “You’re not going to write about this are you?”

    Reply
    • My parents do not have a cat. Even if they did, I’m certain that stinky garbage for the freezer is only food based stinky garbage.

      So glad you enjoyed the post. When you think about it, I’m not all that funny. I just have a lot of funny people around me who provide me with material. I just have the good sense to write it all down on this blog 🙂

      Reply
  27. My own mother is getting a bit strange about her garbage. She also saves her quart yogurt containers for various and odd uses.
    I laughed out loud reading this, Paprika. The sad thing is, I feel myself slipping more towards the “peculiar” every day!

    Reply
    • So glad to know I made you laugh out loud, Melanie 🙂 Thankfully, they haven’t started collecting used plastic containers, but I’ll keep my eyes open next time I visit. I think we all have some peculiar habits. The trick is finding someone to live with who has the same peculiar habits so that they don’t seem all that peculiar until you have a houseguest.

      Reply
  28. Oh that’s funny, Paprika! I’m very much like your parents (banana peels go to my yard, though). When guests get confused about the “rules” of trash, I just say, “Drop it in the sink and one of us will care of it.” Then I let my kids do the proper rinse/sort.

    We have a can for clean paper, a paper sack for cardboard, another can for all-other recyclables, and a compost bin under the sink. It’s all very confusing, and I’ve placed signage to help. All else (very little, in fact) goes to the landfill, a single grocery one-use bag every 8th curb pick-up. If we didn’t peruse the freezer for meat scraps, it would get quite putrid in my kitchen until such time. (http://wp.me/p28k6D-gz)

    I do agree with Ben Franklin’s assessment about fish and visitors. Even with refrigeration.

    Reply
    • That’s great that you are able to compost or recycle so much of your garbage. Recycling and having a garbage disposal helps keep down the amount of garbage we generate. Oregano is very strict about recycling everything it is possible to recycle: electronics, paper, plastic etc.

      As for Mr. Franklin’s quote, 3 days seems to be the sweet spot for visitors. It’s enough time to have a nice visit before everyone gets on each other’s nerves.

      Reply
  29. Hysterical! But practical too!

    Reply
  30. Your parents are hilarious! The picture on the bag is great.

    I have friends who put egg shells in a paper towel and then plastic baggie before throwing in the trash can. They might have your parents beat. At least your parents’ methods keep the house smelling good. I don’t think egg shells could stink if they tried.

    Reply
    • My dad surprised me with the picture on the bag. I forgot to sneak a photo of the freezer garbage before I left. When I got home, I asked him to take a picture and email it to me. I just about fell out of my chair laughing when I opened the attachment and saw the skull and crossbones.

      Reply

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