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.
“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.