a little story

April 16, 2008

So I have to admit that my little trip home to Chicago a week and a half ago, super quick though it was, made me a little home sick. Chicago was warm and sunny and full of familiar things and good friends and I was very much all, “Hey Chicago! I miss you! I’m here! Maine ain’t all that, it’s you I love!” Even the crazy wacked out scary man at the bus stop who looked like he might want to kill me dead didn’t deter me from my little moment of urban adoration.

But then I got back here, and I was all, “ok Portland, you’re cute too, even though you are totally kicking my ass right now and I’m totally exhausted, but you have sea gulls and a big bay and brick paved streets and drivers who stop for pedestrians and people who smile, so maybe you’re not so bad.”

Anyway, this is all just sort of a lumpy little intro into telling y’all about the trash here. Portland is very SERIOUS about their trash and recycling. It all had to be explained to me when I got here. All recyclables go in one big blue plastic bin – all of it – paper, cardboard, cans, bottles, and no separating. You don’t even have to clean out your cans and bottles. The city comes around once a week and empties out your bin and takes it away.

On the same day they come and get your trash, and all trash has to be in official blue “City of Portland” trash bags. No Hefty Bags for the Portlanders. These bags have to be bought specially. They’re not cheap either, a parcel of 30 bags costs about $8.00. I think the cost of the bags underwrites the cost of trash removal…

Anyway, I bought more bags this week and the new lot were gray bags – all the old bags were blue bags. No big deal, I’m thinking, they’ve changed the color. Well, last night I put out my trash, along with all my neighbors, and this morning all their trash was gone, and my little gray trash bag was still there. Rejected by the trash men.

Evidence, below. One lone trash bag sitting atop my empty recycling bin.

I call the city (the number is nicely printed on the outside of the bag) and a nice woman says, “you have the wrong color, you need to call Rite Aid and tell them they sold you the wrong bags.” So I call Rite Aid. Rite Aid calls the Person in Charge of City Trash, and it turns out they changed the color and their trash men were supposed to know this and take the gray bags, but their trash men weren’t paying attention, and now I have a bag of trash on my curb.

So – and here is why I’m telling you this story – I go into Rite Aid and the manager says, “here is the cell phone number for the man in charge of Portland trash, he told me to tell you to call him and he’s going to help you.” So I call this man, very nice man, name of Ernie – (love that) – and I say Ernie, what can I do?

And Ernie says, “don’t you worry, we messed up, I’M GOING TO COME GET YOUR TRASH PERSONALLY.”

And then…wait for it…ERNIE CAME AND GOT MY TRASH PERSONALLY. And he shook my hand and told me how sorry he was that his trash guys didn’t pick up my trash and that it wouldn’t happen again.

Ohhhh Maine, I’m sorry that I cheated on you with Chicago last week. Chicago wouldn’t have come to get my trash, Chicago would have told me to suck it.  MAINE: You have been redeemed by your trash man.



  1. I am speechless!

  2. Ha ha ha. I am so not surprised. Mainers love to help out.

    Also, this is related to the Maine winter phenomenon of people plowing their neighbor’s driveways after a major snowfall just for the hell of it. Seriously, everyone up there with a pickup truck seems to have a plow attachment. Whee!

  3. I’m with Jean – speechless, chiefly with envy.

  4. I love Maine.

    Great story.

  5. LOL…they would have told you to “Shove it” in Bangor, too.

    But in Brunswick, I’ve come home from work several times to find that a mystery snowplow had plowed my driveway.

    Most of Maine really IS awesome.

  6. I am really overjoyed to catch up with this. Posey told me on the phone that she thinks you write very, very well. I agree plus your ability to sort through things and come up with fascinating insights into subjects that mostly no one else knows anything about is truly awesome.

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