I have been at war with my garbage man since 2001. The damn mailman is in the mix also because he won’t deliver the mail if a garbage can is blocking the mailbox, which happens when the garbage man is sloppy putting down the empty cans. Sometimes the mailman knocks over the empty cans just to piss me off. I have seriously thought about hiring a dwarf to hide in the garbage can after the trash is picked up to fall out of the trashcan in a poof of white powder to scare the bejeezus out of the mailman.
War is hell.
The flash point of this war was when some of the numerous walkers who trek down my street began putting empty water bottles in my yard waste cannister, almost certainly a protest to my secularism versus Christianity display that fateful year (in retrospect, the inflatable Snoopy in his Sopwith Camel dive bombing Little Baby Jesus in a manger was over the top). This led to a threatening tag placed on my yard waste cannister, which, of course, was my call to arms. By time that holiday season was over, my inflatable penguin was knifed, and few of those walkers developed painful limps. However, it was just the opening salvos between the garbage man and me.
My friends tell me to leave a case of beer out for the garbage guys every Christmas. I wish I could do that — part of my problem is that my garbage man doesn’t drink because his God says he can’t, so any offering like that would further insult him. The other, somewhat larger part of my problem is that my garbage man has a festering sore where most people have a heart, and that souless automaton can sniff a Snickers’ wrapper in a yard waste cannister from three houses away.
Normally, I would laud that sort of thing, especially since the Russian math professor who resides across the street is always trying to dispose of Sputnik type garbage in his solid waste containers, and I know that stuff just can’t be good for the water table. However, my garbage man seems to be able to detect a cannister foul before it even happens — something right out of Minority Report, except instead of preventing murders, this guy is ensuring tree trunks with excessive diameters aren’t put in the green can. More than once while taking put the trash, I’ve noticed that shabbily dressed, Tom Cruise knock off sitting in his own modest car watching me from across the street, just knowing that I was planning to slide some alkaline metals into the recyclable cannister because sometimes that is just the way I roll. That type of prescience creeps me out a bit, especially coming from a dude who is devoid culture or personal history.
This little conflict with garbage man and mailman is the least of my wife’s worries; she often has to concern herself with my larger struggles (stories for another day). Besides, she fully recognizes that not only does the mailman deserve to be punished, it is great fun to do so. Unlike the methodological, stone faced garbageman, the mailman is prone to extreme mood swings while suffering from delusions of grandeur. In fact, because of those mood swings and delusions, my wife that dubbed the mailman Colonel Herky Jerky (note the automaton remains nameless), a moniker that my small children use to happily greet the mail deliverer when he arrives (often they affectionately refer to him as Herky for short — how it warms my heart to see them wave and yell, “Hi Herky!”).
When combating creatures of routine like the automaton and Herky, one’s primary strategy is to disrupt their routines. These two adversaries usually react much differently to the same disruption. For instance, let’s say I bought a couple of tricycles very cheap at a garage sale, then pulled our cars from the garage and left them placed on the street to push a trike from behind them into the paths of each respective antagonist as they pulled away from my house. Both would react much differently to the sound and feel of the aluminum frame of the trike being crushed underneath their tires. The automaton will climb down from his cab to analyze the scene and determine that he will now be 23.7 seconds off his schedule, and that he will have to explain to his boss why there now is some red paint in the white wheel well of his truck. He will then depart, determined to make up the lost time, not cognizant that I am winning the struggle 23.7 seconds at a time.
Herky will react much differently, usually by screaming something like, “Not again, you sick bastard!” His already red face will turn a tender indigo while his ear lobes will begin to throb. He will throw his truck into reverse and swing very wide across the street, scaring the senses out of my Russian neighbor who is in his front yard talking on his phone in his briefs. Herky will shake his fist at both of us, then speed off. For the next few days, he will intentionally deliver magazines to the wrong boxes while trying to control his twitching. Eventually, his ear lobes will quit throbbing, and life returns to normal until the next salvo. The only downside is that magazine subscriptions are now futile, but with the decline of print media, that is not that big of a loss.
The automaton arrives at 7:13:33 AM every Tuesday (+/- 20 seconds) unless I preemptively strike further up the street. He has been doing this since December 11, 2001, the day the categorized trash cannisters arrived. I remember the date because on that same day, uber prospect Danny Peoples was traded by the Cleveland Indians to the New York Mets for the hard hitting Matt Lawton (Roberto Alomar was sent packing also) — a dark day all around. Herky has the consistency of the flight path of a bunch a fruit flies that buzzed over a meth cooker. He might arrive anytime in the early afternoon through the late evening — never before noon.
My relationship with Herky predates the automaton by a couple of years. I met him the day I moved into my house -a real fixer upper at the time. The interior of the house had been demolished for a remodel, and I was working in the yard, removing the 1.5 tons of decorative stone the previous owner had laid in the front yard so grass couldn’t grow. An old man hobbled across the street and entered my garage and started nosing through our possessions. He was working his way through my underwear drawer when I introduced myself. Turns out he was my neighbor who lived next to the Russians, and he thought I was hired help, so he had the liberty to dig through our stuff to see what type of new neighbor was moving in. Imagine his embarrassment.
Herky pulled up to the mailbox while my neighbor was trying to regain his dignity. My neighbor seized the opportunity to deflect attention from himself and warned me our mailman wasn’t right. I would grow to love this old man and his mastery of the understatement, and he was a staunch ally against Herky in the early years. Unfortunately, he has been dead for a while — it wasn’t anything sinister; old people are close to their mortality. However, my neighbor certainly didn’t like the notion of having to sort his trash, and the automaton was often brutal with my neighbor’s cannisters. I resented the automaton for that even before the rest of the nonsense began.
My wife once ordered me to cease working on a holiday display in our front yard — the year after the Snoopy vs. Baby Jesus fiasco that started the whole mess with the automaton. I was searching for a new theme that year, one that avoided the pitfalls of overtly portraying religious stife through cartoon inflatables. I thought I’d be a bit more subtle, so the central theme centered around a giant Santa Claus with a M-60 machine gun herding a group of distraught Angels’ fans into a hellish pen while another group of Dodgers’ fans ascended my cloud covered roof. Sure, it was rather simple symbolism — those seduced by the false materialism of secularism (Angels fans) were doomed to the fiery pits of of Abaddon while the pure and righteous (Dodgers’ fans) went to heaven. I thought it would be free of controversy, but it never came to fruition because my wife nixed it.
Her reasons were she didn’t think the all the barbed wire (the hellish pen) in the front yard was safe, plus our kids wanted a reindeer motif. To this day, I think she shot me down because of the cost — my kids are into dinosaurs, not reindeer. You see, I am a firm believer in decorating my lawn for every holiday, not just Christmas and Halloween (one of my favorite displays was the Fouth of July opus “If the U.S. Postal Service Had Been In Charge of The Revolutionary War” in which Washington never made it to Yorktown). However, it is rather difficult to find adequate inflatables for the minor holidays, so usually I just hire people to pose in my lawn. Since I live in Southern California, the cost is minimal — I just hire some local waitstaff who still are under the impression that they will be discovered one day. I had pushed the envelope that Thanksgiving, hiring enough waiters to recreate the sacking of York (Toronto) in the War of 1812 (the details of the exact theme are fuzzy now; something about the missed opportunity of northern expansion), so my wife was really not liking the idea of paying for human labor when we had plenty of inflatables. I felt bad about having to let those I had already hired go, but stuff like that can happen when workers aren’t unionized. I am sure they made up the lost wages in tips that holiday season though.
Perhaps this Valentine’s Day display this year will be a tribute to organized labor.