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Neighborhood Garbage Police

April 18th, 2005

Isn’t this just spiffy. I had a late night last night–as I often do–and did not get to bed until 3:00, or to sleep until 3:30 or so. Just one of those nights. Now, all too often, I get a phone call from some sales person or something of the like to jar me awake, but this morning was different. At 7:05 am, I get a loud knocking at my door. Some guy out there is insistent on talking with me. I open the door, and there’s this guy in street clothes who starts talking to me about the garbage bags. Pink for unburnable, yellow for burnable, we have these nets, and all this other crap. About how it is illegal to use the wrong colored bags.

Starting to get more than just a little annoyed, I inform him that I use the right colored bags and who the hell is he to wake me up at this hour? He asks if I ever put regular shopping bags with stuff the birds might like to eat out into the unburnable garbage area, and I tell him no. Then he defiantly shoves in my face a plastic envelope that has my address on it, which obviously came from my unburnable garbage, and says the crows scattered it everywhere. I go to look out a window overlooking the garbage area (as I turn to go away, the guy snatches the plastic envelope with my name on it and said something probably to the effect of “this is evidence!”), and sure enough, stuff is strewn out everywhere. But I know I put nothing edible for the birds in that trash, so I go down with him.

It turns out that some idiot put some regular non-colored plastic bags with foodstuff into that pile and the crows tore them apart; overeager to find any other food, they also tore into five or six other bags that were in the correct color bags, one of which happened to be mine.

So this self-appointed garbage enforcer finds something with my name on it among a heap of torn-open bags and he decides to bang on my door at 7 am in the morning to accuse me of being the one to do the damage.


Once I pointed out how so many bags were opened, and that the stuff in the non-colored bags was not mine, but the crows just tore everyone’s bags apart, he turned apologetic. But the damage was done. I was just too damned tired to do anything but sternly tell him not to wake me up at that hour of the morning unless the building is one fire and slog back to my apartment. But it’s too late. After all that, there’s no going back to sleep now, and in three hours I expect the repair guy from Toshiba to come around and tell me why the DVD-R burner on my thousand-dollar digital video recorder isn’t working, so I don’t have the time even try to get sleepy and get enough shuteye to do myself any good. Perfect timing.

Next time I’ll be sure not to put anything with my name on it in the garbage.

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  1. Brad
    April 18th, 2005 at 10:14 | #1

    Well, first offense, and you say he was apologetic … while 7am is a *little* bit early, you went to bed a whole lot later still than normal. Just a bad break for you.

    I know how you feel, too … I’ve been trying to get into a regular exercise schedule the past couple of years, and now I just *can’t* sleep in, even on a weekend, even if I wake up still tired. Between 6am and 7am – which is early for me – up I get. A real pain sometimes, after I’ve gone to bed late (realising more and more as I do it these days that I’m going to pay for it the next day, as I’ve been learning about my body clock).


  2. Bryan
    April 18th, 2005 at 11:06 | #2

    I dunno, he’s taking quite a chance. I’m an easy going person, but interrupt my sleep, get confrontational, and I’ll invite you to leave while you’re still standing.

    That said, it’s a BAD idea to leave your name and other identifying information in a readable format in the trash. I strongly suggest a nice paper shredder…preferably a cross-cut one. They’re cheap and a good investment to keep down trash cops, identity thieves, and other persons that are somewhat less than worthy of sharing the earth with the rest of us.

    Bryan “extremist view” Paschke

  3. Luis
    April 18th, 2005 at 14:05 | #3

    Well, for me it’s worse; by nature, I’m a night owl, and so I usually get to sleep between 2 and 3 am. Last night was a little bit later. But I often get woken up by people calling, knocking on the door, loudpeaker trucks roaming the neighborhood and other stuff like that–but most times it’s after 8 am, usually after 9 am in fact.

    If this guy had had a reasonable claim to make, I might feel different. But he saw a whole mess of garbage, 5 or six different people’s proper bags and a few improper ones ripped open. Had he seen improper garbage in the bag that had the envelope with my name on it, garbage that caused the crows to make a huge mess, then okay. But he didn’t. Mine was the only name he saw, and so he came pounding on my door early in the morning accusing me of the mess simply because he didn’t conveniently find anyone else’s name on the remaining garbage.

    What probably added to his presumption was the appearance of a foreign name–which he probably assumed meant that I didn’t know how things worked, or didn’t care. That pissed me off almost as much. But mostly that he presumed I did it simply because mine was the only name he found. I hate it when people do that. I once lived in a house with others while a college student, and because I was the only one who owned up to errors when I made them, I started getting blamed for everything–dishes in the sink, lights left on, and more serious stuff. 95% of which I didn’t do. One day, the guy who was the first renter came up to me in a rage and told me never to put his sweater in the dryer again, that I ruined it! “Douglas,” I replied, “how many people live in this house? What makes you think I did it?” It went on, of course, and royally pissed me off. Which is why I decided never again to live with strangers unless I was on the verge of bankruptcy.

    But I digress.

    As for the name on the envelope, I don’t care if people get my name and address. I am careful not to throw out any records with personal information, though, of course.

  4. Shari
    April 21st, 2005 at 00:33 | #4

    You can count on the near certainty that, if he had found a Japanese neighbor’s name, he would have been far less likely to have confronted that person so inappropriately early (9:00 am is considered the earliest “polite” time to ring doorbells-7:00 am is obscenely early to be knocking on someone’s door) or so hysterically. Because you’re a gaijin, you fall outside of the social imperative to remain harmonious with those who live in the neighborhood. He may indeed have confronted a Japanese person but he’s far more likely to have expressed it in terms of how it inconvenienced everyone and would that person please be more careful. Because you’re a selfish, ignorant gaijin, he could rant at you and wave around his “evidence” (which in and of itself indicates he thinks you committed a criminal act and he wanted to let you know you were caught).

    There seem to be garbage police in most neighborhoods and foreigners seem to be favored targets. My boss had his trash picked through and inspected piece by piece for awhile and inappropriate items (like an old swollen can of tuna in the unburnable trash-the can was okay but he had to actually remove the tuna and he didn’t know that) were left on his doorstep. This behavior was reserved for him alone, as the only foreigner, among the tenants of his building.

    We’ve been much more fortunate because our neighbors (who are also our landlords, as you know) always broach any errors on our part with a kindly-worded note in our mailbox or a gentle reminder when we pay our rent. They may understand we are ignorant of the rules at times but never assume we’re willfully disregarding rules or behaving selfishly.

    I can say though that people in our building are constantly putting out trash in small plastic shopping bags rather than the appropriate Suginami-ku-approved bags. All our neighbors are Japanese so it’s not like Japanese tenants are sticklers for the rules. They’re just as likely to ignore the rules as any foreigner.

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