Tag Archives: garbage

What a good dog

I’m sitting here writing at my kitchen table and my dog, Steve, is just staring at me. He’s in the living room, he’s sitting on the couch, and his head is propped up at the armrest so he can stare at me without really expending any effort. I wonder what he’s thinking about, because he’s always staring at me.


I’ll be watching TV and I won’t be thinking about my dog at all, and then for whatever reason I’ll look his way, and he’ll be lying on his back on the floor, staring at me upside down. I’m not thinking about him, but he’s looking right at me. And so, no, I don’t know if that means he’s thinking about me. I can’t tell what’s going through anybody else’s head, let alone a dog’s. But when I’m staring directly at somebody or something, I’m usually thinking of them, if not actively, then my mind is at least making its mental registry.

Sometimes I’ll get up in the morning and I’ll be rushing around, trying to get out of the house on time. Right before I go, I’ll take Steve for a walk and then feed him breakfast. But, and he does this a lot, if I’m not there, he won’t eat. I won’t come back until much later in the afternoon and when I go in the kitchen, his bowl is still full from earlier in the day. And he comes in right behind me, because all he does is follow me around and stare at me, and then he starts chowing down. I’m like, were you waiting for me? Please, Steve, go ahead and eat without me, I won’t be offended.

And even that doesn’t make any sense, because while he’s nothing but a gentleman when it comes to his dog food, if I let my guard down at the wrong time, I’ll look over and, yeah, he’s staring at me still, but from under the kitchen table. That’s Steve-speak for, I just did something bad, and I’m hiding so that when you find out what I did, you won’t be able to see me.

Except that I can totally see you Steve, and you’re making it even more obvious, just constantly staring at me. I always wonder, when he busts into the garbage to start eating old aluminum foil or browned banana peels, is he still thinking about me? Is his constant eye contact really as affectionate as I’m making it out to be in my head? Or is he spending all of that time looking at me for plotting purposes, not wanting to miss the smallest opportunity to sneak behind my back and cause some destruction?

And now that I think about it, the whole not eating breakfast thing, what else are you eating, Steve? Do you have like a secret stash of garbage somewhere? I don’t want to give him too much credit, but he’s showed feats of intelligence before. Like after we realized that he was getting in the garbage, we bought a new can that closed automatically, the one where you step on a pedal to open it up. Steve learned how to work it. For months I had no idea what was going on, and then I caught him in the act, pressing his paws on the pedal and sticking his head in to bob for treasure. And when I threw that garbage can out and bought a new one that locked shut, I came home from work that day and found the entire trashcan on its side, dragged across the room.

So either he loves me, or he’s just really, really interested in what I’m up to, probably for some sort of selfish game. Or maybe it’s both. Maybe he loves me, but he also loves garbage equally. It would make sense. One time he broke through the barrier preventing him from going upstairs, he dragged the bathroom trashcan onto my bed and rolled around in all of my dirty Q-tips and used floss picks.

That was the worst, because when I came home that night, Steve was sitting on the couch like everything was cool. So I came over and started petting him, telling him how good of a dog he was. I wonder what went through his head, like wow, I really did a good job here, he really loves it when I get upstairs and make a huge mess in his bedroom. And I’m just like, “Yeah, good boy Steve, what a good dog.”

Note to self:

Note to self: Buy more milk. Make sure it’s fresh. Make sure that, when you check the date on the milk cartons, reach for the ones in the back, although you’ve never had the experience of finding newer milk toward the back of the refrigerated milk section, if there’s going to be newer milk, that’s where you’ll find it. If some grocery store guy gets in your face about taking all of those cartons of milk out to check for ultra-fresh milk potentially hidden in the back, don’t forget that you’re a paying customer, that you’re allowed to do whatever you want.


Note to self: It’s trash day tomorrow, so don’t forget to separate all of the cardboard from all of the plastics and cans. Even if you only have one pizza box. Remember that time last week? When you only had one pizza box? And you thought to yourself, well, it’s just one, I don’t have to waste a whole separate plastic recycling bag for just one pizza box? Yeah, well, don’t forget, that was against the rules, and you got a twenty-five dollar citation from the recycling guy. They don’t mess around.

Note to self: Just pay the twenty-five dollar citation. Seriously, just swallow it, get it out of your head, don’t make them send you second and third notices, all of those late fees that get tacked on. You forget it and all of the sudden you’re trying to get some other city service, a dog license, they’re like, “Hmm, it seems you have some outstanding citations.” Just consider yourself lucky, that it was only recycling, not a traffic ticket. You know what it costs if you mess around with alternate side? It’s like a hundred, a hundred fifty.

Note to self: Stop being such a baby about the plastic recycling bags. Yes, it’s a complete waste to use a whole bag for one pizza box, but you’ve got to let it go. It’s pennies per bag, all right? You get the bulk plastic bags at Costco, they’ll last you all year. Go ahead and use them, they get recycled along with the garbage, so you’re good, just stop being a baby.

Note to self: Just don’t engage with the sanitation people when they come to pick up the trash next week. All right, because sure, it’s harmless enough, fantasizing about how you’re going to get up really early next Wednesday, how you’ll wait until they come by your house. You’ll walk outside and start giving them the business about rules and citations. Do you want these guys messing around with your trash? Because that’s a good way to have your garbage all screwed up. And you don’t want it, for real, problems with the garbage crew, that’s just not nice. Don’t you want to be a nice person?

Note to self: Just apologize. You’re only human. Tell them you were off your medication. Make it seem like your life is totally unmanageable. Keeping swatting at imaginary flies the whole time that you’re making your case. And remember, no, you shouldn’t have kept that bag of live crabs outside on the curb for so long. What did you think would happen, that they’d attack the garbage people? What if they got pinched? What did we talk about before, remember that whole thing about being a nice person?

Note to self: Doesn’t that twenty-five dollar citation seem like not a huge deal anymore? I don’t know how you’re going to get out of this one. Is there some sort of a bankruptcy procedure but for civil infractions? Can you claim yourself as morally bankrupt? Because that’s what you are, man, what the hell’s wrong with you?

Note to self: Buy more milk. Just buy the half-gallon. You always buy the whole gallon, and it always spoils before you get to the end. Yeah, you might run out, but isn’t that better than wasting all of that milk? And you know you’re supposed to rinse it out before you put in out for recycling, right? Because it gets all gross and crusty. And maybe they’d let it pass, but not anymore, no, they’re going through your recycling every week, scrutinizing, they’re looking for something, anything. Just buy the half-gallon. Just stop being such a dick.

I bought it on eBay

When I was in high school, I worked at a local restaurant, first behind the counter, scooping ice cream and making cappuccinos, and later on the floor, waiting tables and collecting tips. I’ve written about this before, but the result was four years where I had a lot of disposable income and almost nothing to spend it on. Sure, once I bought a car things changed a little bit. I had to buy gas and insurance and all of those repairs I needed from backing up into street signs and stuff like that. But I was still basically swimming in cash.


I had a computer in my bedroom with access to the Internet via a 56k modem which, yes, it’s inconceivably slow compared to my high-speed connection now, but I remember what pre-56k was like, and this was cutting edge at the time. At RadioShack I bought a really, really long telephone cable and I strung it from the downstairs phone jack all the way up to my bedroom upstairs. Presto, even before I bought my independence a couple of years later with my 1991 Dodge Stealth, now I had an outlet to almost anything I wanted.

I had the Internet. I had cash. There wasn’t anything else required. I would go on eBay and bid on all sorts of garbage. When I won a bid, I would get an envelope, I would stuff it with cash, and I’d wait for my treasure to arrive in the mail. Everything started out pretty small-time. One of my first bids was for a DVD copy of Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon. Ten bucks in the mail, it wasn’t too big of a risk. And everything worked out fine.

But my purchases started increasing in value. I was really big into Dragon Ball Z at the time, and being a Japanese import, I was limited to what the TV stations decided to translate and dub to English. I knew that more existed out there, entire seasons that weren’t brought to the US at a pace to my liking, accessories and even video games.

All of the video games were in Japanese, and only playable on the Super Famicom, Japan’s version of the Super Nintendo. So I did what any fifteen-year-old with money to burn would do: I found one on eBay, I bid on it along with all of the games, and I mailed out the cash to some random address in Arizona, hoping that the seller would make good on his or her end of the deal.

It was a little crazy, mailing all of that cash. Even eBay strongly advised against it, warning me that I should send money orders, or checks, or whatever. But this was before I had a car, so I couldn’t really get out of the house without raising questions from my mom and dad. “What do you need a money order for a hundred and dollars for? Japanese video games? No, sorry, I’m not driving you to the bank for that.”

And I don’t know if it was luck or if I happened to have only done business with the most reputable of international video game importers, but nobody ever just pocketed my cash. All of goods eventually arrived. And there were lots of goods. Some of the stuff was pretty mundane, like comic books, more video games.

But a lot of the stuff that I bid on and bought, it was stupid, the very definition of an impulse purchase. I bought a pair of nunchucks. Why? I don’t know. I thought it would have been cool. And it was cool for like three seconds, before I put them on a shelf somewhere in my childhood bedroom. They’re probably still there, collecting dust, a symbol of the clutter that I’m constantly accumulating as I make my way through life.

Twenty dollars for a model kit of that 1991 Dodge Stealth. I never set it up. I remember looking at all of those little pieces in the box and thinking to myself, yeah, maybe I’ll build this thing one day, all while another voice said matter-of-factly, you’ll never open this box again. Put it next to the nunchucks. Whatever, twenty bucks gone, who cares?

I bought an old beer clock from a bar, some ridiculous piece of rust that lit up when you plugged it in. There were weird used obscure punk rock t-shirts that, regardless of how many times I ran them through the spin cycle, I could never get that crusty cigarette smell to disappear completely. Probably the low point of my eBay consumerism was a piece of WWF wrestling paraphernalia I had sent to my house. It was only five dollars, and it seemed cool at the time: a Kurt Angle novelty driver’s license.

This thing showed up in an envelope, it was basically just a piece of white paper that was very obviously printed out of some guy’s printer, he must have hand cut it with a pair of scissors, and then ran through a laminating machine. It was so stupid, citing bogus made-up credentials, like, “Address: 100 Olympic Way.” Because he was in the Olympics. Get it?

I stared at it and finally had a moment of revelation, that I was just throwing money away, all in exchange for garbage. When was I ever going to use this driver’s license? It wasn’t even cool looking enough to keep in my wallet.

I’m glad I got my eBay phase done with while I was young, because every once in a while I’ll revisit the site, I’ll start typing in keywords related to my current interests. And yeah, lots of seemingly cool looking stuff pops up. With the “Buy-It-Now” feature, I’m only one click away from having whatever I want shipped to my house. And look, now I’m an adult, I have a credit card, I don’t have to worry about stuffing an envelope with a stack of fives and tens.

But I get a sense memory of that old dusty smell. It was identical, regardless of where a package was shipped. It smelled like the basement, like an attic. Like, wow, I have a bunch of crap lying around my house. Maybe I can get someone to buy it on eBay.

Where did I put my stapler?

I had to mail something the other day, it was a stack of documents and, for whatever reason, I couldn’t just scan and email, no, I had to put them in an envelope and get it out to a mailbox. And that’s fine, I mean, in terms of things that I have to do that I don’t really feel like doing, sure, this registered on the charts, but it wasn’t that huge of a deal. And so I sucked it up and set about just getting it done.


Which, I didn’t think it would have been such a big project. And now that it’s over, I guess it wasn’t really huge. But there were still a significant number of steps involved, planning, executing, stuff like that. Like, the stack of papers was about thirty or so pages thick. I thought, I had better staple it all together.

So finding a stapler in my house, I’m not even joking, it took like a good fifteen minutes. Again, fifteen minutes isn’t a lot of time, but try spending fifteen minutes straight going from a desk drawer that I haven’t opened in months to a little box that I put somewhere on a shelf inside of my closet, looking for a stapler, a mostly unnecessary office supply that, sure, I know I had one around here somewhere, but when was the last time that I had to use it? When I put it back, did I make a mental note of how I might locate it the next time that I had to poke a hole through and join several pieces of paper?

And going through all of these little holes and spots around the house, it’s depressing. It makes me feel like a wild animal, like I accumulate all of these little pieces of things and stuff, and when I’m not using them, which is ninety-nine percent of the time, I’m just shoving them into weird spaces in rooms where I can only hope that I won’t have to look at them as I go through my regular days.

I did eventually find the stapler. I actually found the staples first, a little red box that, I’m actually fortunate I came across it first, mostly because I wasn’t looking for it, and I tried putting myself in the imaginary situation of having come across an empty stapler, and then having to go about looking for a tiny little box, I probably would have given up, because at least a stapler looks like something, I can see it and I can easily identify it, there it is, stapler. But a little three-inch red box? I had no idea that it was red before I accidentally came across it. I would have never even really known was I was looking for.

But it didn’t even matter, because when I finally found the stapler, which already had some staples inside, thereby negating the good fortune of having come across the box of staples, I found that the power of an everyday household stapler proved inadequate at actually stapling my thirty pieces of paper together. I’d say that the staple got through maybe the first eighteen pages. After that, I had to carefully pry the stapler from the paper, because being unable to finish the entire stapling motion, the device refused to let go completely of that tiny little piece of metal.

This sucked because, should I try again? Maybe I needed to apply a blunter, quicker stapling. Did I have to reprint my document? Or were these two little pinholes at the top not that big of a deal? My mind started putting together what the rest of completing this task was going to look like, and I couldn’t get past how the thickness of these sheets was already foiling what should have been a fairly straightforward operation.

These definitely weren’t going to fit in a regular envelope. I’d have to buy one of those yellow ones at a store somewhere. And since I had to be there, I guess I should buy a paper clip, hope to mitigate whatever damage I’d already done in my botched attempt at using the stapler.

When I finally got to the Rite-Aid next door to the Post Office, I found myself staring at the office supplies aisle, not really understanding why something so simple had the power to derail what should have been a pretty uneventful afternoon. Why didn’t they have any of those big clips? All I needed was like one big plastic clip, you know, the black kind that have the two metal pin handles, you squeeze on them to open up the clip. Yeah, they had paper clips, but they came sold in this plastic box of at least a hundred. I really didn’t need a hundred paper clips.

And after I resigned myself to the fact that I didn’t really have any other choice but to buy a hundred paper clips, I kept thinking, this little box is just going to be another piece of human detritus, some more garbage that I’ll have to add to my slowly but steadily growing pile of cheap manufactured junk. Chances are, I won’t need to paper clip anything together for at least another year or two. And by the time that need comes around, am I really going to be ready to recall exactly where I put that little box of ninety-nine paper clips that I’m positive I bought sometime within the last two years or so?

So I just have it out on my desk, this box of paper clips. It doesn’t look out of place, I mean, it’s a desk, and so it’s OK to have a few desk supplies on top. Maybe if you came over and you asked to use my computer or print something out real quick you’d look at that box and you wouldn’t really think anything of it.

But I’m staring at it and it’s haunting my existence. This box of paper clips is almost definitely going to outlast me. I can’t think of any amount of paperwork that I’d have to foreseeably complete in my lifetime to begin to justify the use of ninety-nine paper clips. Why couldn’t Rite-Aid just sell by the paper clip? Why do I have to buy such a surplus of paper clips, a surplus that, maybe not now, maybe not ten years from now, will eventually make its way from inside of my house to a trashcan somewhere else?

If you think about it, it actually is crazy. Somewhere in the world, somebody is making money manufacturing paper clips. They get sent over here from wherever they’re put together, and after spending who knows how long on a shelf at a Rite-Aid, they eventually get scanned at the register, a whole two dollars in the pocket of a small drugstore, a little box of junk that I’ll eventually have to throw out. There’s got to be a better way.

And the worst thing is, the plastic box to hold the paper clips is so cheap, when I tried to open it at the Post Office, all I could think was, man, this thing is going to explode open, all of the paper clips are going to get everywhere, I’m going to have to get on my hands and knees and pick up paper clips, one by one, everybody around waiting on line won’t have anything better to do than to watch me collect them all and get them back inside that box. So being really conscious of this happening, I tried as hard as I could to gently nudge the top open. But there was no response, it wasn’t working. I increased the pressure just a little bit, and then a little bit more, just really trying to be careful. But it didn’t matter, because eventually the plastic snapped, way too hard, and while not all of the paper clips fell out, it was a pretty good amount, at least twenty, twenty-five paper clips, all over the floor, I had to pick them all up, apologizing every ten seconds or so as people awkwardly tried to get past me without accidentally kicking me in the face.